Knee-jerk Praise >>>
Cloud Atlas will polarize viewers along the spectrum of extreme love and hate. Depending on your dominant function at the point of viewing—thinking versus feeling—reactions will vary. [Probably why some will watch and love it, only to really hate the film a few days later and vice versa.]
If you happen to watch with viewers who consider it praiseworthy (and run you down for disagreeing); or if you receive positive feedback in movie reviews, hold your thoughts and probe further. Inquire as to why they love or recommend it. Nudge for reasons and amuse yourself with the answers given. Because chances are, you will be met (perhaps, misled) by five types of dumbfounded replies:
A) “It is beautifully stitched together into one linear narrative, but…”
B) “Don’t get too caught up trying to link the stories together.”
Now, you don’t need a Ph.D. in Logic to notice two things:
1) The rationalization is fluff because sentence A contradicts sentence B.
2) It reeks of sales technique telling you a product is good, without venturing further as to why it is good. For example: this [insert name of any product] is really, really good. But don’t get too caught up asking for product information.
[These reviews cut you off, and silence any inquiry into the biggest flaw found in Cloud Atlas.]
C) “Forget about how the stories serve to link up, beyond what got produced on the surface, because it is stuff of required, repeated viewings.”
Apparently one needs to “forget” many things and renounce their doubts simply because it just “links”.
Qn: Why does it link?
Ans: You will only understand why it links after repeated viewings.
Again, your cynicism is being disregarded with arguments by innuendo and by moving the goalposts—debunk by asking whether it is necessary to watch Slumdog Millionaire repeatedly in order to understand its non-linear narrative.
For sweeping reviews and statements declaring that six stories in Cloud Atlas are cohesive and “links into one linear narrative”; they usually fail to inform or explain as to how—and chances are they can’t, because they don’t.
Further to note: in cinematic language, non-linearity = skipping about different eras or timelines, linearity = events that unfold chronologically.
That said, be wary of the game. Because it is a double-edged sword designed to trap your mental faculties with a catch 22.
If you question how Cloud Atlas actually connects six stories into a non-linear narrative…
Or if you reject the conclusion that Cloud Atlas actually makes sense…
You will be dismissed as someone who’s either: intellectually / artistically / emotionally challenged, or too uptight to immerse yourself in “complex-abstract” cinema. Be assured that this is not true. I am not saying that it is wrong (casting a moral judgement) to enjoy Cloud Atlas, what I am saying is there is no sensible reason or rhetoric behind the film’s choice of narrative—choice of execution and direction.
Most will not be able to explain the film’s alleged philosophy about life being “interconnected through seemingly unrelated events” beyond knee jerk praise and canned replies.
Next, four other types of replies may greet you:
The special/visual effects are astounding—debunk by asking whether “Transformers” is cinematic art, or just really good effects fucking the frame.
It is such an expensive production—debunk by asking whether the cost of something implies substance, is “Titanic” cinematic art or Hollywood drama.
Directors of this film made The Matrix and Run Lola Run—debunk by asking whether a first generation Audi A4 is a really good car simply because it is branded. This is classic association fallacy and used car salesman technique.
I hope these points will help to clarify some doubts viewers have about their negative experiences with Cloud Atlas. And to encourage further discussions or friendly debates between people (provided they can move past defense mechanisms) by highlighting basic and popular fallacies in poor reviewing techniques. I will continue tomorrow by touching on the movie’s themes, why something doesn’t “feel right” and why the non-linear editing has no form and serves no function.