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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Waking Life [Blu-ray]


(Richard Linklater, 2001)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Video: Arrow Video



Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:43.579  

Disc Size: 43,025,152,880 bytes

Feature Size: 18,703,175,232 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.69 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Transparent Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 14th, 2016



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3202 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3202 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English (SDH), none



Commentary by writer-director Richard Linklater, art director Bob Sabiston, actor Wiley Wiggins and producer Tommy Pallotta
Commentary by the 25-strong animation team
A selection of Bob Sabiston's short films, including The Trees (1991 - :34), God's Little Monkey (2:06), Project Incognito (1997 - 20:17), Snack and Drink (1999 - 3:44), Figures of Speech (1999 - 30:46), Grasshopper (2003 - 14:30), Ryan's Capitol Tour (2006 - 6:34) and The Even More Fun Trip (2007 - 22:36)
Original making of featurette including interviews with Linklater, Sabiston and Pallotta (4:44)
Animation tutorial with Sabiston (20:23)
Deleted and alternative animation sequences (7:32)
Pre-animation live action footage captured on Mini DV (12:01)
Trivia subtitle track written by Linklater
Theatrical trailer (1:59)
The first pressing also includes a booklet containing new writing on the film by critic David Jenkins and a guide to Bob Sabiston's short films

Dual-Format with DVD included





Description: In 2001 writer-director Richard Linklater released a spiritual sequel to his acclaimed early features Slacker and Before Sunrise. Taking its cue from their walk-and-talk stream of consciousness, Waking Life enquired into the relationship between dreams and the big screen, and how cinema captures the phantasy state.

Aiding Linklater s exploration were two major players: actor Wiley Wiggins (Dazed and Confused, Computer Chess), who acts as our guide through the dreamscape, and animator Bob Sabiston, who created the appropriately disassociated, floating rotoscoped visuals. He and Linklater would later collaborate again on A Scanner Darkly to equally stunning effect.

Featuring Adam Goldberg, Nicky Katt, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (reprising their Jesse and CÚline characters from
Before Sunrise) and director Steven Soderbergh, Waking Life is an extraordinary thought-provoking trip, quite unlike anything before or since.



The Film:

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.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE


Acclaimed in the US, Linklater's movie has Wiley Wiggins, the lanky longhair in Dazed and Confused, bumping pinball-style from one encounter to the next, with each acquaintance offloading his or her own pet theory of life, the universe and everything. Among them are the likes of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy , Austin, Texas's finest characters and crazies, and Linklater himself.

It would be easy to dismiss as 'Slackers - Part Deux', but for the inspired conceit of shooting the film twice: once as a conventional DV feature, which then became the template for computer animator Bob Sabiston. Sabiston's woozy, pulsing dream imagery is something else. Wiley gradually realises that (a) he's in the middle of the weirdest dream of his life, and (b) he can't wake up. This is one movie where nodding off would seem an appropriate response. The endless philosophising is a bit sophomoric and more jokes would help, but this is one of a kind that grows more absorbing the longer it runs.

Excerpt from Timeout located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

NOTE: A Blu-ray came out in Germany in 2012 HERE, but I don't own it to compare.

Waking Life looks so impressive on Blu-ray from Arrow Films in the UK.  Although it is dual-layered with a modest bitrate - one of the advantages of its process of creation is the ability to seamlessly transfer the final product to 1080P. Colors are rich and tight and it moves rhythmically like a floating camera. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and contrast and detail are exceptionally strong. This Blu-ray looks excellent in-motion offering a hypnotic presentation that you can't turn away from.



















Audio :

The Blu-ray's sound is equal to the brilliant visuals. Arrow uses a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a healthy 3202 kbps (24-bit). Accordionist Glover Gill is credited with the fabulous score (with Tosca Tango Orchestra) that runs beside the film fittingly adding to the film's surreal and dreamlike state. It sounds beautiful in lossless with a some adroit separations - although the film is limited in these effects.  There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

The commentary tracks by writer-director Richard Linklater, art director Bob Sabiston, actor Wiley Wiggins and producer Tommy Pallotta and the second one with the 25-strong animation team were originally on the 2002 DVD and they still hold value with the filmmakers reflect on the production process. The same can be said for the Trivia subtitled track written by Linklater - another option. We get a selection of Bob Sabiston's short films - over 1.5 hour's worth and they are majority the animation-style and are very engaging from the very short to the lengthier. Arrow include the original, 5-minute, making of featurette including interviews with Linklater, Sabiston and Pallotta plus a 20-minute Animation tutorial with Sabiston which is educational. Some might be keen on the 8-minutes worth of deleted and alternative animation sequences and the dozen-minutes of pre-animation live action footage captured on Mini DV. There is a theatrical trailer and the package's first pressing also includes a booklet containing new writing on the film by critic David Jenkins and a guide to Bob Sabiston's short films. This is dual-format and includes a DVD.



Once again, seeing this in 1080P gave me a far more appreciative reaction than when I saw it on DVD many years ago. The a/v is so impressive and the presentation is hard not to fall in love with. It beautifully fuses art and philosophy in Linklater's unique dreamlike (Bob Sabiston) style - also seen 5-years later in his A Scanner Darkly. The Arrow Blu-ray is a real treat to view in your home theatre and the extensive supplements and commentaries add immense value. I'm so happy to own this in HD - a film I will revisit whenever the mood strikes - a great choice to bring to Blu-ray - very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

March 8th, 2016


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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