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Cloud Atlas Revisited

Tuesday 2 July 2013, 19:36

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Cloud Atlas is coming out on DVD and I've just watched it again. It's still a flawed film but I found it much better on second viewing. Have you seen it and which other films have improved on repeat screenings?

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    Comment number 1.

    The first time I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World I think perhaps my expectations of "an Edgar Wright film" were SO high (following on from Shaun/Hot Fuzz) that I was inevitably deeply disappointed. At first I thought the film was all gloss and no heart. Re-watching it again recently though I had a completely different experience. This film is not Hot Fuzz, nor does it try to be. It's a very different beast. I enjoyed it immensely on 2nd viewing.

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    Comment number 2.

    Hey Mark, when are your lists of the best/worst films so far this year going to come?

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    Comment number 3.

    The first time I watched 'Back to the Future Part 2', which was actually in marathon of the 3 films, I found it be quite full and the weak point of the entire trilogy. Watching it again in FILMCLUB, I still think it's the worst of the trio, but I have found a lot of enjoyment with it. I was getting the feeling of excitement and tension that I wanted to get the first time round

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    Comment number 4.

    The original "Highlander" was one that I didn't originally 'get' in the cinema.
    It was only much later, when I rented it on video and watched it a second time, that it all made a wonderful weird sense and it became one of my favorites.
    (But we won't talk about the sequel.)

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    Comment number 5.

    I'm largely with your feelings on Cloud Atlas, Mark. When I saw it at the cinema I described it after as a "magnificent folly". It's a film I so wanted to love, the vaulting ambition, the epic beauty of it. I want to be swept away by it, but when I left the cinema I felt somewhat deflated by what I considered to be its substantial flaws. Too many bad makeup and accent choices, too many characters that I didn't warm to, too many story strands that just didn't add up to much. However since then I have been listening to the score album almost non-stop, I loved Tom Tykwer's score for Perfume, and now this as well, I think he may be at least as good a composer as he is a film director. Whatever emotional shortcomings Cloud Atlas the narrative may have, Cloud Atlas the soundtrack does a great deal to redress the balance. I am really looking forward to seeing it a second time, like you, perhaps more ready to accept the flaws that I am already aware of, and better able to wallow in the splendor of what it does get right.

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    Comment number 6.

    I think the comparison you inadvertently made of Cloud Atlas to David Lynch movies is interesting, as I believe that as time passes Cloud Atlas will become a cult classic in the same vein as Dune (although, it's a HELL of a lot better than Dune).

    As for second experiences with a movie, I think most of that experience comes from the viewers mindset before they watch it. Very recently I watched Leos Carax's Holy Motors, and with the descriptions that I was given of the film before I watched it (that of keys for hands, accordions and Kylie Minogue), I was given the impression that the film was meant to be comedic; I enjoyed the film, but I felt I wasn't getting the directors full intentions.

    The second time I watched it I was in a more serious mood, and I recognized a lot more of the themes (Cinema, fractured psyches) and elements of Inuit about the film. Again I enjoyed it, but in a different manner than before. Finally I watched the third time with both those elements in mind, and now it sits firmly in my Top 10 of all time.

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    Comment number 7.

    An example that instantly springs to mind is Francis Ford Coppola's 'The Conversation'. The first time I watched that film I was completely disconnected from it. I was bored, feeling nothing for Gene Hackman's character, his loneliness, or his desperate struggle to stop a terrible crime from happening. HOWEVER, after the infamous hotel room scene, and especially after the twist ending, I was completely hooked and felt almost compelled to revisit the film a second time. I'm glad to say I did: I've watched it several times and it is now one of my absolute favourites.

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    Comment number 8.

    Has to be 2001: A Space Odyssey. The first time I saw it, I rejected it completely. I didn't understand the plot, I thought it was paced too slowly, what was with the baby in the bubble at the end etc.

    The second time around I began to appreciate the film more in a technical sense but still couldn't find a way into the story.

    It was on the third viewing that I realised it was potentially the greatest film ever made. Suddenly the imagery was vivid and seductive, the music and sound design were eerie and atmospheric and the story (rather than infuriating me) washed over me and I no longer felt that I needed to understand the film in order to enjoy it.

    The reason for this sudden change of heart? If a friend invites you round for an evening of drinks and a Michael Bay marathon, I urge you to leap at the chance. After an entire evening of brainless, deafening action I felt the need to cleanse my pallet with the quietest, most moderately paced film I had in my collection. So I decided to retry 2001 and genuinely fell in love with the genius of that film.

    If Michael Bay is good for one thing, it's so we can realise how great actual film makers like Stanley Kubrick really are. Mr. Bay, you have my thanks.

    True story.

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    Comment number 9.

    I watched Cloud Atlas and I thought it was a perfect companion piece to Zack Snyder's Watchmen. Like Cloud Atlas, I felt Watchmen had beautiful imagery and was wonderfully complex, but felt flawed. However, after watching it more and more on blu-ray, I've grown to love it. Like Cloud Atlas, I thought Watchmen was an honourable adaptation of an unfilmable source, and is Zack Snyder's most underrated masterpiece. I always thought of Watchmen as having the potential of being a Blade Runner type film. The kind of film which comes to be more and more appreciated on home viewings over the coming years. There's a lot going on in the story, and unlike many of its peers Watchmen is a film which truly merits multiple viewings, unveiling new and exciting elements each time. I do think it's as close to the source material as possible and I do think this the best version of Watchmen we’re ever going to get. I recommend you watch it again Dr. K as you might change your mind afterwards like you did with Cloud Atlas.

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    Comment number 10.

    Having seen Cloud Atlas four times in the cinema and now twice on bluray, I must say it still sweeps me up the whole way through.

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    Comment number 11.

    A film I completely u-turned on is The Matrix. When I first saw it, I was aware of the "mind-expanding sci-fi" buzz surrounding it. I went in expecting something more like 2001. I was irritated particularly by the long build-up to the big "what is the Matrix?" reveal. It wasn't such an original idea in sci-fi literature, and fairly obvious, and I felt the heavy handed delay tactics were just a sign of over-cocky screenwriters patting themselves on the back once too often. I never recovered my enjoyment in the cinema for the rest of the screening and left quite solidly disappointed.

    A couple of years later, I watched it again, knew exactly what I was getting story-wise, and found none of that bothered me anymore. What I did notice for the first time was just how damn cool the whole thing was, and loved it for what it was, rather than what it wasn't from that day forward.

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    Comment number 12.

    I saw Cloud Atlas at the cinema - thrice. Then once again in a huge university lecture theatre with a bunch of students, and then since then twice at home (having bought an earlier release of the DVD).

    I really liked it the first time, completely loved it the second time and have kept loving it since. I think it's basically perfect (funny when it wants to be, moving when it has to be, interesting (almost) all the way through) though I'm already quite used to friends and relatives disagreeing with me on that. I think it's a wonderful adaptation of the book, in that it does a lot of the same things the book does (or tries to do a lot of the same things the book tries to do) but does them in different ways because of the different constraints of film.

    The only time I ever feel like I've "fallen out" of the story is during the slightly-too-long motorbike chase, while Sonmi and Hae-Joo are escaping. Otherwise I think it's as short as it can be (with something less than 30 minutes for each not-uncomplicated story) while being as long as each story needs to be, and as boring as it sounds to say is even marvelously edited, with the ebb and flow of similar events in different stories coming together unexpectedly and pleasingly.

    It also now just has some of my favourite moments in cinema - the moment when Sixsmith wakes up on the train as the bombastic music suddenly drops off into quietness was breathtaking on that second viewing (in a full cinema of responsive cinemagoers), and though I know I'm never going to get that effect again, it will remain a favourite memory.

    So, there. I know I'm probably overpraising it, but enough people will attack it that I may as well get my two cents in.

    Maybe worth mentioning that I've only seen it once in English (my first DVD viewing). I'd love for you to watch it again and report back, anyway.

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    Comment number 13.

    Batman Begins: I first saw it at the age of ten and was bored senseless until the third act, loved the action but everything else (flashbacks, character development etc) just confused my block-buster-addled brain. Watched it again seven years later and was absolutely riveted from start to finish - I now consider it one of the greatest films ever made.

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    Comment number 14.

    I saw Cloud Atlas on it's release and whilst the film made no sense, crucially it knows how to have fun. If people watch this film looking for some kind of meaning or over-arching theme, then they'll be disappointed, but if they just go with it, they won't be bored and they'll have a great time.I think on the hundredth viewing it still won't make any sense but it'll still be great fun. And finally let's all be grateful M Night Shyamalan didn't direct this film, because he'd have turned it into the most ponderous boring film in the history of creation.

    Onto the second part of the question. I recently rewatched 'The Assassination of Jesse James' having first seen it a few years back and found it boring. This time i listened to Mark's review from the time, which put me in the right frame of mind and whilst wasn't as enthralled as he was, i could see what he found so fascinating and i think it may improve with each viewing.
    Some times maturity has a lot to do with reappraisals, i remember seeing films like Brazil and Once Upon a Time in the West as a teenager and not understanding them at all, and the second or third viewing doing a complete 180 on them.

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    Comment number 15.

    I had exactly the same feelings about The Master when re watching on blu ray the other day. Seeing it in the cinema left me feeling it was an honourable failure, that the lack of narrative mixed with my own high expectations had left me bored and underwhelmed. I still think it lacks focus but because i wasnt waiting for the narrative to suddenly turn up and start making sense of everything i was able to enjoy the performances and the cinematography without feeling short changed.
    I dont think its the all conquering epic that There Will Be Blood was but i do think it is a very good film that, away from all the hype and expectation, succeeds on its own terms.

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    Comment number 16.

    @ 14 Batman Begins 'one of the greatest films ever made' I'll agree with that.

    On the subject of Batman, recently re watched The Dark Knight Rises and knowing the twist from the start makes it a better film as you see things you didn't notice before and a certain character's actions make more scene, Still not as perfect as Batman Begins.

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    Comment number 17.

    i tend to watch a film it least 3 times before i rate it fairly - 1 view is silly

    blade runner is the obvious one that takes 5 views to even start getting

    for me it was that and probably something like 'taxi driver' or 'i am sam'

    most recently i am kinda ashamed to say it but 'oblivion' has grown on me - only because this year hasn't been that good for films - the film could of been amazing but it sucked and i was so dissapointed - but now it's getting better cos the rest were rubbish - it's a weird one

    i doubt cloud atlas will grow for me as - i HATED most of it - i liked the tom cruise super tribal future where hugh grant was a warrior thats it - they should of been 5 films - and i would of LOVED just that one

    but there are film makers out there who purposefully make - 1 view films - and others who make growers

    heck i try to watch my favourite films once a month

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    Comment number 18.

    The Dark Knight is a film I had a complete change of mind on. I saw it in the cinema and couldn't see why people raved over it. I then saw it on DVD a few months later and thought it was brilliant.

    I am going to try and see Cloud Atlas on bluray/DVD.

    I'm going to do the reverse of seeing something in cinema and rediscovering a film on DVD because in a few weeks time there's going to be a release of the restored cut of Michael Cimino's Heavens Gate. I saw this 20 years ago when the 220 minute version was shown on BBC2 and thought it was a flabby and self indulgent mess but I want to try and see it on a big screen and with an open mind to see if it is a better film than my 17 year old self remembers.

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    Comment number 19.

    I've only seen Cloud Atlas once but I could tell that it was the type of movie that doesn't give up its secrets too easily or quickly. Even on that single viewing, I thought it deserved Oscar nominations for both picture and sound editing - when you consider its the work of 3 (well, 2+1) directors and *doesn't* fall into the solipsistic "ensemble" director vanity project trap (e.g. "Aria", "Four Rooms" et al), you recognise what an achievement it is; even in its apparent failure.

    Look forward to seeing it again - as I said at the time, I think that, like "Donnie Darko", this film will find its audience on DVD, blu-ray and perhaps streaming services (given the paucity of good content on there, it might even be better off for it!).

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    Comment number 20.

    p.s. As to your question:

    - Primer - requires half a dozen viewings to even scratch the surface


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