by Takis Garis (@takisgaris)

Episode 7 - From Scylla to Charybdis

> CLOUD ATLAS (5/10)
I am severely torn about this one. The good news about me is that I could feel much worse, considering that Cloud Atlas is a minced, botched patchwork of a total number of 7 films into one (lost count in the meanwhile), falling hard from the grace of its own preposterous ambition. My generation grew up with The Matrix, even this TIFF’s opening gala premiere (and best sci fi of late years) Looper shares a common trait with that legendary Wachowskis’ (Lana & Andy) break through. As for Tom Tykwer, it was just…Run Lola Run (followed by sympathetic Heaven, scripted by the immortal Kieslowski) and then, not so much. So reality is, the three musketeers need a strong comeback, which theoretically has me from hello, but, filming with two different units, throwing a bunch of male/female roles here and there to each member of the A’ list principal cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, accompanied by Jim Sturgess and Bae Doo Na) is definitely a bold, earth shuttering if you will but ultimately a horrible idea. This is officially the flagship of the mish-mash movies.

Lana Wachowski has adapted for the screen (Tykwer brought this grudge to this department too) the bestselling novel by David Mitchell. I am not going to spoil it for you; the main idea being a journey of souls that spans centuries, continents and civilizations between 19th - 25th centuries. A fascinating premise in theory, a convoluted wreck in execution. The disastrous editing turns almost every emotional scene to flakes, thinking too high of itself or maybe having too little faith in the viewer. The score is divine; make-up is working overtime with brilliant results. There are glimpses, fractions of running time that one can feel that the Trio possesses charisma, vision and flair. The downside remains though that Cloud Atlas is virtually unwatchable from head to toe, in regard of cohesion, structure, evolution of characters, elaboration on motives and perspective. I could see, toward the earned conclusion, fireworks of reflection, yet not the grander scheme of things. All actors are showing energy and belief in their multiplicity, my personal favourite being Jim Broadbent, who at least functions as a lightning rod of humour, for all Atlas’s opaqueness. A twisted thought urges me to see this lost bet as the first 21st century cult sci fi hit, in the footprints of Flash Gordon. I can feel the nerd gangsters unleashing their unprecedented fury upon me but, frankly I don’t mind, because I mean well. The Matrix still rules.

> TO THE WONDER (4/10)
This is North America. The brand name Terrence Malick is beyond criticism. It’s been six films in 40 years. It’s to wonder really how this one is out just one year after the beautiful, esoteric and widely divisive oscar nominee/winner (won best cinematography for Terry’s permanent collaborator Emmanuel Lubezky) The Tree of Life. I came in defense of Malick when he was accused for pushing the envelope too far into matters of evangelical sermons, abstract depiction of flora & fauna without resonance, at least directly with the characters on screen (see the infamous dinosaurs for instance). To a large extent I acknowledge the organic Malickian universe where everything revolves around nature and its divine Creator. However, when it comes to the point that the not exactly unpredictable, or particularly inventive visual candy is abused as an alibi for lack of script, to put it this bluntly, sorry, I give up. This is no Badlands or Days of Heaven anymore.

In fact, To The Wonder is the remnants of Tree of Life’s philosophical leftovers. The seasonality of love relationships to its utmost banality (Ben Affleck murmurs sporadically, mainly spectates Olga Kurylenko swirling and twirling in loop, they make-up and break –up, cheat on each other (the charming mistress incarnated by the talented Rachel McAdams) and seek Lord’s mercy, same as Xavier Bardem’s local priest who questions his faith with prime bewilderment, inviting the nightmarish Sean Penn’s turn which made tabloid news last year. Elegiac prose, parallel monologues in French, Spanish, Italian and English, clear absence in handling the male performances, especially Ben Affleck’s one. Undoubtedly I find legitimate each Hollywood actor’s passion to be baptized by his holiness Malick, even for a single take, no holds barred. To them (Penn, Affleck, Bardem) it may very well mean a bliss, for me it’s just risible and waste of their hard earned talent. Another impressive choice is not to entertain any serious dialogue, if only while quarrels between the lovers, and even then so, still without significant argumentation from either side.

The above may mean many things inside independent cinema pope’s head, although for my taste and according to my set of values and aesthetics, the abolition of meaningful dialogue is not left to poetic licence’s devices but it is inherent, elementary and indispensable to sustain human relationships. Malick is an outspoken hermit- it’s his choice and his prerogative. Why should the viewer spend his invaluable two hours with an iconic director, striving fruitlessly to make for substance out of thin air? To The Wonder ought not to be inserted into Malick’s impressive curriculum vitae. It’s merely a sad parenthesis. It hurts, for the ardent fan and the educated critic alike to hear a round of applause at the end of the inaugural Princess of Wales TIFF12 screening and within minutes later, from the same viewers, aphorisms like “To The Wonder? Wonders who?”. So what if Berlioz, Hayden, Respighi, Tchaikovsky and Gorecki are excellent classical music choices. Terry Malick should always be admired for his own originality, even at the sunset of his admirable career.


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