Richard Linklater returned to the semi-improvised approach and philosophical themes of his debut feature Slacker while embracing a new and groundbreaking visual technology in his sixth feature film, Waking Life. Linklater and cameraman Tommy Pallotta shot the film on location in Austin, TX, using digital video equipment. Linklater and digital animator Bob Sabiston then used newly developed computer software to transform the images through a process called "interpolated rotoscoping"; the result merges the naturalism of live action with a stylized look that resembles a cartoon or a painting in motion. Waking Life's flexible, non-narrative approach follows a young man (Wiley Wiggins) who arrives in Austin and hitches a ride with a stranger, who engages him in a conversation about rarely considered facets of existentialism. As the visitor drifts through the city, he encounters a variety of people and finds himself absorbing their views on art, philosophy, society, and numerous other issues of contemporary life. Linklater's cast is dotted with well-known actors (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Nicky Katt) and pop-culture notables (filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese associate Steven Prince, comic Louis Black), alongside a large number of relatively little-known players. Waking Life received its world premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival; Linklater's next film, Tape, was also screened at the same festival.
by Mark Deming synopsis