18 March 2013

The Marmite Of My Dreams



I'm not sure how famous it is worldwide but in Britain we have a product called Marmite – a yeast extract product. For anyone who doesn't know, it's pretty much just a spreadable food that looks a bit like the black goo from Prometheus mixed in with some diarrhoea. It also has a rather bizarre kind of slogan which claims, “You either love it or you hate it”. I'd love to be able to tell you if this was true, but the fact is that I haven't tried the gunk to be able to form an opinion. It might be though, as I was talking to a friend the other day who drunkenly explained to me about how he was “an absolute slag for the stuff”. Sadly however, that slogan alone has pretty much put me off buying any as I'm sure I won't like it. Call me a pessimist but if something openly admits that I might hate it whilst looking like it's been shat out of a goats arse then I'll probably give it a miss. I know there's a chance that I could be denying myself the greatest flavour of my life but luckily I don't know what I'm missing to be able to give a fuck.

Gael Garcia Bernal in the Kermode life story
Cloud Atlas has only recently been released in the UK and is definitely the cinematic equivalent of Marmite. Obviously I mean because of the slogan and not because I think that it looks like shit. Having read several reviews for it, it seriously does seem like it's either loved or hated and in honesty, I can see why. Over in America, Roger Ebert seemed to enjoy the film whereas on the other big flappy hand, the BBC's Mark Kermode apparently considered it a failure. Cloud Atlas is such a strange and ‘out-there’ movie that I really doubt that anybody could just think it was just ‘okay’. It's kind of like fisting, in that there's really nobody undecided on their stance either way. Ironically though the world is treating the film with the same level of apathy that I do towards Marmite and simply ignoring it, which is a huge shame. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you end up falling on, everybody seems to admire the film’s ambitions and for that alone it deserves to be seen. For films with similar aims and a Marmite-esque audience response, you should also check out The Fountain, Inland Empire and stoma porn.

Who could this be?
Cloud Atlas is based on a book of the same name with the film being co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana (previously Larry) Wachowski. I kind of want to make a joke about those three collectively reminding me of the show Two and a Half Men but I won't. Just because Tykwer is German, it doesn't make him half of a man. It also has a cast of roughly seven people playing about four hundred characters each, over the course of six interlocking stories. The irony of this is that according to the film’s credits, this took three separate people to cast the thing. I'd love to have been at the meeting where they got away with telling the directors, “Look we've got Forrest Gump and about twelve different wigs if you don't like it then go fuck yourself”. I'm presuming they used the same people for multiple roles either to help highlight the thematic ties of the film or because they couldn't find enough actors who understood the script.

Fit as fuck!
In terms of what the movie is about- well, really, who the fuck knows? I can't be bothered going through the plot of each of the six stories because lets face it none of us are getting any younger. In regards to the overall themes of Cloud Atlas, then I guess it would be that of freedom, the soul, repeating the same mistakes and the burden of having a giant spud face. I'm not even joking about the last point as the cast are often so layered in prosthetics that they start to resemble a mouldy potato that's been dropped into a tray of pubes. As each actor shows up in the various segments, you find yourself playing spot the celebrity which might sound distracting but is actually just part of the film’s fun. As a clue to help you recognise them, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant tend to be the villains and Tom Hanks is usually the one whose massive nose looks like a dick that's been punched in on itself. Again though, even if the make-up isn't always entirely convincing you've got to admire the level of transformation that they've aimed for; the cast not only change characters but also skin colour, age and even gender. Exposing oneself in a cinema screening is always a risky venture and so you can imagine my annoyance when the gorgeous fat woman that I tossed one off too turned out to be Agent Smith in a pair of fake tits.

You had me at "How much?"
Interestingly though, of all the actors cast in this film, perhaps the most bizarre is Hugh Grant. Before embarking on his epic television drama series The Leveson Inquiry Grant had pretty much made a career by starring in shite films enjoyed solely by lonely women. However despite him being the mascot for movies that make me pray for a nuclear apocalypse, I'd always kind of liked him. Ever since he was caught face-fucking a whore, it's been obvious that there's a real darkness to him that has so far gone untapped. It was therefore nice to see him stretch himself in this film by playing a variety of characters ranging from an old man to a psychotic futuristic cannibal. The real shame is that he's genuinely really good in each story proving that he's actually been squandering his talent over the course of a remarkably bland career. Not that I'm sure he cares, considering how rich his boring films have made him. To his credit, if interviews are anything to go by then you'll never find a bigger critic of Hugh Grant’s crap filmography than Hugh Grant himself. So it's not that he doesn't have any taste but rather, in comparison to building a legacy, his taste for buying sluts is apparently much greater.

So assuming you don't mind the prosthetics making everybodies face look as weird as Mickey Rourke's then the next question would be how well does the film hold together? Well, again, this is going to be a Marmite kind of situation but personally I thought it worked very well, and helping this is that each individual story is luckily enjoyable enough in its own right. My personal favourite would probably be Jim Broadbent's daring escape from the piss stained corridors of an old folk’s home. But then at the other end of the spectrum is a futuristic tale set in Neo Seoul which follows the adventure of a Korean clone on the run… at least I hope she's a clone and I've not just said something massively racist. Of course, cutting from the various periods and settings does jar occasionally but the film works because each segment mirrors the plot and themes of the next. Despite three diverse directors, the look of the film is also impressively consistent as though they've worked as one presumably freaky-looking hive-mind. Do you remember just how well Four Rooms worked together with its separate directors? Well thankfully, this is the complete opposite of that arrogant slab of indulgent shite.

Although it's probably obvious by now, I am clearly very much on the side of love where Cloud Atlas is concerned. Yes it's easy to make fun of and yes there is a section where Hugo Weaving seems to play The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh, however I think that overall there's a sincerity and heart to the film which allows me to overlook whatever aspects of it that the haters presumably hate. It's exciting, sad, funny and as mentioned, undeniably ambitious. I know this hasn't been the most analytical of blogs and I've only really briefly mentioned the themes rather than actually explored them, but fuck it. I could go into depth with all the linking metaphors and reflections of each segment but there'd be so much to say that this would be less of a blog and more an extended descent into my own rambling insanity. My only suggestion would therefore be that you just see the film for yourself and then comment what you notice in the section below. Firstly because I'm moderately curious as to what you thought and secondly because it'll make up for the lack of insight in the rest of this essay of drivel. Having said that I'm pretty sure that by now you people only read this for the shit and fart jokes and not for the insightful comments on the semiology of cinema. So if that's the case then get commenting below and I seriously hope you're proud of yourself. 

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