Waking Life | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Richard Linklater's exciting and innovative feature was shot on digital video, then transformed into a new kind of animation that works wonders with the subtleties of body language and creates hallucinatory effects with palpitating backgrounds. There isn't much of a story in any ordinary sense--just a lot of encounters and philosophical dialogues as a young college graduate walks around Austin, Texas, trying to decide if he's dreaming or awake. In a way the movie rethinks and replays most of Linklater's previous features in the fresh terms of this animation process: the overall narrative drift through Austin recalls Slacker; the hero is Dazed and Confused's Wiley Wiggins; Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are discovered in bed, continuing a conversation they started in Before Sunrise; and Linklater himself puts in a couple of appearances. The writer-director worked on oil rigs before teaching himself film and filmmaking, and the inquiries here are basically those of an autodidact lost in college bull sessions. (Fellow independent Caveh Zahedi is around to hold forth on the film theory of Andre Bazin and its religious implications.) You might be frustrated if you're looking for plot rather than movement, action rather than pulsing vibration, but I had a ball. 97 min. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, October 19 through 25.

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