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by Susan Royal

You might think a film that talks (and talks!) about the meaning of existence from beginning to end would be a bit dry and tedious. And in the hands of many filmmakers, it would be. But Richard Linklater's Waking Life is dazzling -- alive with pulsating images and vibrant ideas. In it, Wiley Wiggins (from Linklater's earlier Dazed and Confused) floats in and out -- and by -- philosophical conversations while trying to determine if he's dreaming or has just awoken from a dream. Ultimately he ponders the question, "Are we sleep-walking through our waking state or wake-walking through our dreams?" When the film premiered earlier this year at Sundance, the audience was electrified. In the Q & A with Linklater following the screening, hardened moviegoers expressed appreciation for a film unlike any they had seen before.

A revolutionary new "interpolated rotoscoping" technique developed by the film's art director --computer animation whiz Bob Sabiston -- involved shooting the film in live action, editing it and then computer painting each frame. More than 30 artists employed their individual styles to the characters assigned to them. Director Linklater wrote the film, but he has estimated that a third of the dialogue was improvised or written by the actors.

The Denver International Film Festival recently honored Richard Linklater with its John Cassavetes Award for innovative techniques in filmmaking technology. Some of the past Cassavetes Award recipients include Sean Penn, John Sayles, Steven Soderberg, Charles Burnett and Barbara Kopple.

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