Right off the bat, I can’t say that I enjoyed being in the theatre for this film. If it was not for the animated aspect of it, I don’t know why anyone would go see this except if they were intrigued by the admittedly interesting idea of this experimental film medium. My companion did enjoy it, and my friend with a degree in philosophy will also probably enjoy it, but overall I found it pretentious, tiresome, pedantic, and one-note. The main character floats around, sitting and listening to various experts and laymen wax philosophical about the nature of the self. It’s not dialogue or debate, it’s just monologue after self-important monologue. Every character has something to say, which will not be argued with, and then they are gone.
There is little cohesion or discussion or linkage or even connection with the main character, who sits mutely in most scenes while the lecturer drones. Occasionally, we witness a dialogue or two (one with Linklater alums Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) with no relation with the main character. While the pace of the movie picks up when expressed in the medium of discussion rather than didactics, and since these segments have no tie to the general “quest” of the main character, why should be begin to care at any point? I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if any kind of sense of narrative structure could have tied the legion of poseurs to the main character. The occasional totally unrelated monologues (a prisoner, for example) only serve to undermine the poorly-expressed theme.
Visually, the film is rotoscoped live action with an animation overlay – every shot appears painted/drawn or colored in some way but is based on real, filmed motion. This is visually interesting but I fear it could not hold my interest for the length of the film. It was not enough. From an artistic sensibility, it is very interesting to see how the presentation of a subject can be modified just with color or hair movement or the wavy gravy backgrounds showing how unmoored they are, thereby exceeding the value of the original subject. But the film is too long (I later discovered it was a tidy 84 minutes) to rely on that novelty alone for the duration.
As with most Linklater films, the scant enjoyment I generally derive from his “typical” work (Slacker, Dazed and Confused) is from spotting Austin locations and local actors. This was an additional challenge with the animated overlay obscuring many details, but I was pleased to recognize places by the feel of them rather than a clear defined look, such as the Spider House coffee place, and so on. So kudos to the animators for retaining the feel of places as well as the spirit of Guy Forsythe on his ukelele and other bits – I cannot say anything bad about the visuals of the film.
However, Linklater always seems to overestimate the audience’s patience with being inundated with flatly stated philosophies. My companion’s quote was “it starts out as a song of sophistry, and ends up a symphony of solipsism.” Whether he means the philosophical/psychological definition of this precept or Webster’s definition (that the view of the self is the only reality).either way, it’s a blanket statement of self-involved, self-centered masturbatory filmmaking when applied to this film As it stands, it represents all that student films have managed to achieve in the video era in the realm of embarrassing their audiences. Cosmic one-note jibber-jabber.
I like a theological or alternative pseudoscience debate as much if not more than the next moderately educated person, but every monologue meandered away from anything more than audience-immolation. It was difficult to focus or care so I ended up admiring the coloring. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if it’s your cup of tea, it’s definitely worth your money. How’s that for vague?
MPAA Rating R-language & violent images
Release date 10/19/01
Time in minutes 97
Director Richard Linklater
Studio Fox Searchlight