Now that Lana and Andy Wachowski, along with Tom Tykwer, have come to the end of their hard-fought war to get the movie made, it’s understandable that reviews so far from its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival are divided. As with the novel, it was always intended to be presented in an unconventional form, which is unusual if not unheard of at this higher end of production.
It’s one thing for Terrence Malick to come up with financing (about $35 million) for an art-house movie like The Tree of Life before having large-scale distribution deals in place, especially in the U.S. The production of his film, as with many other independent movies, was mostly freed from the constraints of studio distributors. And if financiers are supportive, these films give their creators a chance to be true auteurs and possibly reach their intended audience.
But it’s another thing altogether to co-finance a picture along with a major U.S. distributor such as Warner Brothers and make what could be called a $100 million art-film with its vision intact. Some might argue that a movie made by the Wachowskis starring Tom Hanks and other famous actors isn’t an art-film at all. Though from what I can piece together, that was the filmmakers’ intention: to stand the form upside-down, have a whack at making something artful on a fairly good-sized budget and still reach a wider audience.
Understandably, when Hollywood participates in the making of a movie, the ambitions aren’t usually as centered on the art of the enterprise as they are on the craft and how that affects its financial viability. As for the business side of Cloud Atlas, it’s a hopeful sign that Warner Brothers has moved its U.S. release date up from December to October, presumably to help build word-of-mouth and take advantage of a longer marketing effort.
The bottom line for me? As a former student of film, a worker-bee in the movie industry and an admirer of art in any form, I have to applaud the audacity of making and distributing this movie within this system. Love it or hate it – or somewhere in between – no matter. Films like this are why I got into the movie business, and I can not wait to see it.