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54 | Richard Linklater in the third robbery or in his inventing the plan for the fifth robbery in the immediate aftermath of the failed fourth—and, even, changing it again right before it happens. To be sure, The Newton Boys is far from avant-garde in its exploration of temporality. It has none of the formal experiments of It’s Impossible, and its overall narrative structure is fairly standard. Nonetheless, the film’s brief digressions and drifting narrative, however modest, resist the seeming inevitability of time in both narrative and historiography. A present temporality informs the next three films directed by Linklater , although they are not, technically speaking, films. Though very different in style and subject matter, all three make use of the same basic format: the digital. Dreaming in Digital, Motel Confessions, and the Poet of Wall Street Late within Waking Life, the protagonist, having emerged yet again from one dream only to find himself in another, performs what many of us do in our minds, while asleep: a mundane task, rather than something fantastical. For this protagonist, that activity is watching television, and while channel surfing, he comes across Steven Soderbergh telling a story about Louis Malle and Billy Wilder. Malle has recently completed an expensive picture, one priced at $2.5 million. When Wilder asks after its subject, Malle says, “Well, it’s sort of a dream within a dream”; Soderbergh deadpans Wilder’s reply: “You’ve just lost two-and-a-half-million dollars.” While the budgetary story here recalls the financial problems of The Newton Boys, even as it humorously acknowledges the potential for this one, too, to see very little in the way of profits, the anecdote equally recognizes the film’s own spirited eclecticism, one that will carry into the next two features as well: the claustrophobic, slowly building theater adaptation Tape and the brief, meandering short tour of New York City, courtesy Timothy “Speed” Levitch, Live from Shiva’s Dance Floor. But Waking Life, more than the two that follow and perhaps more than any other in Linklater’s oeuvre to date, announces itself from the outset as something quite different. Partly, that difference registers in its choice of medium, digital video, a format Linklater had never used before but one he would revisit in both Tape and Shiva. Unlike those films, however, Time Is a Lie | 55 Waking Life underwent an unusual, extensive postproduction process, one that altered its images significantly, so that its most striking aspect is also its most obvious: an animation style called digital rotoscoping. Digital rotoscoping derives from an older technique known simply as rotoscoping, where an artist draws over already existing film footage in order to create realistic movement and shape within the animation. For Waking Life, Bob Sabiston, working with Tommy Pallotta (who appears in Slacker as “Looking for Missing Friend”), digitized the process , using a computer to “interpolate” moments between lines of the artist’s own creation. (Sabiston and Pallotta had previously put digital rotoscoping to use on shorter works such as Snack and Drink [1999].) The result is an uncanny blend of cartoon and document, a visual style that takes advantage of older technologies and new ones, as indicated in the stylus Sabiston’s team members used in order to mark the screen. Watching an animator work, computerized “pen” in hand, one cannot help but recall Alexandre Astruc’s famous 1948 call for a new cinema, “The birth of a new avant-garde: La caméra-stylo,” in which the French writer and filmmaker saw new horizons opening for the cinema, so that nearly any text or subject matter, through the filmmaker’s “camera-pen,” would be possible: “a form in which and by which an artist can express his thoughts, however abstract they may be, or translate his obsessions exactly as he does in the contemporary essay or novel” (18). (I take my cue here from those who have seen in new technologies the further elaborations of Astruc’s vision—figures such as Jean-Pierre Geuens, who has discussed, for example, small digital equipment that allows for a filmmaker to “[think] on the spot and ‘writ[e]’ with his or her camera” [24].) Although digital rotoscoping is not exactly what Astruc had in mind, the accidental conjunction of caméra-stylo and computer-pen nonetheless reveals ways in which Linklater’s film is, in fact, closer to Astruc’s ideals than might at first appear. Much like Astruc’s vision, the film...


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