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As to counter examples, not all of these will be accepted since that "something" could be (I suspect is) a vague word used to cover over an emotive or unique response rather than to describe a unique film, but some similarly structured/themed films I would cite off the top of my head, in addition to Intolerance, are Pulp Fiction, French Lieutenant's Woman, Possession, The Simpsons ("Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment"), Paris J' Taime, 31 Short Films about Glen Gould, The Wizard of Oz, The Fountain, and Tykwer's own Lola Rennt.

If we wanted to get into more specific features of the film that are hinted at, such as montage editing, the use of music to connect characters/storylines, I'm sure that more formally minded cinephiles on the board could comply.

Possibly The Decalogue and

Magnolia. (heh heh heh)

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Like Peter, I thought Intolerance was the obvious precedent. It is remarkable, though, that I can't think of another film between 1916 and 2012 that does quite this.  

 

I would not put mere anthologies like Dekalog in the same category as Intolerance and Cloud Atlas (though a recurring character in Dekalog partly overlaps with Lillian Gish's maternal figure standing over the various threads of Intolerance).

 

Overlapping-story films like Magnolia and Crash — what are sometimes called "hyperlink cinema" — are certainly similar, although juggling a handful of stories all taking place at the same time, involving people whose lives are in some way intertwined either geographically or personally, seems substantially different from weaving together stories from vastly different time periods and cultures. 

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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I haven't seen either Intolerance or Cloud Atlas (the former I should *really* get around to correcting, and maybe the latter as well?) but based on Rushmore's and Ken's descriptions those films came to mind.  But if you're looking for films that tell multiple stories from different cultures and times then the only thing I can come up with is Sans Soleil, although that is classified as a documentary even though the storylines are fictional.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Magnolia. (heh heh heh)

 

That's not a bad comparison, actually.

I also thought of Doctor Who (which is not a movie but...). 

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Magnolia is not the same thing. It uses some similar techniques, but its various branches are much less distinct from each other. Besides being unified in time and place, it's arguably a single story with multiple branches or plotlines rather than several separate stories. It's not fundamentally different from any film where scenes from different subplots are edited together. As for Doctor Who, I have no idea what you're talking about. Granted, I've only seen a few episodes, but since the entire show centers around one character (doesn't it?), the comparison eludes me.

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  • 6 years later...
On 1/8/2013 at 11:03 PM, Christian said:

What, exactly, resonates about Cloud Atlas, and why can't I see it? It may be my fault. It probably is. I want to appreciate it, even if I think the movie is a botch. But I need some help.

Resurrecting this thread by way of quoting Christian in order to say that these are my sentiments exactly. I found this to be a deeply troubling, even perhaps an unintentionally nihilistic or absurdist film in its endless violence and eternal recurrence. But it seems that some folks appreciate it, even love it. I did enjoy Hugo Weaving as the Babadook. Otherwise, I genuinely need someone to help me understand the meaning behind it all.

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I should add that I’ve done a 180 - and then a full 360, and maybe a 180 again - on this film, which I find so bad as to be laughable in spots, but affecting at other times - and deeply impressive in its cross-cutting/keeping-all-its-balls-in-the-air. But as to what it *means*? I have no idea. I read the book to try to get a handle on the story(ies) and can’t say it helped much. Still, three viewings of a long movie, followed by reading the source novel - there must be something here, no?

EDIT: I just re-read the prior page of postings in this thread and see that I’m repeating myself. Sorry. It’s been a long time between posts.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Did I never actually post my review for this? 2012 must have been during my exile. Anyhow, I think it is behind a paywall now: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/october-web-only/cloud-atlas.html

 

I was looking for my MS-Word copy since the 90 days has expired at CT. (They have a 90 day exclusive to my reviews and then I may reprint at any site I own or operate) Couldn't find it. I wonder if it was a review I did while at TIFF and so didn't archive. Anyway, I may have to subscribe to CT just so I can copy the full text of the article and reprint it. I feel somewhat heartened that Joel and Jeffrey seem to share some attitudes with me...Jeffrey especially since our takes don't often dovetail on films. 


Then again, since I appear to be turning into the naysayer on all 2020 Top 100 threads, I should be quick to acknowledge I haven't seen the film since TIFF premiere, that I was stoked to see it (anticipation often makes disappointment all the more crushing), and that I've since learned that the nature of a week long festival where I am watching 4-5 films a day isn't ideal for a 3 hour, repetitive film. 

I have made it my mission to fall in like with at least one movie I formerly dismissed as part of my Top 100 voting season. I' not desperate yet, but I'm starting to feel like I do when I'm on day six of TIFF or day three at Full Frame and haven't fallen hard for any film yet. Kinda praying for a David Lynch epiphany, but that's a little like being down to your last chip at the casino and telling the Roulette guy, "put it all on 13!"

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8 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Kinda praying for a David Lynch epiphany, but that's a little like being down to your last chip at the casino and telling the Roulette guy, "put it all on 13!"

When I read this, I heard it in David Lynch's voice, as if Gordon Cole were yelling, "put it all on 13!"

Back to Cloud Atlas: a common theme in each of the six stories is that there is some sort of revolution being fought, a "transgression of boundaries," and at least a few moments a character will explicitly state this theme aloud in the narration. But by the end, as generally everyone was dying horrible and bloody deaths, I wondered what everyone was fighting for. If boundaries don't matter, if everything is just happening over and over in a cycle, and if death is inevitable (and for a few characters, apparently preferable), then there's a not-too-subtle romanticizing or glorification of what amounts to suicide. It essentially amounts to this: "Everything happens for a reason...which is that nothing really matters. We are all connected...so, prepare for death or even go kill yourself." And I cannot wrap my mind around that idea.

Also, because of the editing and structure of the storylines, which I admit kept my attention at least (the stories were either predictably easy to follow, or absolutely indecipherable for me—the stories set in the future especially so, where I had to look up the plot summaries on Wikipedia). I can appreciate the ambition on display, just how bonkers the film is in its makeup and such. But the race- and gender-swapping was not a positive element, nor was the gruesome violence. And Tom Hanks' accents for various characters genuinely made me cringe. Still, I find it intriguing that some audiences genuinely love the film, and I want to understand what they see and what I didn't/couldn't see.

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