Indie American director Richard Linklater's Waking Life is the first feature produced using a revolutionary new technology: Linklater first shot it on digital video using actors, and then turned the footage over to animators, who essentially traced over the live-action images, creating what looks like a moving impressionistic painting while maintaining the original dialogue.
This method provides some beautiful imagery, yet the plot isn't interesting enough to keep up. There's little question that if Linklater had simply released the DV version without the animation, it would be practically unwatchable.
Wiley Wiggins "plays" the main character, a drifter with no name and no discernible human characteristics, who moves from scene to scene essentially reacting to other characters, who pontificate about a hodgepodge of different philosophies, covering everything from existentialism to relationship advice. As in Mulholland Drive, a key theme in Waking Life is the question of whether or not a character is dreaming, and if so, when.
Since the narrative doesn't bring the film together, it can only really be judged scene by scene, which are hit or miss. Characters talk on and on about philosophy ad nauseam, but "Life" does contain a few clever moments: in one scene Wiggins goes to a movie and the characters talk about film narrative - one of the first instances in cinema history of meta-meta-narrative perhaps?
Life borrows many traits from Linklater's previous films: the non-narrative is lifted from Slacker, the mixture of comedy and alienation recalls Suburbia, star Wiggins is borrowed from Dazed and Confused (his only previous film role), and the couple from Before Sunrise (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) even makes an appearance.
Now that Waking Life has been released to a better-than-average critical reception, it's quite possible that its live-action/animation format will be used for other films in the future. Waking Life is a good start to this new sub-genre, and clearly more can and will be done with it later.