In the clouds: Cloud Atlas confounds and delights

Even as I was watching Cloud Atlas the first time, I knew I would need to see it again. Now that I've seen it the second time, I know I'd like to see it a third time — but I no longer believe repeated viewings will solve anything. To borrow Churchill's description of Russia, "it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." It fascinates in the moment. It's getting from one moment to the next that is tricky.

Surely this is one of the most ambitious films ever made. The little world of film criticism has been alive with interpretations of it, which propose to explain something that lies outside explanation. Any explanation of a work of art must be found in it, not taken to it. As a film teacher, I was always being told by students that a film by David Lynch, say, or Warner Herzog, was "a retelling of the life of Christ, say, or  Moby Dick. " My standard reply was: Maybe it's simply the telling of itself.

Yet Cloud Atlas cries out for an explanation, and surely you've noticed that I've been tap-dancing around one. I could tell you that it relates six stories taking place between the years 1849 and 2346. I could tell you that the same actors appear in different roles, playing characters of different races, genders and ages. Some are not even human, but fabricants. I could tell you that the acting and makeup are so effective that often I had no idea if I was looking at Tom Hanks, Halle Berry or Jim Broadbent. I could tell you that, and what help is it?

I could tell you that each segment is a refashioning of the story contained in the previous one...(READ FULL REVIEW)

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