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Thinking About Not Thinking: Buddhism, Meditation, and Film

Monday, April 27, 2009
3:00 p.m. Waking Life
Richard Linklater (U.S., 2001)

Lecture by Robert Sharf

Waking Life—a rollicking reflection on dreaming, altered states of consciousness, and death—is the first feature film to use the technology of “digital interpolated rotoscoping,” which uses computers to facilitate hand-drawn animation over digitally shot film. The result is an unusual blending of medium and message, in which neither the characters in the film nor the audience are quite sure where the contours of reality lie. Waking Life is an ideal film to end a series that ponders the relationship between meditative states, reality, and the filmmaker’s art.—Robert Sharf

“Richard Linklater’s first animated work, a painterly extension of reality, is astoundingly lovely and touching. . . . What we see is an unformed young man (Wiley Wiggins) walking around Austin, Texas, where he encounters the coffeehouse Kierkegaards and ecstatically articulate bums who populated Linklater’s initial triumph, Slacker. (Most of the participants are local celebrities, not actors.) The young man thinks he’s awake, but actually he’s caught in an endless dream. Since the talk he hears is directed toward themes of reverie, apprehension, and death, we begin to wonder, after a while, if we are not witnessing his last moments of consciousness.”—David Denby, New Yorker

• Written by Linklater. Photographed by Linklater, Tommy Pallotta. With Wiley Wiggins, Trevor Jack Brooks, Lorelei Linklater, Glover Gill. (99 mins, Color, 35mm, From Criterion Pictures)