Wachowskis open up their ‘Cloud Atlas’ at last

TORONTO -- “Cloud Atlas,” among the most anticipated films of the season, had its world premiere on Saturday night at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. It’s directed by the trio of Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski, who wrote the adaptation of the popular 2004 David Mitchell novel.

As the festival’s Cameron Bailey noted in introducing the filmmakers, many declared the novel un-adaptable for the screen, in essence too big, too sprawling, too epic to be harnessed into a single movie. The story traverses six story lines that jump across some 500 years: a sailing ship returning from the Pacific Islands in 1849, a composer in pre-WWII Britain, San Francisco in 1975, the present day, the futuristic 2144 and some unspecified future when things have become a mixture of the primitive and the high-tech.

When the filmmakers took the stage, Andy Wachowski began by saying, “Hello, citizens” before noting, “We’ve never really introduced one of our films before so we weren’t sure quite how to do it. I said to go with – behold!”


PHOTOS: 10 must-see films at the Toronto Film Festival

Lana Wachowski balked at speaking next, saying, “I’m not ready,” allowing Tykwer to make a few remarks. Then Lana Wachowski stepped to the microphone and said, “The movie speaks a lot about human courage, and the producers obviously had a lot of courage, or stupidness, to get this thing produced.”

She said that the evening was “like in a dream, I can’t believe we’re actually standing here,” adding: “It’s quite an experimental film in many ways.”

In addition to its time-skipping structure, the film’s main conceit is to have the same actors appear in multiple roles across the different scenarios, done up in a variety of false noses, wigs and elaborate makeup to alter and at times hide their appearance. The main cast was all there, including Keith David, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry and Tom Hanks. When Hanks came onto the stage, he ran down the line of talent bumping fists with everyone as a ballplayer would before the big game.

The end credits of the film show each actor in all of his or her various roles. The audience rose to its feet for an ovation that lasted through the entire cast roll and well beyond.

Early response from the town hall of Twitter was wildly divided on “Cloud Atlas,” with some declaring it “an intense three-hour mental workout with big emotional payoff,” “the most ambitious film I’ve ever seen” or a “deft interweaving of six stories and sincere as all get out,” while others felt it was a “symphonic fiasco of artistry and tackiness,” “five or six movies interrupting each other” or just plain “unbearable.”


Young starlets take edgy trip with ‘Spring Breakers’

Elle Fanning tears up on-screen and off with ‘Ginger And Rosa’

Brian De Palma applies his ‘Passion’ to remaking ‘Love Crime’

Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus