Indie Outlook on Vocalo: “Cloud Atlas”

James D’Arcy and Ben Whishaw star in Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski’s “Cloud Atlas.” Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“There’s a natural order to this world. No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.”

“What is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

–excerpt of dialogue from “Cloud Atlas”

I was unbelievably lucky to be in Washington DC for the opening of an extraordinary exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum. It was the first North American tour showcasing the work of China’s most celebrated and controversial artist, Ai Weiwei. His work was showcased earlier this year in Alison Klayman’s documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” which remains one of the best and most important films I’ve seen all year. In my review for HollywoodChicago.com, I wrote, “There is perhaps no greater champion of individuality and its inherent power than Ai Weiwei.” One of the pieces on display at the Hirshhorn was “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” a series of three photos that uses the shattered urn as a symbol for the demolishing of past traditions to make the way for news ideas.

I kept being reminded of that urn while watching Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski’s toweringly ambitious, marvelously entertaining adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed 2004 novel, “Cloud Atlas,” particularly during a dreamlike sequence where two characters enjoy a downpour of what appears to be archaic Chinese porcelain. The film’s vibrantly colorful assortment of parallel timelines are bridged by recurring faces, conflicts and themes–such as the transcendence of societal boundaries, the malleability of identity and the vitality of change. Considering the dramatic changes that recently occurred in the life of Lana Wachowski (who underwent a sex change a few years ago), I couldn’t resist asking her about the resonance of “Cloud Atlas”’s themes in her own life at the film’s Chicago premiere. Three days later, Lana accepted her Visibility Award at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual San Francisco gala dinner, and delivered a stunning speech about her choice to step into the public spotlight as a transgender woman, while reflecting on how Mitchell’s book spoke to her on a deeply personal level.

I discussed “Cloud Atlas” during my second appearance on Vocalo 89.5FM’s The Morning Amp with Reggie (“The Reel Critic”) Ponder and hosts Molly Adams and Brian Babylon. This second installment of Vocalo’s Indie Outlook series aired from 9:30am to 10am on Friday, October 26th (the release date of “Cloud Atlas”). You can listen to it here.

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