Now that I’ve seen Cloud Atlas, I wish I’d made more of an effort to attend one of the screenings around town recently, which were followed by Q&As with the Wachowski Siblings. I would have asked something unabashedly unprofound: “Just how much fun did you guys have making this?”
I suspect that, despite the colossal effort to mount this epics of epics—the narrative scale of which I am still at a loss to find a reference in dusty film archives of my memory—they had a great deal of fun. And that exuberance shows in every frame, whether the film is teetering on the brink of genius in some moments, or doing a backflip into a puddle of camp and trite in another.
The more serious professional critics are going to hate on this, or hide behind ambivalence—they can’t like it; it’s too messy, too unprecedented (it pays to remember that Roger Ebert once wrote for Russ Meyer—he’s a little out there). If I were to close my eyes and imagine the impact Cloud Atlas will have on critics as if the film were embodied by a person, I see a nine-foot-tall tattooed tranny dressed in a garish costume that pays homage to centuries past and future, ambling into the hyper-exclusive Knickerbocker Club in New York, and not only insisting she be served the same drink as Mrs. Astor, but sitting down and playing bridge with her.
This is a bull through the china shop of every critics’ society in the West, and just to make sure they get the point, there’s even a scene in which a china shop is rapturously destroyed.