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Author Topic: Cloud Atlas (2012)  (Read 11529 times)
naum
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Reply #35 on: September 03, 2012, 11:12:59 PM

Big feature spread in New Yorker on Wachowskis and 'Cloud Atlas' (almost typed 'Cloud Matrix' :))

Interesting note (besides being attracted to the novel via Natalie Portman reading on set of *V for Vendetta*) that, after putting their film narrative together, they would kill it if the author (David Mitchell) did not approve, given the negative backlash of Alan Moore against the film translation of *V for Vendetta*.

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In the spring of 2005, Lana and Andy Wachowski were at Babelsberg running the second unit for the director James McTeigue’s “V for Vendetta,” which they also wrote and co-produced. Between scenes, Lana (who is transgender and, until 2002, was called Larry) noticed that Natalie Portman, the star, was engrossed in a copy of “Cloud Atlas.” Portman raved about the book, so Lana began reading it, too. She and Andy, who is two and a half years younger, have retained a childhood habit of sharing books, and soon both of them were obsessively parsing the novel and calling friends to insist that they read it.

Mitchell’s book is not a simple read, with its interlocking stories and a multitude of characters, distributed across centuries and continents. Each story line has a different central character: Adam Ewing, a young American who sails home after a visit to an island in the South Pacific, in the mid-nineteenth century; Robert Frobisher, a feckless but talented Englishman, who becomes the amanuensis to a genius composer in Flanders, in the nineteen-thirties; Luisa Rey, a gossip-rag journalist who rakes the muck of the energy industry in nineteen-seventies California; Timothy Cavendish, a vanity-press publisher who finds himself held captive in a nursing home in present-day England; Sonmi~451, a genetically modified clone who gains her humanity in a futuristic Korea, ravaged by consumerism; and Zachry, a Pacific Islander who struggles to survive in the even more distant future, after “the Fall,” which seems to have endangered the planet and eradicated much of humankind. These characters are connected by an intricate network of leitmotifs—a comet–shaped birthmark crops up frequently, for instance—and by their ability to somehow escape the fate that has been prepared for them. The book’s dizzying plot twists are infused with lush linguistic imagination. For the Zachry sections, Mitchell constructed post-apocalyptic mutations of the English language, which effectively force readers to translate as they go.

“As I was writing ‘Cloud Atlas,’ I thought, It’s a shame this is unfilmable,” Mitchell told me. But the Wachowskis found themselves instantly, and profoundly, attracted to the idea of adapting the book for the screen. They were drawn to the scale of its ideas, to its lack of cynicism, and to the dramatic possibilities inherent in the book’s recurring moments of hope. They also wanted to work on something with Tykwer, whose 1998 movie, “Run Lola Run,” they’d loved (“our long-lost brother,” Lana called him), and “Cloud Atlas” seemed like the right project to unite their cinematic sensibilities.

In 2006, at the Wachowskis’ prompting, Tykwer took the German translation of “Cloud Atlas” with him on a vacation to the South of France. “It was a mistake,” he told me, with a laugh. He sat on the beach reading for days, “stressed and inspired” by the book; when his wife finally persuaded him to go on a day trip, he made her pull the car over so that he could finish a chapter. The moment he was done with the novel, he called Lana in San Francisco, where it was the middle of the night, and breathlessly declared his commitment to the plan.

He and the Wachowskis, who were in the middle of other projects, had to wait a couple of years before turning to “Cloud Atlas.” But finally, in February, 2009, they met in Costa Rica, where they had rented a secluded house near the ocean. Before they began to work on a script, they acknowledged that it might prove impossible to make “Cloud Atlas” into a movie, and that they might not be able to work together. “Writing is the most intimate process in the artistic development,” Tykwer said, and there was no way to anticipate how things would go. Then they got started: boogie-boarding in the morning, working the rest of the day, then preparing dinner together. Andy’s “world-famous” chicken roasted on a beer can was often the main dish on the menu. “It was like a childhood camp,” Lana said.

The main challenge was the novel’s convoluted structure: the chapters are ordered chronologically until the middle of the book, at which point the sequence reverses; the book thus begins and ends in the nineteenth century. This couldn’t work in a film. “It would be impossible to introduce a new story ninety minutes in,” Lana said. The filmmakers’ initial idea was to establish a connective trajectory between Dr. Goose, a devious physician who may be poisoning Ewing, in the earliest story line, and Zachry, the tribesman on whose moral choices the future of civilization hinges, after the Fall. They had no idea what to do with all the other story lines and characters. They broke the book down into hundreds of scenes, copied them onto colored index cards, and spread the cards on the floor, with each color representing a different character or time period. The house looked like “a Zen garden of index cards,” Lana said. At the end of the day, they’d pick up the cards in an order that they hoped would work as the arc of the film. Reading from the cards, Lana would then narrate the rearranged story. The next day, they’d do it again.

It was on the day before they left Costa Rica that they had a breakthrough: they could convey the idea of eternal recurrence, which was so central to the novel, by having the same actors appear in multiple story lines—“playing souls, not characters,” in Tykwer’s words. This would allow the narrative currents of the book to merge and to be separate at the same time. On the flight home, Lana and Andy carried the stack of rubber-banded cards they would soon convert into the first draft of the screenplay, which they then sent to Tykwer. The back-and-forth between the three filmmakers continued, the viability of their collaboration still not fully confirmed.

By August, the trio had a completed draft to send to Mitchell. The Wachowskis had had a difficult experience adapting “V for Vendetta,” from a comic book whose author, Alan Moore, hated the very idea of Hollywood adaptation and berated the project publicly. “We decided in Costa Rica that—as hard and as long as it might take to write this script—if David didn’t like it, we were just going to kill the project,” Lana said.

Mitchell, who lives in the southwest of Ireland, agreed to meet the filmmakers in Cork. In “a seaside hotel right out of ‘Fawlty Towers,’ ” as Lana described it, they recounted for the author the painstaking process of disassembling the novel and reassembling it into the script he’d read. “It’s become a bit of a joke that they know my book much more intimately than I do,” Mitchell wrote to me. They explained their plan to unify the narratives by having actors play transmigrating souls. “This could be one of those movies that are better than the book!” Mitchell exclaimed at the end of the pitch. The pact was sealed with pints of Murphy’s stout at a local pub.

I hope Mitchell is correct in his assessment, though if it is only half as good as the book was, it will still be epic (reading it again, via audiobook, and it is even more brilliant, though most of that charm, other than a sprinkling of witty rejoinders and linguistic flavor, will not make in into the film translation). And Tom Hanks might be terribly miscast here, and already there is backlash against "yellowfacing".

 
« Last Edit: September 03, 2012, 11:16:53 PM by naum »

"Should the batman kill Joker because it would save more lives?" is a fundamentally different question from "should the batman have a bunch of machineguns that go BATBATBATBATBAT because its totally cool?". ~Goumindong
Margalis
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Reply #36 on: September 05, 2012, 06:08:39 AM

That Fight Club ending sounds a lot better to me honestly.


Edit: On the topic of book to movie adaptations, in theory I like the idea that the movie should be evaluated separately from the book, and it annoys me when people critique the LOTR movies almost exclusively based on how faithful they are rather than on the fact that as movies they suck. But that said, when it comes to books I like, it's impossible not to compare the movie to the book.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 06:13:35 AM by Margalis »

vampirehipi23: I would enjoy a book written by a monkey and turned into a movie rather than this.
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Reply #37 on: September 05, 2012, 07:07:53 AM

That Fight Club ending sounds a lot better to me honestly.


Fight Club derail


lamaros
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Reply #38 on: September 05, 2012, 08:41:51 AM

Yeah book ending way better in that case. Makes much more sense now. Ending of the film was inconsistent and pubescent in my view.

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DraconianOne
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Reply #39 on: September 05, 2012, 09:30:41 AM

Back in the 50's and 60's more movies were based on short stories since short stories, and the magazines that published them, were a larger part of everyday life. Plays too. When each of those forms were popular entertainment rather than niche market genre masturbation. The lengths of the works matched the lengths of the films they were turned into, and some great movies came out of it. Last time I remember that being tried was The Shawshank Redemption, and even though it was a critical darling and loved by viewers it didn't make a lot of money in the theaters.

The way you phrase that, you make it sound like there were very few movies based on novels back then. Some great - no, fantastic - movies came out of the 40s, 50s and 60s that were based on novels too. Lots of them.

As for recent films based on short stories, how about Minority Report, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brokeback Mountain, Million Dollar Baby?

In my opinion, there have been exactly two pitch perfect book to film adaptations - The Princess Bride and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There's been some other good ones but for me, no other adapted movie has hit the nail on the head quite so well.

Really? What criteria are you basing that on?

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Reply #40 on: September 05, 2012, 11:27:13 AM

The way you phrase that, you make it sound like there were very few movies based on novels back then. Some great - no, fantastic - movies came out of the 40s, 50s and 60s that were based on novels too. Lots of them.
Benjamin Button (written in 1922) and Minority Report (written in 1956) are so loosely based on their source material that they're barely recognizable. Brokeback (1997) and Baby (2001) are excellent faithful examples, but didn't bother to advertise that they were adaptations. My point wasn't that novels weren't occasionally adapted well in the past, nor that short stories aren't adapted now. Just that novels are inherently less suited to movie-length adaptation, and that there is a dearth of recent popular short stories for adaptation today.

In the not-too-distant past, people knew short stories and their authors just as well as they knew contemporary novelists. People would go to see movies based on short stories because they liked the short stories, just as I'll go see Cloud Atlas because I liked the book. Minority and Button were chosen because their authors are relatively well known (from back when short story authors were) and their underlying conceits were clever... then their actual plots were discarded to make them fit modern storyline norms. Brokeback and Baby were chosen on the strengths of their stories even though their authors have little box office draw. FX Toole and Annie Proulx are far from household names.

In the first half of last century, authors who wrote great short stories were well known on their own, and short stories were written in the same punchy styule as films of the day, with plots as charming and as lightweight as any RomCom or Thriller.

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Reply #41 on: September 05, 2012, 02:39:57 PM

In the first half of last century, authors who wrote great short stories were well known on their own, and short stories were written in the same punchy styule as films of the day, with plots as charming and as lightweight as any RomCom or Thriller.

There used to be magazines that did nothing but print short stories on a regular basis... before TV. Authors used to be able to make a decent wage (for an author) off of short stories.

Now? Not so much.

lamaros
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Reply #42 on: September 05, 2012, 06:14:28 PM

Decent wage, heh.

Hopefully ebooks will see a return to more short stories being published.

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Reply #43 on: September 06, 2012, 10:09:44 AM

Decent wage, heh.

I did qualify that with "for an author."  awesome, for real

DraconianOne
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Reply #44 on: September 06, 2012, 02:21:13 PM

Pxib - thanks for clarification

Also, woah - only just registered that Larry is now Lana.

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Reply #45 on: September 11, 2012, 10:43:20 PM

Roger Ebert:

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The stories, much adapted and retold from a David Mitchell novel, include characters, times and locations as diverse as a 19th century sailing ship, a futuristic Korea, Aboriginals, young gay intellectuals at Cambridge, a nuclear scientist, a slave, a classical composer and others. There is a good deal of narration, most of it about the nature of human life (and some of it about lives of fabricants). There are chase and action scenes as good or better than the best work by the Wachowskis (the "Matrix" films) and their friend and collaborator Tykwer ("Run, Lola Run"). Moment by moment, scene by scene, story by story, I was enthralled.

What did it sum up to? What is the through line? I can't say. Not today, anyway. Not yet. Maybe there isn't one. What will its first audiences get out of it? My mind travels back to the first public screening of "2001: A Space Odyssey," the film the Wachowskis says made them filmmakers, and inspired this one. As Rock Hudson walked out in the middle of the second half, I heard him quite audibly ask, "What the hell was that about?"

 Ohhhhh, I see.

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Reply #46 on: September 12, 2012, 09:31:53 AM

Ha!  I had to same reaction as Rock Hudson to 2001.

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Reply #47 on: September 12, 2012, 09:57:28 AM

Ha!  I had to same reaction as Rock Hudson to 2001.

I had the same reaction as Lant's same reaction as Rock Hudson to 2001.   awesome, for real

...the first time I watched it at least.

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Reply #48 on: September 12, 2012, 10:06:09 AM

Interesting, because after seeing it the first time in high school, I devoured the book and two sequels immediately afterwards.  And I did it all again a few years later when 3001 released. 
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Reply #49 on: September 12, 2012, 10:42:08 AM

This doesn't make me want to miss the film. I also enjoyed PT Anderson's Magnolia, for which is similarly admired/maligned.

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Reply #50 on: September 13, 2012, 08:38:12 AM

I didn't have a problem with it.  I just didn't get it.  Think I either turned the channel or fell asleep.

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Reply #51 on: September 13, 2012, 08:44:54 AM

It was about Monkeys learning new shit.

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Reply #52 on: October 28, 2012, 10:30:11 PM

My thoughts on viewing Cloud Atlas

TL;DR: enjoyed it, 3 hours went by quickly, have some quibbles with some of the "fill in the blanks" plot twists (most egregious being introduction of romantic interests and changing character age(s) to suit Tom Hanks). Real test, though, would be people who did not read book; from my party (and judging from Twitter stream), they enjoyed it and all wish to see it again.

OTOH, preliminary reports have this a real box office dud, only taking in ~$10M over the weekend (not sure how much the hurricane hovering over the east coast impacted as the top grossing film, Argo, didn't net much more). Still, going to be a stretch, no matter how wondrous the movie, to attract mass audience, given a movie in a 2001-ish vein that cannot easily be summed up in six words or less. Viewers seem to be more positive than critics who are mixed, though Roger Ebert appears to be completely enamored.

Quote
I was never, ever bored by "Cloud Atlas." On my second viewing I gave up any attempt to work out the logical connections between the segments, stories and characters. What was important was that I set my mind free to play. Clouds do not really look like camels, or sailing ships, or castles in the sky. They are simply a natural process at work. So too, perhaps, are our lives. But because we have minds and clouds do not, we desire freedom. That is the shape the characters in "Cloud Atlas" take, and how they attempt to direct our thoughts. Any concrete, factual attempt to nail the film down to cold fact, to tell you what it "means," is as pointless as trying to build a clockwork orange.

But oh, what a film this is! And what a demonstration of the magical, dreamlike qualities of the cinema. And what an opportunity for the actors. And what a leap by the directors, who free themselves from the chains of narrative continuity. And then the wisdom of the old man staring into the flames makes perfect sense.

"Should the batman kill Joker because it would save more lives?" is a fundamentally different question from "should the batman have a bunch of machineguns that go BATBATBATBATBAT because its totally cool?". ~Goumindong
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Reply #53 on: October 29, 2012, 07:31:44 AM

Could be a good movie, could be bad but I honestly just looked at the runtime and said, F that. 

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Reply #54 on: October 29, 2012, 07:36:48 AM

 I didn't even know this movie came out this weekend, which may account for some of the disappointing box office.  As media-saturated as my day is you'd think I'd have seen commercials all over the place, but I haven't.   I'm not sure if it's failed marketing or they're just being outspent by the political ads, but I can only recall two instances of seeing anything about Cloud Atlas in the last 3-4 days.  One was during Kitchen Nightmares on Friday night, the other was sometime during the day Saturday when I had a TV on just for noise factor.

As Lakov points-out, you'll need some excellent reviews or marketing to overcome the whole 3h run time.  This movie hasn't had either.

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Reply #55 on: October 29, 2012, 09:10:43 AM

A 3h run time tells me that it was made for the Academy Awards and dvd market.  Running it in theaters is merely a formality.

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Reply #56 on: October 29, 2012, 07:16:33 PM

I saw this last weekend and didn't care for it.  It was too long and I didn't understand what the overall story was supposed to be.  It was hard to understand some of the dialogue, esp. whatever the hell Tom Hanks and the other people were saying in the far distant future segments.  Reminded me of how lost I was after about halfway through the second Matrix movie and most of the third, which was made by the same people.
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Reply #57 on: October 30, 2012, 08:51:19 AM

This movie should never have been mass-marketed and should not have had expensive well-known actors.  Should've stayed in the indie scene (as it was actually independently made).  That to me was the biggest error of the movie.  Otherwise I loved it as an art film.

It's essentially a movie about Karmic reincarnation.  Simple as that.

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Reply #58 on: October 30, 2012, 08:57:54 AM

Can't get past the racefacing, it ugly and distracting and trite.

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Reply #59 on: November 17, 2012, 01:48:03 AM

Finally caught this while it was still showing locally.  Impressively they completely diced up and restructured the book, tinkered with some of the stories, and cut a lot of little sideplots that just would never have fit, but managed to make it work and feel true to the original work.  A friend who hadn't read the book first enjoyed it as well.  I seem to recall the book being a bit less optimistic overall, but maybe I'm misremembering -- might have to reread it and see how things line up.
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Reply #60 on: November 18, 2012, 02:52:39 PM

I haven't seen the movie, but the book is fairly grim.  Until the last two pages, when he basically says it's all up to us. 

I really like the concept of the corpocracy, and it's scary how close we are to that now. 
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Reply #61 on: November 19, 2012, 01:27:53 PM

I haven't seen the movie, but the book is fairly grim.  Until the last two pages, when he basically says it's all up to us. 

I really like the concept of the corpocracy, and it's scary how close we are to that now. 

Yup, the movie is more positive, mainly due to the "fill in the blanks" stuff Wachowskis added in, mainly the "after the fall" arc line…

…but I did not come away from the book (and about half way through listening to the audio version, though I completed reading months ago) with total grimness -- it seemed to be a dynamic thesis that agape love / sacrificial other-centeredness was always in danger of the human predilection for predacity and world/human consuming selfishness.

"Should the batman kill Joker because it would save more lives?" is a fundamentally different question from "should the batman have a bunch of machineguns that go BATBATBATBATBAT because its totally cool?". ~Goumindong
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Reply #62 on: November 19, 2012, 09:49:29 PM

And that's not grim?  ;)

You worded the description better than I could have, but I agree with your assessment.
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Reply #63 on: February 09, 2013, 07:21:04 AM

I finally saw this.

I would have to say it was half good and half naff. Which unfortunate makes the whole somewhat disposable, if not a complete waste of time. It's far too ambitious for the lack of depth and lack of subtlety it provides (in my view).

Expect poison from the standing water.
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Reply #64 on: February 09, 2013, 05:10:55 PM

It's far too ambitious for the lack of depth and lack of subtlety it provides (in my view).

Isn't that how it usually goes for the Wachowski's?   rolleyes

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Reply #65 on: May 16, 2013, 08:55:58 PM

I got this on bluray today. I'm about to turn it off. It's just a jumble of stuff and it's failing to capture my interest or attention.



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Reply #66 on: May 17, 2013, 08:17:56 AM

I was only able to finish it because I was on a 10 hour plane ride.
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Reply #67 on: May 17, 2013, 08:34:15 AM

I watched it on bluray recently having missed it at the cinema. I liked it a lot and don't really understand why people felt it was hard to follow. It was a linear story albeit one with multiple stories within it. Anyone who's ever read a decent novel with multiple protaganists shoud be able to follow the different strands easily enough. There was some amazing photography in the film and I really regret not making the trek to see it at the pictures.

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Reply #68 on: May 26, 2013, 07:20:37 AM

Just got around to seeing this. I quite liked it. I didn't find it at all hard to follow though the interweaving of stories was part of what kept my interest. The racefacing in the NeoSeoul sequences is actually explained inside the narrative setting of the film if you watch carefully--there's a product advertisement you see several times that indicates that it's basically the fashion in the Unanimity to have your face cosmetically reshaped to resemble an Asian appearance if you weren't Asian to begin with.
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Reply #69 on: July 11, 2013, 07:46:42 PM

Incredibly late to the party and wouldn't bother to bump this except I'm betting not enough people have seen this. It was really really good. No fucking clue how people were having a hard time following it. I didn't expect it to be anything spectacular and downloaded a Russian dvdrip on a whim probably because I remembered we had a thread on this movie which meant I never knew where the locations were and the audio levels were low as shit and I still was only lost a little during the strange post fall dialogue mainly because I couldn't fucking hear it for shit and it was too late to turn it up.

Great movie. I'll probably get the BlueRay and force other people to watch it with me some time down the road.

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