Richard Linklater's exhilarating animated reverie Waking Life is an amazing thing -- a work of cinematic art in which form and structure pursues the logic-defying (parallel) subjects of dreaming and moviegoing.
This only sounds like a fancy leap for the Austin-based filmmaker who, a decade ago, gave us a bunch of modern-day goof-offs sleepwalking through life in ''Slacker.'' In fact, there's a logic to the sweet illogic of ''Waking Life.'' Linklater's ''Dazed and Confused'' player Wiley Wiggins stars -- but says little -- as a young man who floats, as is only possible in dreamland, from conversation to conversation about the nature of consciousness. He's in a car that's also a boat. He's listening in on the verbal free associations of academics and philosophers, raconteurs and visionaries. (Speed Levitch, the bus tour guide from ''The Cruise,'' has his say; so do Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, echoing their all-night chat in Linklater's ''Before Sunrise.'') Is our protagonist trapped in sleeping life? Or is this inner journey a representation of life at its most intensely conscious?
The gorgeous animation devised by Bob Sabiston and his artists is intrinsic to the film's mysterious mutability: The team turned live-action footage into a pulsing ribbon of rainbow-colored computer-enhanced images. The result is a thrill, a trip to a fabulous new frontier. If you blink, you'll miss something amazing -- just like in waking life.