Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloudy and Mapless

Cloud Atlas has a problem, judging by comments from the audience leaving ArcLight's Dome this evening and by the posts on Twitter. "I wish I knew what it's about." "Maybe I should read the book." (The film is based on David Mitchell's 2004 novel, which I haven't read.  It shouldn't matter.)  "That was cool, but what does it mean?"

Well, if, after being bombarded for almost three bladder-challenging hours, at at least half hour intervals, by such platitudinous pronouncements as "Everything is connected" (even on the one sheet), you still don't have an idea of what this film is trying to get across, then the filmmakers--Larry & Alana Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run) are in trouble.

They violate the cardinal rule of filmmaking and of good writing: show, don't tell. If you must continuously state your themes, despite some spectacular visuals, maybe your film is simply a pastiche--or a mishmash. Even the visuals are often corny or laughable, like the giant asparagus satellite dish:

Then there are the visual riffs or rip-offs of Blade Runner, Eyes Wide Shut, Inception.

And then there's Tom Hanks in all sorts of incarnations, my favorite being a Ringo Starrish-looking writer with an Antisocial Personality Disorder, in a sequence that is its own wonderful parody.

Cloud Atlas is a major Hollywood version of an art film. It wants to be a mainstream super-entertaining Tree of Life, but it comes off as pretentious and soulless.

I do have to admit that the movie kept my interest, in large part due to its ingenious editing by Alexander Berner. And Ben Wishaw (I'm Not There, Bright Star) as a young composer was eminently watchable:

Most amazing , though, were Halle Berry's white stretch pants, which managed to stay pristine for most of what I'd call The Bathtub (Beasts of the Southern Wild) segments. Now, I'd like to get me a pair of those to cut down on the dry cleaning bills....

And that's my "true true" (yes, in the future past, they speak a cutesy patois) on this movie, folks.

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