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enjoyed it - 24/2/2013 11:43:01 PM   
tysmuse

 

Posts: 347
Joined: 24/9/2007
I really, really liked it. Bonkers, but very fun. The only part I didn't enjoy was the far future tale - couldn't understand what Hanks (or anyone) was saying!?

(in reply to Empire Admin)
Post #: 31
RE: Cloud Atlas - 25/2/2013 10:38:47 AM   
demoncleaner


Posts: 2341
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Belfast
quote:

ORIGINAL: AxlReznor

Actually, the book at numerous points hints that the stories are of the same soul travelling through time... some characters remember things from previous stories, or have premonitions of later stories, etc. It was always the intention that they were connected (they're also connected to his other books, Ghostwritten, number9dream and Black Swan Green).
The Wachowski's haven't misunderstood anything... in fact, they passed the script over to Mitchell for approval first to make sure they hadn't misunderstood anything. Seems to me that you misunderstood the book.


Put it this way, and maybe this is an unfair comparison but it’s one I’ve formed since watching this on Friday. Say you’re Stephen King in the early eighties, perhaps you owe the publishers a novel, perhaps, I don’t know, someone is expecting a novel from you, but you’ve got four short novellas instead.  You take the literal title of the volume “Different Seasons” and you make a broad revision on each of the stories, it doesn’t take you long, let’s say half an hour, to suggest some broad symbolism of light and dark, shades of optimism.  Different seasons of the soul or some such gubbins.  Everyone largely likes it because at the forefront is an enjoyment of the stories themselves.  The over-arching device, whether it is actually genius or gimmick doesn’t matter, because it is by and large non-intrusive to the reader.  Now, some director comes along and says he wants to make a film of this volume.  An anthology film would work just as well, but anthologies don’t have the prestige of a singular piece of quixotic cinema.  Now, in order to justify ambition for ambition’s sake you have to flatter the idea that the wholly tenuous existential gimmick is more substantial than it is.  And maybe you end up flattering yourself and the source writer in the process.  How you go about adapting this is actually very straightforward, you make your separate stories as you would a pure anthology,  you just edit the fuck of it afterward and sell this most audience-aggravating gimmick as the seed of the project’s importance.  

Now, here’s the funny thing about Cloud Atlas the book and Cloud Atlas the film.  The stories are acknowledged by their writer as being pulpy, corny and as trite as enjoyable genre fiction is allowed to be.  This is why the Luisa Rey story turns up as a pulpy manuscript with Timothy Cavendish, written by the kid who embedded in that story is a 4th wall commentator making mention of how noir mysteries function.  In the book the Ewing story incurs such a lack of faith from Mitchell that he has a dig about it when Frobisher views it not so much as a journal as a pulpy yarn because he spotted the treacherous doctor’s intention straight from page one.  It’s not enough for the Cavendish farce to be appreciated for what it is, it has to be stood outside and apologised for as farce when it’s a cheap movie viewed by later Atlas characters.   Cavendish’s face on a rock front (not in the film) is an in-joke, and the worship of Sonmi at the fag-end of the chronology is a nice touch about how fictions or at least, mis-undestood truths can evolve into a existential profundity.

So really, before we get to any equivocations of “soul travelling” or the sophistry of Eternal Recurrence we have the source writer admitting these are above all pithy stories that should be enjoyed for the sake of enjoyment.  I don’t think I’ve misunderstood that.  I don’t think I’ve misunderstood how the contradictory application of self-importance makes this non-enjoyable and a slavish aggravating chore. 

(in reply to AxlReznor)
Post #: 32
RE: Cloud Atlas - 25/2/2013 12:01:42 PM   
AxlReznor

 

Posts: 1623
Joined: 2/12/2010
From: Great Britain
Nope. You've definitely misunderstood it. He's writing on the style of a pulpy piece of fiction in the Luisa Rey mystery, because that's how he's presenting it. The connections were never meant to be tenuous, although the stories of course can be enjoyed separately, because they are six different narratives and not part of one "crossthrough" plot. But it's supposed to be read as a full novel, and that's how most people get the most out of it. And if they had in any way misread the book, the film would never be made because they made sure with him that he liked the script before letting it progress beyond that stage. If they just did it as an anthology, they'd have a) missed the point entirely, and b) made a movie that jars every time one story ends and moves onto another.

If you don't like it, fair enough. But it's not due to the directors misunderstanding of the book that you don't like it.

I also find it funny when people (not demoncleaner) disregard a film (or anything for that matter) because they don't understand it straight away. As if it's somehow a fault with the movie if not everything is clear after one viewing. If I took that attitude, I wouldn't have bothered giving a second viewing to some of what would become my favourite movies. Don't disregard or write off a movie... give it a chance. Some things just take time to sink in. Cloud Atlas is one of those movies that is definitely an acquired taste, but I believe persevering with it is the best way to go. And if you still don't like it, then at least still support it. Because if you don't, the chances of anything in any way different being released in the future are drastically reduced. And we desperately need some things that are a bit different at the moment.

(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 33
RE: Cloud Atlas - 25/2/2013 12:50:31 PM   
Olaf


Posts: 23659
Joined: 26/2/2007
From: 41°N 93°W
Personally I preferred to interpret the protagonists as broadly allegorical 'connected' souls rather than literally being reincarnations of the previous one (I guess the beauty of literature compared to film is that it allows for more ambiguity on this point), but yeah you've totally misread the intent of the book otherwise. The very fact that these 'pithy' genre stories are given recurring cosmic significance by their placement in a story such as this is Mitchell's way of affirming the medium's absolute importance as a way of remembering events passed, projecting where we're going as a species etc. There's of course a level of dramatic irony inherent in the book's structure, and there is some playful critique of the separate texts in the novel, but that's because it's as much about reading as it is about writing. It doesn't take away from its overriding message being one of absolute unironic faith in literature as a tool for social and personal/spiritual self-examination. (I'm going to see the film later today, but I'm curious as to whether it can replicate this total book-ness that the source material has, so to speak.)

_____________________________

I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation.

Empire Top 100 Albums Poll 2013: CLICK HERE

(in reply to AxlReznor)
Post #: 34
RE: Cloud Atlas - 25/2/2013 1:49:59 PM   
demoncleaner


Posts: 2341
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Belfast
quote:

ORIGINAL: AxlReznor

Nope. You've definitely misunderstood it. He's writing on the style of a pulpy piece of fiction in the Luisa Rey mystery, because that's how he's presenting it. The connections were never meant to be tenuous, although the stories of course can be enjoyed separately, because they are six different narratives and not part of one "crossthrough" plot.

But it's supposed to be read as a full novel, and that's how most people get the most out of it. And if they had in any way misread the book, the film would never be made because they made sure with him that he liked the script before letting it progress beyond that stage. If they just did it as an anthology, they'd have a) missed the point entirely, and b) made a movie that jars every time one story ends and moves onto another.

If you don't like it, fair enough. But it's not due to the directors misunderstanding of the book that you don't like it.

I also find it funny when people (not demoncleaner) disregard a film (or anything for that matter) because they don't understand it straight away. As if it's somehow a fault with the movie if not everything is clear after one viewing. If I took that attitude, I wouldn't have bothered giving a second viewing to some of what would become my favourite movies. Don't disregard or write off a movie... give it a chance. Some things just take time to sink in. Cloud Atlas is one of those movies that is definitely an acquired taste, but I believe persevering with it is the best way to go. And if you still don't like it, then at least still support it. Because if you don't, the chances of anything in any way different being released in the future are drastically reduced. And we desperately need some things that are a bit different at the moment.


We’re probably not going to agree but I think what you’ve said in the paragraph above relates to the basic choice that every reader has with the book.  To read it as a collection or read it as a novel.  The film, with a pretty dictatorial unanimity, (that’s ironic) does away with this choice and suggests to me at least, that if Mitchell’s narrative was indeed a homogenous “onesy” then I would have found it far more problematic than I did.  If that’s the case then the book might have sucked the same balls the film does, (for me at least). In essence, to say it was supposed to be read one way might invite readers to go back and take issue with something they were perfectly happy with in the first instance.    I can’t see Mitchell or any writer going back and depeleting the latitude with which a readership was free to experience their book.  It’s that idea of inclusivity that every writer must flatter themselves on.    The movie, if it was interested in a loyal adaptation might have stuck to the basic structure of the book which maintains a stark separation between stories in its pyramid structure.  The six degrees of intercutting that you have with the film means that it needs to be constantly interruptive and repetitive with its “we’re all one returning consciousness”.   It’s supposed, in the music metaphor, supposed to be a returning leitmotif, it isn’t, it’s an innane mantra of every character wistfully commenting in voice-over that we’re all one returning consciousness.   The de ja vu, whilst undoubtedly intentional here, just isn’t bloody flattering to the film.  It’s cult like.  Not cool-fan-base “cult-like” it’s, gave-away-my-earthly-posessions-and-now-I’m-living-in-a-compound “cult-like”. 

The idea that Mitchell’s approval for the script should signify in itself that the approach of the directors is going to work as a film doesn’t hold up.  He’s not Robert Towne, he’s not exactly recognised as a master adaptor of prose is he?  We might as well just infer that he was flattered by the confidence of two pathologically confident film makers who have shown that they don’t compromise on articulate sense when it’s at the expense of groundless, overblown ambition.   As it stands Cloud Atlas is like the Kentucky Fried Existential movie.

Being innovative with form is great.  But being pretty bloody ordinary six different times, then splicing it up and passing this off as innovation is something different.    There’s no artistic manipulation of form in Cloud Atlas, it’s just a structural dove-tailing that no one has ever tried before because…Oh I don’t know…it just doesn’t work?

(in reply to AxlReznor)
Post #: 35
Disappointing - mediocre - 25/2/2013 4:57:31 PM   
howiet1971

 

Posts: 24
Joined: 26/9/2008
From: Swindon
6 stories strung together with tenuous links... Just didn't work for me. It wasn't bad, just not as clever as it thinks it is.
Only a couple of stories really worked for me was New Seoul: i would have liked to have seen that section developed further, along with the song writing piece. Good performances from most people however.

(in reply to Empire Admin)
Post #: 36
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 1:41:28 AM   
Olaf


Posts: 23659
Joined: 26/2/2007
From: 41°N 93°W
Warning! Thesis about the meaning of this doggerel incoming. I really enjoyed the film, personally.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I’m usually opposed to reviews of film adaptations that dwell for ages on the differences between the book and the movie, but it seems necessary in this case because of the book in question – specifically, the way that it’s a book about books and how the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer work around this. The most obvious stylistic predecessor to David Mitchell’s novel is Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (both pull the ‘multiple stories stopping halfway through’ shtick), but the comparison is important for what they don’t have in common more than what they do have in common. Both are books about writing and reading when it comes down to it of course, but by closing off the stories it starts, Cloud Atlas assumes we actually want to know how they end rather than just treating them as another game or writing exercise. In contrast to Calvino, where writing is writing and reading is reading, Mitchell’s book instead suggests that these characters have some value to us after all, and these silly pastimes of reading and writing might actually have some function in a real-world context. ‘We’re not beginning to... to... mean something?’

This is an offputting concept for many people. The generally accepted approach in critical commentary has only recently turned away from the more self-contained (self-absorbed?) version of literature that doesn’t ‘pretend’ to have any real-life significance. It’s interesting to consider why – is it a genuine lack of belief in art’s ability to convey emotion? Or is it that we’d rather it didn’t, for reasons of the slightly uncomfortable too-much-information variety? We might be more comfortable with Cloud Atlas if it stuck to commenting on itself, rather than commenting on us, but a desire to comment on Us is its primary motivation. The fact that it does so through an analysis of its medium (ie how the way we read and write reflects who we are and what we do), doesn’t diminish that motivation.

Which brings us onto the question of structure, ie Cloud Atlas the novel vs Cloud Atlas the movie. The novel’s structure obviously reflects that element of reading half of a book and needing to finish it (a crafty way of getting you to finish it too, well played Mitchell), but also consider it another way. If you picture it spatially, the novel literally looks like a book inside a book inside a book etc, while structurally reversing it (the Letters From Zedelghem section is ‘inside’ the Pacific Journal, but the latter is in the text of the former). This probably seems like me overexamining this, but these two reversed structures is important to both the novel’s recurring themes of containment/freedom, and the earlier contentious point about literature having some value beyond its own literature-ness. By suggesting that each of the texts exist both inside and outside of each other (and by extension, the text as a whole), there’s a clear break with the ‘Calvino approach’, as you might call it. I dislike the phrase ‘more than literature’ because it implies a triviality in literature as a concept, but Mitchell gets this as well. These pulpy genre stories have value outside of their own literary existence, as evidenced by the big connected souls lark, but it’s because of their literary nature that they have this value. The fact that Luisa Rey is a fictional character in Timothy Cavendish’s world, for instance, is ultimately irrelevant; they’re all fictional after all, and you care about them all the same.

All well and good, but Cloud Atlas is a movie now and it can’t adopt the structure of a novel that’s so intimately connected to novels as a concept. Which is why the cut-up structure of the film – something I was initially nervous about as a fan of the book – is absolutely essential to why Cloud Atlas works as a film. This really is a masterful work of editing, and that’s because the Wachowskis/Tykwer understand that the edit is the filmic equivalent of what Mitchell was looking to highlight with his novel’s structure. Eisenstein and Kuleshov argued that montage was the essence of cinema, and they were correct: instead of being a film about books, like a bad adaptation would have been, it’s a film about films in the same spirit. Hugo Weaving talks about the consequences of upsetting the ‘order of things’ or whatever towards the end of the film, and both book and film offer an extremely effective way of upending that order in narrative terms. I might even venture to say that the film’s continuous cutting and ensuing narrative disconnection (in a good way) makes it a more powerful challenge to that order than the novel – there’s a great poignancy in Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae’s characters being together at the ‘end’ of the film, even though we had just seen them separated minutes earlier centuries in the future.

It’s moments like the aforementioned that mean the multiple casting stunt just about comes off for the directors. I had my doubts when Tom Hanks appeared with a really awful Irish accent, but the fact that Zachry and Meronym’s love for each other feels ‘right’ when juxtaposed with Isaac and Luisa’s meeting in the 1970s makes it worthwhile. (My only complaint is that Ben Whishaw was underused outside of the 1930s scenes, since he was by far the best thing about the film performance-wise.) As for the reincarnation motif – I preferred the more ambiguous allegorical approach taken by the book, but once again the more literal evocation of this idea in the film is borne out of a realisation that films and books are different mediums.

The unfortunate thing about this literal version of the reincarnation theme is that it leaves the film open to accusations of wishy-washy New Age spiritualism, which is sad because it’s a film that’s very heavily invested in the idea of faith in a more secular way. Sonmi isn’t actually a god, but it doesn’t diminish the real effect she has on Hae-Joo Chang’s life (for example). The spiritual dimension implied throughout isn’t as important as the faith human beings have in each other – Autua and Adam Ewing on the boat, Frobisher and Sixsmith, Zachry and Meronym (spelled out pretty bluntly with the ‘thank Sonmi’ ‘no, thank you’ line), etc etc. Yet again this brings us back to the idea of a form of art involved in the world beyond itself: it’s a film about people because those texts are produced by people.

I’ve seen the film regularly accused of emotional and intellectual fraudulence – all the negative reviews have at least one of the stock ‘it’s not as smart as it thinks it is’/‘it’s trite and corny’/‘it’s manipulative’ criticisms in there somewhere. This is a really similar point to the one about the undetermined veracity of stories in the novel being perceived as a point to latch onto for criticism I guess. I couldn’t disagree more: it’s a completely, bracingly honest film. It’s possibly too honest, in the same way The Fountain is too honest. There’s no irony (except of the dramatic variety) in Cloud Atlas. It’s clear and upfront that it’s a film, but it wants you to be emotionally invested anyway, just as the novel wants you to be emotionally invested even though it’s very obviously a novel. I don’t blame anyone for being slightly put off by this – it’s a big ask for anyone when the question is as clear as it is in Cloud Atlas. But it’s the same thing every film of this ilk asks its viewer, and while the question isn’t always front and centre, it’s always there. Some might point to a film like Precious, to give an example off the top of my head of a recent ‘emotional’ picture like this, but there’s definitely an element of ironic detachment in that film in a quite repellent way – it can’t help itself from tempering its empathy with disgust for its protagonist. Cloud Atlas on the other hand genuinely loves its protagonists, it loves itself (it is kind of pompous to be fair), and it loves you the viewer, as silly as that sounds.

What Cloud Atlas requires in return is an all or nothing approach. This is why it’s a love/hate film, because you either buy it or you don’t with no in between. And this is why it transcends genre exercises and solipsism, because it is, more than anything, about its role in the real world. All of the characters are fictional, but your emotional response is real, so what else matters if it achieved that?


5/5

_____________________________

I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation.

Empire Top 100 Albums Poll 2013: CLICK HERE

(in reply to howiet1971)
Post #: 37
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 8:10:16 AM   
AxlReznor

 

Posts: 1623
Joined: 2/12/2010
From: Great Britain
Very well-written review, Olaf.
Although I'd say that whilst I agree that Ben Whishaw's performance is fantastic, Doona Bae gives him a run for his money as the star of the film. I was mesmerised every time she was on screen.

(in reply to Olaf)
Post #: 38
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 10:42:17 AM   
demoncleaner


Posts: 2341
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Belfast
quote:

ORIGINAL: Olaf

Warning! Thesis about the meaning of this doggerel incoming. I really enjoyed the film, personally.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm usually opposed to reviews of film adaptations that dwell for ages on the differences between the book and the movie, but it seems necessary in this case because of the book in question – specifically, the way that it's a book about books and how the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer work around this. The most obvious stylistic predecessor to David Mitchell's novel is Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller (both pull the 'multiple stories stopping halfway through' shtick), but the comparison is important for what they don't have in common more than what they do have in common. Both are books about writing and reading when it comes down to it of course, but by closing off the stories it starts, Cloud Atlas assumes we actually want to know how they end rather than just treating them as another game or writing exercise. In contrast to Calvino, where writing is writing and reading is reading, Mitchell's book instead suggests that these characters have some value to us after all, and these silly pastimes of reading and writing might actually have some function in a real-world context. 'We're not beginning to... to... mean something?'

This is an offputting concept for many people. The generally accepted approach in critical commentary has only recently turned away from the more self-contained (self-absorbed?) version of literature that doesn't 'pretend' to have any real-life significance. It's interesting to consider why – is it a genuine lack of belief in art's ability to convey emotion? Or is it that we'd rather it didn't, for reasons of the slightly uncomfortable too-much-information variety? We might be more comfortable with Cloud Atlas if it stuck to commenting on itself, rather than commenting on us, but a desire to comment on Us is its primary motivation. The fact that it does so through an analysis of its medium (ie how the way we read and write reflects who we are and what we do), doesn't diminish that motivation.

Which brings us onto the question of structure, ie Cloud Atlas the novel vs Cloud Atlas the movie. The novel's structure obviously reflects that element of reading half of a book and needing to finish it (a crafty way of getting you to finish it too, well played Mitchell), but also consider it another way. If you picture it spatially, the novel literally looks like a book inside a book inside a book etc, while structurally reversing it (the Letters From Zedelghem section is 'inside' the Pacific Journal, but the latter is in the text of the former). This probably seems like me overexamining this, but these two reversed structures is important to both the novel's recurring themes of containment/freedom, and the earlier contentious point about literature having some value beyond its own literature-ness. By suggesting that each of the texts exist both inside and outside of each other (and by extension, the text as a whole), there's a clear break with the 'Calvino approach', as you might call it. I dislike the phrase 'more than literature' because it implies a triviality in literature as a concept, but Mitchell gets this as well. These pulpy genre stories have value outside of their own literary existence, as evidenced by the big connected souls lark, but it's because of their literary nature that they have this value. The fact that Luisa Rey is a fictional character in Timothy Cavendish's world, for instance, is ultimately irrelevant; they're all fictional after all, and you care about them all the same.

All well and good, but Cloud Atlas is a movie now and it can't adopt the structure of a novel that's so intimately connected to novels as a concept. Which is why the cut-up structure of the film – something I was initially nervous about as a fan of the book – is absolutely essential to why Cloud Atlas works as a film. This really is a masterful work of editing, and that's because the Wachowskis/Tykwer understand that the edit is the filmic equivalent of what Mitchell was looking to highlight with his novel's structure. Eisenstein and Kuleshov argued that montage was the essence of cinema, and they were correct: instead of being a film about books, like a bad adaptation would have been, it's a film about films in the same spirit. Hugo Weaving talks about the consequences of upsetting the 'order of things' or whatever towards the end of the film, and both book and film offer an extremely effective way of upending that order in narrative terms. I might even venture to say that the film's continuous cutting and ensuing narrative disconnection (in a good way) makes it a more powerful challenge to that order than the novel – there's a great poignancy in Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae's characters being together at the 'end' of the film, even though we had just seen them separated minutes earlier centuries in the future.

It's moments like the aforementioned that mean the multiple casting stunt just about comes off for the directors. I had my doubts when Tom Hanks appeared with a really awful Irish accent, but the fact that Zachry and Meronym's love for each other feels 'right' when juxtaposed with Isaac and Luisa's meeting in the 1970s makes it worthwhile. (My only complaint is that Ben Whishaw was underused outside of the 1930s scenes, since he was by far the best thing about the film performance-wise.) As for the reincarnation motif – I preferred the more ambiguous allegorical approach taken by the book, but once again the more literal evocation of this idea in the film is borne out of a realisation that films and books are different mediums.

The unfortunate thing about this literal version of the reincarnation theme is that it leaves the film open to accusations of wishy-washy New Age spiritualism, which is sad because it's a film that's very heavily invested in the idea of faith in a more secular way. Sonmi isn't actually a god, but it doesn't diminish the real effect she has on Hae-Joo Chang's life (for example). The spiritual dimension implied throughout isn't as important as the faith human beings have in each other – Autua and Adam Ewing on the boat, Frobisher and Sixsmith, Zachry and Meronym (spelled out pretty bluntly with the 'thank Sonmi' 'no, thank you' line), etc etc. Yet again this brings us back to the idea of a form of art involved in the world beyond itself: it's a film about people because those texts are produced by people.

I've seen the film regularly accused of emotional and intellectual fraudulence – all the negative reviews have at least one of the stock 'it's not as smart as it thinks it is'/'it's trite and corny'/'it's manipulative' criticisms in there somewhere. This is a really similar point to the one about the undetermined veracity of stories in the novel being perceived as a point to latch onto for criticism I guess. I couldn't disagree more: it's a completely, bracingly honest film. It's possibly too honest, in the same way The Fountain is too honest. There's no irony (except of the dramatic variety) in Cloud Atlas. It's clear and upfront that it's a film, but it wants you to be emotionally invested anyway, just as the novel wants you to be emotionally invested even though it's very obviously a novel. I don't blame anyone for being slightly put off by this – it's a big ask for anyone when the question is as clear as it is in Cloud Atlas. But it's the same thing every film of this ilk asks its viewer, and while the question isn't always front and centre, it's always there. Some might point to a film like Precious, to give an example off the top of my head of a recent 'emotional' picture like this, but there's definitely an element of ironic detachment in that film in a quite repellent way – it can't help itself from tempering its empathy with disgust for its protagonist. Cloud Atlas on the other hand genuinely loves its protagonists, it loves itself (it is kind of pompous to be fair), and it loves you the viewer, as silly as that sounds.

What Cloud Atlas requires in return is an all or nothing approach. This is why it's a love/hate film, because you either buy it or you don't with no in between. And this is why it transcends genre exercises and solipsism, because it is, more than anything, about its role in the real world. All of the characters are fictional, but your emotional response is real, so what else matters if it achieved that?


5/5



There was an episode of Neighbours showing in our canteen yesterday.  The sound was low but by all accounts it was a 25 minute dramatic treatise on more secular aspects of faith such as people’s faith in one another.  I know this because I asked the cleaning lady. In fairness to her I don’t think this was a wishy washy intepretation of it since the song at the start “everybody needs good neighbours” set this statement out in bracingly honest fashion. Indeed, when I thought about it all through last night, this theme, was not just literally a “theme” but it was very much “thematically” a theme too.  This forthright overture played at the beginning of the episode, and then also, with an almost pronounced intent played at the end too.  This structural “bookending” for me really hermetically sealed the literal fact that these people lived in proximity to one another, literally, but also very much metaphorically as well.
Now you’ll think I’m being churlish here but I’m just going for an exercise in conflation, an instinct that begins very much with the film makers and taken up by the fans.  What’s becoming apparent from the release of the film is that the option to enjoy the source prose for what it is upfront, that is, a stylistic exercise in genre, is diminishing to the point where the absolute prescription is to consider Mitchell’s book as some insufferable Pablo Coelho type hippy ponderance.  I giggled when I saw the Little White Lies verdict which said this was a film “for people who’s one goal in life is to swim with dolphins”.  No matter what cruelty I spun at the film since Friday I didn’t actually believe that, but if the demand really is to think on these set of stories purely as cosmic occurrence and not based on the pleasures of genre fiction then that verdict is consolidating around the film.

I do like a good discussion and I do like it when a film comes along that creates discussion.  For that reason I’m not normally a person who discourages “over-thinking” (there shouldn’t really be such a thinkg generally speaking).  But I keep coming back to who the purveyors of this incitement to thought are in this case.  And do you know, for two philosophers, the Wachowski’s do a hell of a good fight scene, that’s all I’m saying.  For a philosopher David Mitchell is a hell of a good genre fiction writer.  For all the substantiating quotes Olaf brings up this is still a film with the line “but what is an ocean but a lot of little drops”.  That’s….that’s brilliant.  That’s the level of dialectic I would qualify the Matrix people making.  That’s fantastic.

(in reply to Olaf)
Post #: 39
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 11:14:07 AM   
Olaf


Posts: 23659
Joined: 26/2/2007
From: 41°N 93°W
The phrase 'exercise in conflation' is an interesting one because it implies an objective measure for artistic merit - you clearly took my post as one such exercise which is fair enough. But when you write 'if the demand really is to think on these set of stories purely as cosmic occurrence and not based on the pleasures of genre fiction then that verdict is consolidating around the film' or 'What’s becoming apparent from the release of the film is that the option to enjoy the source prose for what it is upfront, that is, a stylistic exercise in genre, is diminishing to the point where the absolute prescription is to consider Mitchell’s book as some insufferable Pablo Coelho type hippy ponderance', I have to point out when I think you're misreading my intention. As I said, I'm sceptical of the Wachowskis/Tykwer overdoing the cosmic recurrence stuff in the plot because I read the book differently, but that's why I went off on a tangent about secular belief systems - it's a not case of either/or 'genre fiction that just exists to be enjoyed' and 'grand narrative of cosmic significance' as you're imagining it to be. The point (at least what I took it to be) is that the pleasures of (genre) fiction is a sensation that deserves to be rendered in cosmically significant terms, even if it's just allegorical. I don't literally buy into the reincarnation stuff or whatever, but it serves as an effective metaphor for the function of literature (or film obviously) in the 'real world'. You could probably argue that I'm placing too much significance on literature or film or art in general, but affording it that significance is what it comes down to for me.

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(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 40
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 11:39:19 AM   
AxlReznor

 

Posts: 1623
Joined: 2/12/2010
From: Great Britain
I think the best example of the book being "about books" and the film being "about films" is shown in the small change to the Sonmi story.

SPOILERS IN WHITE
In the book, Sonmi writes what is pretty much a Bible in which she lays out her own version of the "Catechisms" that Fabricants have been forced to live their lives by in order to inspire the Fabricants and their allies to rise up against their oppressors. The book is then circulated via word of mouth.

Whereas in the film, she is taken to a studio, in which she broadcasts her message to the world via video whilst the rest of the Union are killed. Her emotion in that scene probably helped her message inspire people, too.

The movie also excises the plot twist that everything that happened was a ploy by Unanimity to draw their enemies out into the open (which Sonmi went to along with, because she knows that they have underestimated how many enemies they have), which makes her relationship with Hae-Joo resonate that much more, I believe.


I do believe that the book and the film can be enjoyed separately from each other, and it can be read than just an exercise in genre fiction. The same way any piece of genre fiction can be read as just that. But it can also be read (and was intended to be) as a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall. It's the kind of thing Mitchell did in 'Ghostwritten', too.

The message (whether you think it's "new-agey/hippie", or just a general message about what it means to be human) has been done elsewhere, but very rarely have I been so affected by it (both by the book and the film). The additional emphasis of all of the connections in the film I think are necessary for it to work as a film, even if they weren't necessary to work as a book (they were there, they just mentioned as a matter-of-fact kind of thing)... it's two different media, and they need to do things differently to achieve the same goal.

I'm still not sure how anybody can say that the film-maker's misunderstood the material, when it's so clearly not the case. If the author had voiced concerns about it, and had said they'd missed the point, then that's fair enough... but he has nothing but praise for it, or the way they worked so closely with him on the script to make sure they got it right. Are people saying they understand the work better than the author?

(in reply to Olaf)
Post #: 41
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 12:20:45 PM   
demoncleaner


Posts: 2341
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Belfast
quote:

ORIGINAL: AxlReznor
I do believe that the book and the film can be enjoyed separately from each other, and it can be read than just an exercise in genre fiction. The same way any piece of genre fiction can be read as just that. But it can also be read (and was intended to be) as a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall. It's the kind of thing Mitchell did in 'Ghostwritten', too.

The message (whether you think it's "new-agey/hippie", or just a general message about what it means to be human) has been done elsewhere, but very rarely have I been so affected by it (both by the book and the film). The additional emphasis of all of the connections in the film I think are necessary for it to work as a film, even if they weren't necessary to work as a book (they were there, they just mentioned as a matter-of-fact kind of thing)... it's two different media, and they need to do things differently to achieve the same goal.

I'm still not sure how anybody can say that the film-maker's misunderstood the material, when it's so clearly not the case. If the author had voiced concerns about it, and had said they'd missed the point, then that's fair enough... but he has nothing but praise for it, or the way they worked so closely with him on the script to make sure they got it right. Are people saying they understand the work better than the author?


I think it’s absolutely feasible to say that a reader/viewer can understand the author’s limitations better than the author…sometimes.  I’m quite prepared to say, ok in the book there’s this message about I don’t know, civilsation’s hubris?  Fair enough, with prose you get away with that sort of thing, it’s a much more subjective medium.  But with a film, and its proven here as far as I’m concerned, you can’t do the “message” without being extremely mealy mouthed about it.     I feel this point is actually really pertinent when talking about the Wachowskis and the evolution of The Matrix trilogy as a prime example.  The first film is essentially people hitting each other in a rather cool way.  The public to a large extent took it principally at face value.  This was their principal reading of it and most people loved it.  But if you look for it there is a deeper reading in the first Matrix film, let’s say it is…

quote:

a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall.


Fair enough, everything, (including Neighbours has to be about something).  Now, with the later sequels the demand on the audience is to perceive the franchise as being more about:

quote:

a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall.


instead of it being about people hitting each other in a cool way.   The larger public reception to this was negative, not because the audience were wilfully shallow but perhaps because the escalation of message was accompanied by an undeniable mealy-mouthed attempt.  (And there were two quite long attempts to do it.  Cloud Atlas for me is a third wrought and mealy-mouthed attempt to send this profound message, that an 8 year old could also glean from a Terminator film).  You could say, in this case, that the audience understood the limitations of the directors better than the the directors.  That’s an inference we the public make ALL the time when we don’t like a piece of art/fiction/whatever…we ultimately perceive that we understand something about it the maker doesn’t…or doesn’t care about. 

(in reply to AxlReznor)
Post #: 42
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 12:31:21 PM   
MonsterCat


Posts: 7932
Joined: 24/3/2011
From: St. Albans, Hertfordshire
Never thought I'd see Cloud Atlas and Neighbours mentioned in the same sentence.

Anyways, I watching this this afternoon, and if it isn't any good I'm afraid Axl, Olaf and Rgirvan will have to reimburse me the ticket price.

_____________________________

"I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you."

Films watched in 2013

(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 43
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 12:32:26 PM   
AxlReznor

 

Posts: 1623
Joined: 2/12/2010
From: Great Britain
quote:

ORIGINAL: MonsterCat

Never thought I'd see Cloud Atlas and Neighbours mentioned in the same sentence.

Anyways, I watching this this afternoon, and if it isn't any good I'm afraid Axl, Olaf and Rgirvan will have to reimburse me the ticket price.


Hey... you can't say I didn't warn you (in another thread) that it's a love-it or hate-it deal.

(in reply to MonsterCat)
Post #: 44
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 12:45:18 PM   
AxlReznor

 

Posts: 1623
Joined: 2/12/2010
From: Great Britain
quote:

ORIGINAL: demoncleaner

quote:

ORIGINAL: AxlReznor
I do believe that the book and the film can be enjoyed separately from each other, and it can be read than just an exercise in genre fiction. The same way any piece of genre fiction can be read as just that. But it can also be read (and was intended to be) as a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall. It's the kind of thing Mitchell did in 'Ghostwritten', too.

The message (whether you think it's "new-agey/hippie", or just a general message about what it means to be human) has been done elsewhere, but very rarely have I been so affected by it (both by the book and the film). The additional emphasis of all of the connections in the film I think are necessary for it to work as a film, even if they weren't necessary to work as a book (they were there, they just mentioned as a matter-of-fact kind of thing)... it's two different media, and they need to do things differently to achieve the same goal.

I'm still not sure how anybody can say that the film-maker's misunderstood the material, when it's so clearly not the case. If the author had voiced concerns about it, and had said they'd missed the point, then that's fair enough... but he has nothing but praise for it, or the way they worked so closely with him on the script to make sure they got it right. Are people saying they understand the work better than the author?


I think it’s absolutely feasible to say that a reader/viewer can understand the author’s limitations better than the author…sometimes.  I’m quite prepared to say, ok in the book there’s this message about I don’t know, civilsation’s hubris?  Fair enough, with prose you get away with that sort of thing, it’s a much more subjective medium.  But with a film, and its proven here as far as I’m concerned, you can’t do the “message” without being extremely mealy mouthed about it.     I feel this point is actually really pertinent when talking about the Wachowskis and the evolution of The Matrix trilogy as a prime example.  The first film is essentially people hitting each other in a rather cool way.  The public to a large extent took it principally at face value.  This was their principal reading of it and most people loved it.  But if you look for it there is a deeper reading in the first Matrix film, let’s say it is…

quote:

a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall.


Fair enough, everything, (including Neighbours has to be about something).  Now, with the later sequels the demand on the audience is to perceive the franchise as being more about:

quote:

a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall.


instead of it being about people hitting each other in a cool way.   The larger public reception to this was negative, not because the audience were wilfully shallow but perhaps because the escalation of message was accompanied by an undeniable mealy-mouthed attempt.  (And there were two quite long attempts to do it.  Cloud Atlas for me is a third wrought and mealy-mouthed attempt to send this profound message, that an 8 year old could also glean from a Terminator film).  You could say, in this case, that the audience understood the limitations of the directors better than the the directors.  That’s an inference we the public make ALL the time when we don’t like a piece of art/fiction/whatever…we ultimately perceive that we understand something about it the maker doesn’t…or doesn’t care about. 


You're speaking to someone who loves The Matrix Trilogy (although I agree that the first is the superior one, obviously).
I still consider the latter two movies as primarily action movies, though. There were obscure references, etc. but there was in the first film, too. All in all, a completely different situation to Cloud Atlas... which I (and other people it seems) believe that they showed just how far they've progressed since 1999, and have managed a near-impossible feat, and doesn't strain their limitations at all.
The fact that you disagree just proves the love-it or hate-it thing that I've already mentioned. Though, I believe the movie will find a far bigger fanbase when it's released on home formats and people are able to take it all in on repeat viewings.

(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 45
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 12:51:24 PM   
demoncleaner


Posts: 2341
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Belfast
quote:

ORIGINAL: Olaf

The phrase 'exercise in conflation' is an interesting one because it implies an objective measure for artistic merit - you clearly took my post as one such exercise which is fair enough. But when you write 'if the demand really is to think on these set of stories purely as cosmic occurrence and not based on the pleasures of genre fiction then that verdict is consolidating around the film' or 'What's becoming apparent from the release of the film is that the option to enjoy the source prose for what it is upfront, that is, a stylistic exercise in genre, is diminishing to the point where the absolute prescription is to consider Mitchell's book as some insufferable Pablo Coelho type hippy ponderance', I have to point out when I think you're misreading my intention. As I said, I'm sceptical of the Wachowskis/Tykwer overdoing the cosmic recurrence stuff in the plot because I read the book differently, but that's why I went off on a tangent about secular belief systems - it's a not case of either/or 'genre fiction that just exists to be enjoyed' and 'grand narrative of cosmic significance' as you're imagining it to be. The point (at least what I took it to be) is that the pleasures of (genre) fiction is a sensation that deserves to be rendered in cosmically significant terms, even if it's just allegorical. I don't literally buy into the reincarnation stuff or whatever, but it serves as an effective metaphor for the function of literature (or film obviously) in the 'real world'. You could probably argue that I'm placing too much significance on literature or film or art in general, but affording it that significance is what it comes down to for me.


I think that's completely fair and very well put.  I don't have an issue with anything here because I think what we're back to is the freedom to read it (the book, the movie) as we feel fit.   Where I'm coming from I think is the idea that I'm naturally going to resent the notion that taking the book at face value indicates a kind of dilletantism on my behalf.  When I read it I viewed whatever interconnectivity there was between stories as being more witty than profound.  There's a witty prospect I think in the suggestion that one protagonist's plight is another reader's tall tale, and conversely that a fictional "yarn” can evolve into something of quasi-religious importance (again I'm citing the Cavendish face on a cliff as an example of that type of existential joke al la Douglas Adams or something).  So I think my threshold of taste in terms of the inter-connections stops at the wry literary exercise and I don't find the more profound stretches at all palatable.   I can maybe sum up by saying that I think the film pushes the latter mercilessly.    Contrary to the fans of the film I don't think the structure of the film could only have been done this way.  Some compromise to a more anthology, portmanteau based structure (which the book completely compromises on) could have made for a more, I don't know, democratic watch.  But I think as it stands it's more ego-maniacal than that, you must look up at the stars and wonder about stuff. You must

< Message edited by demoncleaner -- 26/2/2013 12:53:06 PM >

(in reply to Olaf)
Post #: 46
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 1:05:27 PM   
Olaf


Posts: 23659
Joined: 26/2/2007
From: 41°N 93°W
quote:

ORIGINAL: demoncleaner

I think it’s absolutely feasible to say that a reader/viewer can understand the author’s limitations better than the author…sometimes.  I’m quite prepared to say, ok in the book there’s this message about I don’t know, civilsation’s hubris?  Fair enough, with prose you get away with that sort of thing, it’s a much more subjective medium.  But with a film, and its proven here as far as I’m concerned, you can’t do the “message” without being extremely mealy mouthed about it.     I feel this point is actually really pertinent when talking about the Wachowskis and the evolution of The Matrix trilogy as a prime example.  The first film is essentially people hitting each other in a rather cool way.  The public to a large extent took it principally at face value.  This was their principal reading of it and most people loved it.  But if you look for it there is a deeper reading in the first Matrix film, let’s say it is…

quote:

a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall.


Fair enough, everything, (including Neighbours has to be about something).  Now, with the later sequels the demand on the audience is to perceive the franchise as being more about:

quote:

a message to humanity about their self-destructive tendencies that have been responsible for our rise and if we don't change, will be responsible for our fall.


instead of it being about people hitting each other in a cool way.   The larger public reception to this was negative, not because the audience were wilfully shallow but perhaps because the escalation of message was accompanied by an undeniable mealy-mouthed attempt.  (And there were two quite long attempts to do it.  Cloud Atlas for me is a third wrought and mealy-mouthed attempt to send this profound message, that an 8 year old could also glean from a Terminator film).  You could say, in this case, that the audience understood the limitations of the directors better than the the directors.  That’s an inference we the public make ALL the time when we don’t like a piece of art/fiction/whatever…we ultimately perceive that we understand something about it the maker doesn’t…or doesn’t care about. 


I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say now - how are you quantifying 'significance' or 'meaningfulness' in such an objective fashion (implied by the siding with the audience aspect of your argument at least)? Your main criticism of the Wachowskis' Cloud Atlas appears to be that the Wachowskis also made The Matrix Revolutions, which is a pretty terrible film but didn't really have bearing on how Cloud Atlas turned out. It's also not demanding any set interpretation (though again, I preferred the novel being more ambiguous on the reincarnation theme) - the very fact that we've come to very different conclusions about *how* it wants you to interpret the film, let alone what interpretation you come up with, should be proof of that.

Again, your point seems - and correct me if I'm wrong - to come down to one about certain things not making moves above their station so to speak (ironic since it's a major theme in the story): a film about people hitting each other in a cool way is *just* about people hitting each other in a cool way; a genre novel about genre novels is *just* about genre novels. When the film/book is explicitly about how reading and writing has significant impact outside 'just' being reading and writing - Cavendish's book/film adaptation inspires Sonmi, her writings/film inspire devotion in the future etc - it's a somewhat of a misreading.

I don't think it's meant as a profound message either. Its simplicity is why it resonates in the multiple time periods in the story. I'd probably argue it gains profundity from accumulating over multiple storylines, but that's a different proposition altogether.

EDIT - I just saw you posted before me posting this, oops. I'll just be two minutes.

< Message edited by Olaf -- 26/2/2013 1:10:40 PM >


_____________________________

I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation.

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(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 47
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 26/2/2013 1:27:43 PM   
Olaf


Posts: 23659
Joined: 26/2/2007
From: 41°N 93°W

quote:

ORIGINAL: demoncleaner

quote:

ORIGINAL: Olaf

The phrase 'exercise in conflation' is an interesting one because it implies an objective measure for artistic merit - you clearly took my post as one such exercise which is fair enough. But when you write 'if the demand really is to think on these set of stories purely as cosmic occurrence and not based on the pleasures of genre fiction then that verdict is consolidating around the film' or 'What's becoming apparent from the release of the film is that the option to enjoy the source prose for what it is upfront, that is, a stylistic exercise in genre, is diminishing to the point where the absolute prescription is to consider Mitchell's book as some insufferable Pablo Coelho type hippy ponderance', I have to point out when I think you're misreading my intention. As I said, I'm sceptical of the Wachowskis/Tykwer overdoing the cosmic recurrence stuff in the plot because I read the book differently, but that's why I went off on a tangent about secular belief systems - it's a not case of either/or 'genre fiction that just exists to be enjoyed' and 'grand narrative of cosmic significance' as you're imagining it to be. The point (at least what I took it to be) is that the pleasures of (genre) fiction is a sensation that deserves to be rendered in cosmically significant terms, even if it's just allegorical. I don't literally buy into the reincarnation stuff or whatever, but it serves as an effective metaphor for the function of literature (or film obviously) in the 'real world'. You could probably argue that I'm placing too much significance on literature or film or art in general, but affording it that significance is what it comes down to for me.


I think that's completely fair and very well put.  I don't have an issue with anything here because I think what we're back to is the freedom to read it (the book, the movie) as we feel fit.   Where I'm coming from I think is the idea that I'm naturally going to resent the notion that taking the book at face value indicates a kind of dilletantism on my behalf.  When I read it I viewed whatever interconnectivity there was between stories as being more witty than profound.  There's a witty prospect I think in the suggestion that one protagonist's plight is another reader's tall tale, and conversely that a fictional "yarn” can evolve into something of quasi-religious importance (again I'm citing the Cavendish face on a cliff as an example of that type of existential joke al la Douglas Adams or something).  So I think my threshold of taste in terms of the inter-connections stops at the wry literary exercise and I don't find the more profound stretches at all palatable.   I can maybe sum up by saying that I think the film pushes the latter mercilessly.    Contrary to the fans of the film I don't think the structure of the film could only have been done this way.  Some compromise to a more anthology, portmanteau based structure (which the book completely compromises on) could have made for a more, I don't know, democratic watch.  But I think as it stands it's more ego-maniacal than that, you must look up at the stars and wonder about stuff. You must


I think there's a distinction to be made between self-awareness and irony that (for me) seems important here. I think that the self-awareness that the text demonstrates shouldn't be seen as an ironic undermining of what is a pretty earnest message in many respects, but I don't think it would work without that self-awareness because of the nature of the story. The point about Sonmi's story taking on a quasi-religious importance is definitely a humorous nod on that Adams-y level, but at the same time it doesn't linger on mocking Zachry or his peers for worshiping Sonmi. That the text has some kind of impact in their lives is what emerges as more important, and you could argue that it's basically what any author is setting out to do. This is interesting since it's ultimately a pretty hubristic aim you could argue, and it's a book warning against the dangers of hubris... again, a text without that self-aware aspect would fall apart on this paradox, but it's something that the book and film handle quite well imo. The ridiculous looking Cavendish film adaptation comes to mind - it's silly, but its emotional impact isn't diminished. To go back to the comparison I made in my original post, the Calvino novel doesn't really acknowledge the idea of people existing and reacting to the novel, whereas Cloud Atlas does so and its themes reflect that.

Your last point is interesting because it gets at something about film at the point where it departs from literature as a medium - it's not a very democratic medium in comparison to a novel. You could read Cloud Atlas the novel backwards or forwards or out of order if you want because it exists as a book, but a film plays forward and you can't really 'stop' it (inb4 DVD). As you've probably gathered from my posts so far, I'm probably more attached to books than films as a medium, but this is something that I personally find really interesting about it - considering the idea of these stories existing across multiple periods of time, the structure of the film is quite a fascinating commentary on how film depicts time, arguably. I think the intercutting is actually the most effective method possible for democratising the film, even if it isn't fully successful.

_____________________________

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(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 48
Quite Simply... - 26/2/2013 2:32:23 PM   
Funk_Knight

 

Posts: 113
Joined: 6/3/2006
MAGNIFICENT!!! No - it will not cater to everyone, but go in with an open mind and let the film lead the story telling. It massive, very deep, moving entertaining and thought provoking. I loved all the performances. This is one of the most ambitious films I've seen in a very long time. The connections between characters and people are sometimes obvious, some times subtle. If ever there was a film greater than the sum of its parts, its this one! * Note - bring an open and empathic mind!

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Post #: 49
RE: Cloud Atlas - 26/2/2013 6:56:22 PM   
Proudfoot


Posts: 425
Joined: 13/4/2009
Fantastic film.

Crazy, almost bizarre, but fantastic too.

In ten years, when Silver Linings or whatever that's decent enough but that's all it is, is long forgotten, people will still be talking about Cloud Atlas.

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Post #: 50
RE: Cloud Atlas - 26/2/2013 7:37:27 PM   
R W

 

Posts: 320
Joined: 23/6/2006
It’s been fourteen years since Lana (formerly Larry) and Andy Wachowski made the first Matrix, which was a wake-up call to a generation that is defined by its philosophical ideas and geek quality with the blending of genres such as cyberpunk sci-fi, Hong Kong-styled action and references to anime. Following the flawed sequels of the trilogy, as well as their visually spectacular live-action version of Speed Racer, the Wachowskis have collaborated with Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer as all three have adapted David Mitchell’s complex multi-storytelling novel that has been claimed to be unfilmable.

During the course of six stories from the remote South Pacific in the 19th century, all the way to a distant, post-apocalyptic future, we see how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future.

The cleverness of how David Mitchell writes his novel is that the six stories are told in huge chunks and once the sixth story finishes, the other five stories are returned to and closed, in reverse chronological order, and each ends with the main character reading or observing the chronologically previous work in the chain. As for this near-three-hour adaptation, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis takes a more conventional if not more challenging approach with the use the technique of intercutting all six stories play at the same time, so that the recurring themes of whatever story can be displayed whether it is two, three or even all six.

As the multiple stories are connected through its themes and actors in heavy make-up (more on that later), each one feels like their own film in terms of tone, such as the Tykwer-directed 70s conspiracy thriller and the Wachowskis-directed Orwellian-dystopian sci-fi set in Neo Seoul.

Despite the spectacular sci-fi moments of the latter two stories, both of which the Wachowskis directed, the standout is Tykwer’s second instalment about an ambitious bisexual English musician who finds work as an amanuensis to famous composer Vyvyan Ayrsv (one of the five roles played by Jim Broadbent), allowing Frobisher the time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece: "The Cloud Atlas Sextet". On a performance level, Ben Whishaw is great as the protagonist Robert Frobisher who writes letters to his lover, showing his naivety, sympathy and determination to compose a piece of music that will be played through the ages.

Due to the distinctive personality of each segment, one or two of the stories will feel off-coloured, the most noticeable being “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” in which the eponymous Cavendish (Broadbent) ends up being trapped in a retirement home with Hugo Weaving playing a Nurse Ratched-styled battleaxe. This whole sequence which though has its funny moments, strangely feels like a Carry On comedy with almost cartoony violence, with a brilliantly over-the-top death scene at the beginning.

With big-name stars playing multiple roles whether it’s old, young, black, white, male, female, there can be ups and downs. While there are great performances from Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy and surprisingly Hugh Grant who has never been more convincing as a post-apocalyptic cannibal, Tom Hanks who although is clearly having fun in roles of both good and evil, he is hamming it up with a variety of strange accents. The make-up which has gained unnecessary controversy is problematic at times, such as South Korean actress Doona Bae looking Caucasian, but on the other hand, Hugo Weaving has never looked more menacing as the hallucination figure Old Georgie who manipulates those into giving in to their fears.

It may have polarised critics and did not become a hit at the US, the Wachowskis/Tykwer’s adaptation of David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel is an ambitious spectacle of multiple storytelling, which though is not without flaws, it is truly enjoyable and something to think about once the end credits roll.

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Post #: 51
RE: Cloud Atlas - 27/2/2013 1:30:37 AM   
MonsterCat


Posts: 7932
Joined: 24/3/2011
From: St. Albans, Hertfordshire
I loved this film despite its flaws.

I can see why it's such a divisive film. though.

_____________________________

"I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you."

Films watched in 2013

(in reply to Proudfoot)
Post #: 52
RE: Cloud Atlas - 27/2/2013 4:57:15 PM   
SarahBanks195

 

Posts: 41
Joined: 4/12/2012
I still don't get why it has to be so confusing, like with the book you can go back once u've read one bit but to me they just seem to have thrown it all together and its a bit too messy for my liking

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvRXdzB9Ack

(in reply to MonsterCat)
Post #: 53
RE: Cloud Atlas - 27/2/2013 9:17:07 PM   
GCH

 

Posts: 42
Joined: 25/8/2007
Well, I've seen this for myself now. I can't say I thought it was great, but it was almost always intriguing. The acting was pretty good, and there was an element of celebrity-spotting, which was a bit of a distraction, and some of the make-up was a bit dodgy. The far future bit was in an annoying singsong language which I couldn't be bothered to understand so I may have missed some deep insights into the human condition. Notwithstanding this it looked really good, as did the rest of the pieces. Jim Broadbent was excellent in all his roles, and even Halle Berry was acceptable.
In summary I found this interesting rather than enjoyable.

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(in reply to Empire Admin)
Post #: 54
RE: Cloud Atlas - 28/2/2013 8:35:07 AM   
Dr Lenera

 

Posts: 3826
Joined: 19/10/2005
Am too lost for words to do a review tbh. Will just say that this is the best film I have seen in a very long time. That is all.
9.5/10

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check out more of my reviews on http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/

(in reply to GCH)
Post #: 55
RE: Disappointing - mediocre - 28/2/2013 10:14:00 AM   
homersimpson_esq


Posts: 20116
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Springfield

quote:

ORIGINAL: Olaf

Warning! Thesis about the meaning of this doggerel incoming. I really enjoyed the film, personally.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I’m usually opposed to reviews of film adaptations that dwell for ages on the differences between the book and the movie, but it seems necessary in this case because of the book in question – specifically, the way that it’s a book about books and how the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer work around this. The most obvious stylistic predecessor to David Mitchell’s novel is Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (both pull the ‘multiple stories stopping halfway through’ shtick), but the comparison is important for what they don’t have in common more than what they do have in common. Both are books about writing and reading when it comes down to it of course, but by closing off the stories it starts, Cloud Atlas assumes we actually want to know how they end rather than just treating them as another game or writing exercise. In contrast to Calvino, where writing is writing and reading is reading, Mitchell’s book instead suggests that these characters have some value to us after all, and these silly pastimes of reading and writing might actually have some function in a real-world context. ‘We’re not beginning to... to... mean something?’

This is an offputting concept for many people. The generally accepted approach in critical commentary has only recently turned away from the more self-contained (self-absorbed?) version of literature that doesn’t ‘pretend’ to have any real-life significance. It’s interesting to consider why – is it a genuine lack of belief in art’s ability to convey emotion? Or is it that we’d rather it didn’t, for reasons of the slightly uncomfortable too-much-information variety? We might be more comfortable with Cloud Atlas if it stuck to commenting on itself, rather than commenting on us, but a desire to comment on Us is its primary motivation. The fact that it does so through an analysis of its medium (ie how the way we read and write reflects who we are and what we do), doesn’t diminish that motivation.

Which brings us onto the question of structure, ie Cloud Atlas the novel vs Cloud Atlas the movie. The novel’s structure obviously reflects that element of reading half of a book and needing to finish it (a crafty way of getting you to finish it too, well played Mitchell), but also consider it another way. If you picture it spatially, the novel literally looks like a book inside a book inside a book etc, while structurally reversing it (the Letters From Zedelghem section is ‘inside’ the Pacific Journal, but the latter is in the text of the former). This probably seems like me overexamining this, but these two reversed structures is important to both the novel’s recurring themes of containment/freedom, and the earlier contentious point about literature having some value beyond its own literature-ness. By suggesting that each of the texts exist both inside and outside of each other (and by extension, the text as a whole), there’s a clear break with the ‘Calvino approach’, as you might call it. I dislike the phrase ‘more than literature’ because it implies a triviality in literature as a concept, but Mitchell gets this as well. These pulpy genre stories have value outside of their own literary existence, as evidenced by the big connected souls lark, but it’s because of their literary nature that they have this value. The fact that Luisa Rey is a fictional character in Timothy Cavendish’s world, for instance, is ultimately irrelevant; they’re all fictional after all, and you care about them all the same.

All well and good, but Cloud Atlas is a movie now and it can’t adopt the structure of a novel that’s so intimately connected to novels as a concept. Which is why the cut-up structure of the film – something I was initially nervous about as a fan of the book – is absolutely essential to why Cloud Atlas works as a film. This really is a masterful work of editing, and that’s because the Wachowskis/Tykwer understand that the edit is the filmic equivalent of what Mitchell was looking to highlight with his novel’s structure. Eisenstein and Kuleshov argued that montage was the essence of cinema, and they were correct: instead of being a film about books, like a bad adaptation would have been, it’s a film about films in the same spirit. Hugo Weaving talks about the consequences of upsetting the ‘order of things’ or whatever towards the end of the film, and both book and film offer an extremely effective way of upending that order in narrative terms. I might even venture to say that the film’s continuous cutting and ensuing narrative disconnection (in a good way) makes it a more powerful challenge to that order than the novel – there’s a great poignancy in Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae’s characters being together at the ‘end’ of the film, even though we had just seen them separated minutes earlier centuries in the future.

It’s moments like the aforementioned that mean the multiple casting stunt just about comes off for the directors. I had my doubts when Tom Hanks appeared with a really awful Irish accent, but the fact that Zachry and Meronym’s love for each other feels ‘right’ when juxtaposed with Isaac and Luisa’s meeting in the 1970s makes it worthwhile. (My only complaint is that Ben Whishaw was underused outside of the 1930s scenes, since he was by far the best thing about the film performance-wise.) As for the reincarnation motif – I preferred the more ambiguous allegorical approach taken by the book, but once again the more literal evocation of this idea in the film is borne out of a realisation that films and books are different mediums.

The unfortunate thing about this literal version of the reincarnation theme is that it leaves the film open to accusations of wishy-washy New Age spiritualism, which is sad because it’s a film that’s very heavily invested in the idea of faith in a more secular way. Sonmi isn’t actually a god, but it doesn’t diminish the real effect she has on Hae-Joo Chang’s life (for example). The spiritual dimension implied throughout isn’t as important as the faith human beings have in each other – Autua and Adam Ewing on the boat, Frobisher and Sixsmith, Zachry and Meronym (spelled out pretty bluntly with the ‘thank Sonmi’ ‘no, thank you’ line), etc etc. Yet again this brings us back to the idea of a form of art involved in the world beyond itself: it’s a film about people because those texts are produced by people.

I’ve seen the film regularly accused of emotional and intellectual fraudulence – all the negative reviews have at least one of the stock ‘it’s not as smart as it thinks it is’/‘it’s trite and corny’/‘it’s manipulative’ criticisms in there somewhere. This is a really similar point to the one about the undetermined veracity of stories in the novel being perceived as a point to latch onto for criticism I guess. I couldn’t disagree more: it’s a completely, bracingly honest film. It’s possibly too honest, in the same way The Fountain is too honest. There’s no irony (except of the dramatic variety) in Cloud Atlas. It’s clear and upfront that it’s a film, but it wants you to be emotionally invested anyway, just as the novel wants you to be emotionally invested even though it’s very obviously a novel. I don’t blame anyone for being slightly put off by this – it’s a big ask for anyone when the question is as clear as it is in Cloud Atlas. But it’s the same thing every film of this ilk asks its viewer, and while the question isn’t always front and centre, it’s always there. Some might point to a film like Precious, to give an example off the top of my head of a recent ‘emotional’ picture like this, but there’s definitely an element of ironic detachment in that film in a quite repellent way – it can’t help itself from tempering its empathy with disgust for its protagonist. Cloud Atlas on the other hand genuinely loves its protagonists, it loves itself (it is kind of pompous to be fair), and it loves you the viewer, as silly as that sounds.

What Cloud Atlas requires in return is an all or nothing approach. This is why it’s a love/hate film, because you either buy it or you don’t with no in between. And this is why it transcends genre exercises and solipsism, because it is, more than anything, about its role in the real world. All of the characters are fictional, but your emotional response is real, so what else matters if it achieved that?


5/5




My realisation (that happened during the Frobisher section) is that this is an adaptation of the Sextet, not the book.

Think about it. The structure of this film is far more musical in the way the "instruments" overlap each other, interrupting each other, taking over from each other, than the book's more straightforward narrative. This is the film of the sextet.

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That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne.


Bristol Bad Film Club
A place where movie fans can come and behold some of the most awful films ever put to celluloid.

(in reply to Olaf)
Post #: 56
SIMPLY STUNNING!!! - 28/2/2013 10:54:00 PM   
Ramone87

 

Posts: 65
Joined: 24/12/2011
STUNNING Human Drama come Sci-fi EPIC!!!

So where do you start with this epic movie tapestery? Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwerr pull of a no easy feat of adapting the complex and brilliant novel of the same name by David Mitchell into 3 hrs of sublime, touching, beautifully acted and visually stunning celluliod. There may be a few spoilers here;)

Ok the film centers around mainly six characters,...so here we go;)

Well we start with Tom Hanks in many guises first an elderly wiseman near a campfire in the far future speaking apparent 'future speak', odd words here and there before plunging skyward into stars and heading into 19th Century pacific era where we are introduced to another character Adam Ewing played jim Sturgess an american buisness man who sets sail after a buisness agreement for his nasty Father in law Haskell Moore, (Hugo Weaving in many guises) comes across a stowaway slave Autua and forms an unlikely friendship as they embark on thier 'human journey' to save each other in more ways than one...

From here we cut to Cambridge England in 1936 where we are introduced to the young Robert Frobisher, an english composer who interprets music for famous arrogant composer Vyvyan Ayrs played brilliantly by Jim Broadbent once again in many guises who threatens Robert that if he leaves before completing thier masterpiece 'The Cloud Atlas Sextet' will reveal his scandelous behaiviour to the masses,...thus begins a story of human tragedy and poigniancy,...involving his reltionship with partner Rufus Sixsmith played by James D'Arcy.

Then we cut to Timothey Cavendis, again Jim Broadbent an ageing publisher who gains profit from a book he published about gangster Dermot Hoggins (Tom Hanks in another guise) who murders a film critic in hilarious fashion at a party 2012. From here he get's threatened by his henchmen for share of his profits so goes to his brother Denholme for help (played brillianly by Hugh Grant) but get's tricked into hiding in a nursing home. Here he encounters the horrid nurse Hoakes, a frightening Hugo Weaving in drag and plans his escape,...

From there we drift to San Francisco, California in 1973 where we are introduced to Luisa Ray a joournalist played by Halle Berry who's encounters an older Rufus Sixsmith in a chance meeting in a broken lift. Here she get's interwined in a conspiracy involving the saftey of nuclear reactors after he is murdered and goes on the run from hitman Bill smoke, another baddie once again played by Hugo Weaving,...

Then we move to the far flung future in the for of Neo Seoul in 2144 where we come across Sonmi -451 a genetically engineered clone 'Fabricant' played with beautifull tenderness by Doona Bae who is interviewed after rebelling with commander Hae Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess) a member of a 'Union' movement. Both form a touching relationship as they fight as a resistance force against slavery and executions of fabricants,..here the visuals really are impressive as they both fly on speeding racers thwarting police thoughout the vast Neo Seoul megopolis....

Then finally we come to Tom Hanks as tribemans Zachry in 2321 set on The Big Island who joins forces with Meronym played by Halle Berry in another guise as a member of a tecnological society called the 'Prescients' who want to establish communications to other earth's colonies by finding the Cloud Atlas Station. Here Zachry is haunted by another incarnation of Hugo weaving devilry,...a top hat hissing entity called 'Old Geogie' who is truly unsettling as he battles his conscience while also trying to defeat a warring tribe the cannibalistic Kona and save his people,....here the dialogue is once again a mish mash of 'future speak' but it does'nt stop the performances from being particularly strong here,..


Whats so great about this movie is that it does not only do an incredible juggling act of holding a viewers attention for nearly 3 hrs plus while also rewarding us with genuine, troubled characters as they embark on thier epic journey through thier lives and times in so many differnent and visaully amazing places.


There are some many stand out set pieces to remember,...from the neon lit trips through Neo Seoul to the paradise of The Big island in 2321 to stunning slow mo photography ( a Wachowski trademark), together with touching performances from all mentioned and neatly cut editing to provide a rich, deeply moving and rewarding experience.


All characters share loss, love, hate, fear as they embark on thier spiritual journeys,...linked by thier actions and decisions all the while bearing the same birthmark which is framed throughout the movie,...character Sonmi-451 tells us 'that our lives are not our own' as we drift from age to age and life time to life time all on the ultimate quest to find life's true meanings. In many way's I found this movie a
mish mash of Magnolia come Bladerunner but then becoming something quite unique in many places as it builds to a truly moving and touching finale,...it's something that you must expereince!!



WATCH IT!!!

(in reply to Empire Admin)
Post #: 57
RE: enjoyed it - 8/3/2013 8:23:29 AM   
Timon


Posts: 14584
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
Finally saw it last night and thought it was fantastic - that's the true-true.

However I have questions:

Is the comet tattoo meant to symbolise change/rebirth in the characters that have it?

Was The Fall an apocalyptic war and were Zachary's visions a result of prolonged radiation exposure or just general madness?

Why does Jim Sturgess look really good as a Korean?

_____________________________

"I put no stock in religion. By the word 'religion', I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called 'The Will of God'. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves."

Twitter: @timonsingh

(in reply to tysmuse)
Post #: 58
RE: enjoyed it - 8/3/2013 8:25:57 AM   
AxlReznor

 

Posts: 1623
Joined: 2/12/2010
From: Great Britain
quote:

ORIGINAL: Timon

Finally saw it last night and thought it was fantastic - that's the true-true.

However I have questions:

Is the comet tattoo meant to symbolise change/rebirth in the characters that have it?

Was The Fall an apocalyptic war and were Zachary's visions a result of prolonged radiation exposure or just general madness?

Why does Jim Sturgess look really good as a Korean?


1. Yes
2. Also yes... I think as a result of Sonmi's broadcast causing people to rise up.
3. No idea
4. I thought he (and all of the white people made up as Korean) looked like Romulans.

(in reply to Timon)
Post #: 59
RE: Cloud Atlas - 8/3/2013 9:03:14 AM   
Timon


Posts: 14584
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
Ha! I said that when 'Korean' Hugo Weaving walked on the screen. I turned to my girlfriend and HomerSimpsonesq and said: "He looks like a Vulcan."

Still, they looked better than white Jewish Halle Berry.

Ben Winshaw looked good as a woman though. Nurse Ratchet Hugo Weaving is the stuff of nightmares.

_____________________________

"I put no stock in religion. By the word 'religion', I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called 'The Will of God'. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves."

Twitter: @timonsingh

(in reply to Empire Admin)
Post #: 60
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