19/10/2011

on Waking Life



"Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled."
- Santayana

I'm not going to say much about Waking Life here - it is what we might call a naked film: you will get philosophical content from it on your own. Nor do I particularly want to mark its visual style - 'rotoscoping' - because that’s not its main innovation. What I will say is that it is pretentious in the best sense and talks total crap in only three or four places. It is in one sense the most philosophical film ever, because it’s overwhelming, has no real plot, and definitely has no coherency: it is a cutup of a couple dozen talking heads with different worldviews. It is a visual and conceptual poem about how inscrutable and irrational life is on the inside; verse lifejackets thrown into oceanic gaps in our understanding. It moves fast enough for its flaws to be minor affronts, though it does feel long, being both heavy and unbearably light. I recommend dunking your head in the provided bucket if either of these get to you too much.

There's some nice postmodern devices to note - the main character is Wiley Wiggins from the same director’s Dazed and Confused, and a few other characters pop up, not least Linklater and the score's musicians themselves. People who saw Slacker might recognise the film's non-structure and focus on the radical underbelly on the world.

One of our esteemed members calls anything which contravenes his fairly strict commonsensist naturalism, 'Oogabooga' philosophy. Well, Waking Life is very much a matter of oogabooga, or existentialism as it is also known.

Two weeks ago somebody raised the idea of 'pseudophilosophy', and labelled Inception an instance of it. The short answer is that it's your fault if you find something unphilosophical. People contain philosophical ideas, not objects, or even situations. Whenever we derive an idea, it really would be best to remember that what’s happening is a successful projection, not some sort of extraction of mental ore. Obviously what the mitherer who insulted it meant was that Inception is pretentious in the worst sense, overambitious; it thinks it is philosophical but isn’t. This is backwards in my scheme.


Once again, with feeling:


"Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled."
- Santayana





(From a wee talk given to Philsoc.)

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