Jak's Guide to Cloud Atlas. - a review and philosophize.
I Have to start by saying I love this Film, my favorite film which i can put right next to Shaolin Soccer (not above because CL has cheats as explained below) I went home that night and dedicated it my brain, heart, soul and all my creative reproductive organs (which means my eyes ears and dexterous hands at least). I really can't do the film justice to describe it as it is like a can of worms, fat tasty worms of different flavors. I will try not to give spoilers.. till the end anyway.
Based on a book which is apparently an anthology of six stories it was said to be unfilmable, but if anyone can do it it would be the wachowski duo who where responsible for the terrible but awesome looking Matrix trilogy, this round they have become overlords in the order of disclosure of information with 6 films at the same time. And despite Cloud Atlas it being such a varied salad where you get fed something different to the senses every few minutes, somehow they got the recipe it right and you'd want to eat it whole to get the full picture and savour every discovery.
To describe this film is not too difficult, I'm usually good at such tasks, in this case it cannot be done in a single sentence...
Cloud Atlas is a film that courses over thousands of years in one universe, comprised of what would be described as six actually very simple 30 minute short films in different genres and methods of storytelling I'll describe in chronological order as:
"Man's slow death and anti-racism at sea"
"love letters from a Bisexual (more gay) Musician"
"Action and mystery with an female investigatory journalist"
"1st person narrated comedy of an old man escaping a nursing home"
"Cyberpunk futuristic renegade Asian action, clones and sex"
"Post-apocalyptic cave man meets future woman story"
I forget all the years they are set in, but all stories regardless of era have heart, justice and bravery. Each film is chopped up and mashed together with the others in an salad epic three hour editing feat linked together with a shoe string of relativity. You are bound to find something in there that you like, Cloud Atlas really has something for everyone, except maybe kids because there are some of the most blatant sex scenes. Each story can work as a good stand alone film, but together deliver a much greater synergyous purpose, which I'll describe next.
The film mainly concerns the idea of karma and reincarnation, as the actors take on different characters and polarities in each era/story (see the FilmBlend diagram below for some light spoiler-age). Film buffs will have a fun time playing spot the actor as they re-spawn in a totally different suit, race, demeanor even gender. I on the other hand am generally oblivious to actors and hardly recognize them in general.
Critics have either loved or hated Cloud Atlas, and I can see why, the film does some serious cheating to gain its affection via essentially being several films in one, allowing it to easily although not entirely comfortably to transcend several genres, themes and methods of story telling, breath-taking vistas of different eras and locations,
employing the same award winning actors again and again and again.
And finally the ability to pull off constant cliff hangers and jump cuts just because you have 5 other films of time and space to cut to. At first this is uncomfortable as mentioned, and your sense coherence is firstly stretched to make sense of it all, it then gives up and just accepts what you see because it is satisfied by the cliff hangers which at the same time drip feds moments of discovery, bringing sense and relating to another character or time of the film, and it is this sensation that no other film can give at this magnitude. Usually I suck at watching and understanding high concept films like the matrix and inception, but somehow this film really clicked with me, I enjoyed it thoroughly as a part-time intellectual film appreciator.
I was kept on the suspenseful edge every time a cut was slipped in to take me to another story, which happens about every 5 minutes at most, my inner voice went something like: "oh this is getting interesting" and it would cut instantly to another time and space unrelated: "Damn it! I was watching that! wait, this is getting interesting too!" and it would cut instantly to another time and space unrelated: "Damn it! I was watching that!, wait this is getting interesting too" repeat that about 800 times and you pretty much get the channel surfing roller coaster that is Cloud Atlas. I can understand why people would find that all discomforting. It wasn't that bad for me, perhaps this is the kind of weird spontaneous thinking wave-length I'm on that most people don't understand.
The ending is of course like watching the climax of six unrelated films at the same time (yes, its like having 6 orgasms) which is the biggest story mechanic cheat because no sane singular story-line (human erogenous organ) can achieve that.
The film is also filled with somewhat cheesy and cliche but awe inspiring one-liners such as:
Luisa rey : "you must do what you cannot not do"
and Just trying to understand why we keep making the same mistakes... over and over.
Robert Frobisher: “A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.”
Timothy Cavendish: I will not be subjected to criminal abuse.
Sometimes a single line makes a film worth watching to me, and almost every character has a winning line in Cloud atlas.
Every action be it a crime or an act of kindness, bravery or sacrifice causes ripples in time and affects the outcome of the future, it is due to this premise that the overall film requires thousands of years several genres and forms of deliveries to portray its powerful meaning. I love this concept, in reality we humans are afraid to take risks be it a crime, for justice or fun, we like comfort and being safe and at the end up not making a change in our own lives or even a blip on the universe radar. I believe changing the world is not that difficult, it starts with making the change within ourselves, it has to be to the degree of internal defiance and that is what's difficult to sustain, but from that internal performance comes energy that causes evolution, leading to inspiration and revolution. All we have to do is act (pun intended). It isn't that much easier for us Actors either, we have to have the will and ability to constantly defy ourselves but not forsake our ideals.
It must have been hard for anyone to believe this film on paper because it is that crazy to grasp, inconceivable by any film maker standard and incomprehensible what it would feel like to watch, even during production the film was almost abandoned several times, because it is like any independent film that sought for funding and one of the most expensive. I suppose it is possible that even big time proven directors and actors have to struggle still for their bread and craft.
Another impressive note from this film is Tom Hanks, he apparently pushed on with the roles despite his agent wanting him to pull out because no money was expected to be involved. In fact he was always the first one to say that he was jumping on the plane and everyone else would be like: "if Hanks is in, so am I". This is really inspiring, aside finance being just another minor inconvenience as mentioned above, an actor can change everything with a production even resurrect it from the dead. I got all this production tidbits from Wikipedia, whether all this is actually true true or not, it doesn't matter to me, the legend that inspires is what counts and I'd like to think Actors can have that power, we after all should be the ones with the most heart and guts to make any leap of faith, it is this internal defiance that can change the world. The fact that the film has quite a powerful Asian character and story revelation is thick icing on this cake.
Performance Rating: 8.8
(yes I have a strange system to rate movies, it requires some refinement, but films these days call for it.)
Anyway coincidentally on the tangent of Buddhist Asian culture, aside from reincarnation this is also my Chinese new years entry, I don't have family here in SG so calling home is the most warmth I can get. I've been fairly dormant lately because of productions kinda going on holiday, I went KL last week to watch a friend in a Mixed Martial arts fighting event (perhaps an entry on that later) and bought a new phone. I spent almost a week messing around with hax and mods and mostly failures with it wasting some dear life points. sad but lucky I had time to blow. I read somewhere that this year would be hard for the Tigers (myself) and that I should place a pig in the west end of my room for more prosperous job opportunities, I'm not superstitious or feng shui fanatic, but it's a fun excuse to go buy a tiny jade pig and snap photos at different times.
Tomorrow I have one of my most challenging roles, a Japanese soldier who tortures a woman. I have to be really fierce and speak japanese which I barely know a Lick of... I have have been emailed the script a few hours ago and have barely looked at it because it is intimidating and has confidential printed impact-fully across every page. It has romanisation of the Japanese lines, but still its going to be hell memorizing and regurgitating it all.
and this jak, is where we defy.
Happy Chinese New Year.
This Site is the Official Records of discovery and ramblings of an Asian Australian actor's Performing adventures and his other talents and interests, when he gets round to writing them. It just may contain the secret to successful and or fulfilling performing life with all good intentions but makes no promises. Due to it's content it is not recommended or suitable for everyone although the author strives to cater for the world. All Stunts are performed within controlled conditions supervised and or by fully trained professionals or moderately experienced or self proclaimed proficient Amateurs. I hold no responsibility for injury or damage to anyone's physical, mental,environmental, financial, soul & spiritual, sexual well being or computing device. However I will assume full responsibility for any improvement experienced in the life and it's performances on the readers end (that's you!). Warning: journey will contain traces of nuts