If you happened to stumble limply out of a Cloud Atlas showing this past fall, muttering between yawns, "Well, that was about an hour too long," you're in some pretty mighty company: China has cropped a good 40 minutes out of the Warner Bros. film, discarding the content its censors have deemed unfavorable, as revealed by The Hollywood Reporter.
But some of the material omitted in the China's final cut of the film, which premiered in Beijing on Monday and opens nationwide on Jan. 31, might inspire curiosity. Translating the news from a report in Shanghai's Dongfang Daily, THR describes the nature of the footage that was removed from Cloud Atlas, compared to that which ended up comprising the 130-minute (even with a full 40 minutes cut out, the thing still breaches 2 hours) version of the Wachowskis/Tom Tykwer movie.
Cut Out: "Passionate Love Scenes"
According to THR, Dongfang Daily described China's final cut of Cloud Atlas to have been stripped of the original version's "passionate love scenes." The film's major romances involve parties like Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy, and Doona Bae and Jim Sturgess (with the latter's story inviting the most visual depiction of love).
Cut Out: "Expository Sequences"
Even more bizarre than the above situation is China's decision to cut out some of the film's "expository sequences," as THR states. Anyone who has seen the complicated movie might find the slimming down on explanation of the tricky universe a bit of a frightening thought, as your questions upon leaving the 170-minute cut are already in large supply. According to Qiu Huashun, CEO of Dreams and Dragon Pictures (which coproduced Cloud Atlas for Chinese theaters), "Chinese audiences might want to see more of a popcorn movie, and considerations for the Chinese market were made in the making of the Chinese version of the film."
Left In: Gun Violence and Graphic Murders
We bring up the fact that China's Cloud Atlas cut was not actually stripped of its more violent imagery not to assign preference to one incarnation of artistic censorship over any other, but only to point out the curiosity in an industry's choice to remove some instances of "dicey" material while leaving alone others. THR reports that scenes involving a fatal gunshot and a man having his throat slit made it past the country's censors, apparently being more suitable for viewing audiences than some of the more "progressive" examples of human love, or some good ol' storytelling.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros]
The Cloud Atlas Novel Vs. the Movie: The Structure Is Everything
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Where were you at 5:30 a.m. PST on Tuesday? If you're an Academy Award nominee, you were hounded by media anxious to get a first-hand reaction.
Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment had camera crews sitting with them to watch the nominations. While the 11-year-old "Sixth Sense" star, the third youngest Best Supporting Actor nominee ever, gave his gentlemanly "it's an honor to be nominated" sound bite, "The Green Mile's" Duncan, 42, whooped, hollered and sobbed in one breath, so excited that he couldn't remember his mother's phone number and had to get his Rolodex.
"Yesss! I am in there!" the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Duncan yelled.
Other nominees were just as excited for their collaborators. Best Actor nominee Russell Crowe was first to call his "The Insider" director Michael Mann, congratulating him on his three nominations (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture).
"The Cider House Rules" sribe John Irving, who was in Manchester, Vt., was ecstatic over his adapted screenplay nod but shouted for joy when director Lasse Hallström received a nomination as well. And "American Beauty's" producers and writer Alan Ball assembled for a pre-dawn breakfast in Hollywood Hills, while director Sam Mendes nervously ate in a London restaurant before the announcements.
Nominees Michael Caine, Jude Law and Hilary Swank were all on location on their next project. Swank didn't have a television, so husband Chad Lowe held up a phone to their set at home so they could both listen to the announcements.
As for leading actor nominees Richard Farnsworth and Annette Bening, their post-Oscar plans will include a little bed rest: Farnsworth is awaiting hip-replacement surgery, and Bening is expecting her fourth child terribly soon after the ceremony. "It's either the hospital or the ceremony," Bening quipped. "I'll be wearing a tent."
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Oscar producers are planning the March 26 program right this second and are promising a really good show. But according to Variety's Army Archerd, telecast producer Richard Zanuck finds it "disturbing" that stars that are neither nominated nor presenting don't show up, particularly the younger generation. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, for instance, have already said they are "unavailable." That sound you hear is the gaggle of females backing out of seat-filling signups.
PUMPKIN PATCHED: Ex-Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy (full name: D'Arcy Wretzky) has agreed to take drug-prevention classes in exchange for the dismissal of cocaine possession charges. She appeared in a Chicago court Monday, accused of buying crack cocaine Jan. 25 at a building under surveillance for suspected drug sales. "I didn't do it," Wretzky said outside court. She agreed to attend four Saturday classes on drug awareness and prevention -- an option available to first-time offenders. The charges will be dropped if she completes the classes by May 19.
A REAL GOOD 'PIE': There's a new pop version of Don McLean's classic "American Pie" floating around the radio waves, sung by none other than Madonna for her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing." What does McLean think of the Material Girl's cover? "Her version ... is sensual and mystical. I hope it will cause people to ask what's happening to music in America," McLean said in a statement. But what we're wondering is, is that a good thing? Madonna's version "is a gift from a goddess," McLean continues. Oh. Question answered.
QUICK TAKES: Screen veteran Gregory Peck, 83, will reportedly make his final stage appearance Saturday with "A Conversation with Gregory Peck" in Salem, Ore. ...
... Elizabeth Taylor will be the third recipient of the Marian Anderson Award, which honors artists who work to benefit humanity. Taylor will accept the award June 25 and 26 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The award is named after the late opera singer and Philadelphia native who was the first black performer to sing at the White House ...
... Caroline Rhea ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch'') will host the 52nd annual Writers Guild of America Awards on March 5. Presenters at the event, which will take place simultaneously at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Plaza Hotel in New York City, will include Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Clarke Duncan and Dylan McDermott.