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Thursday, 5 February 2015

Elixirs of youth, utilitarianism, and Sonmi-451

This is a partly completed review of Jupiter Ascending (2015)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

This is a partly completed review – it will certainly spill over into another posting – of Jupiter Ascending (2015)

5 February

Someone (whose Tweet cannot now be located) was replying to an invitation from BBC’s Film 2015 (@BBCFilm2015) for comment, and described Jupiter Ascending (2015) as ‘baffling’ and / or ‘confusing’ (in such a way that made clear that this / these description(s) was / were not commendations) :

Well, if one watches a film such as Father and Son (2003), and expects it all to be explained and tied up by the end, then that ‘just ain’t life’, so Screen 3 at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse) this afternoon at 4.30 would have been the wrong place to be (if one thinks that this film (or, say, Caché (Hidden) (2005)) should not baffle or confuse, even though life can and does)…

Before Jupiter Ascending (#JupiterAscending), Cloud Atlas (2012) was a long, hard look at repeating patterns, and the related potential for our kindnesses and cruelties to reverberate beyond our own time. (Although that is also, in The Matrix Revolutions (2003), the explicit message at the end of the trilogy – even if some resent even the existence of the two companion films to The Matrix (1999).)

Almost necessarily, Jupiter Ascending (2015) does not seek to cover that ground again, but trust, deceit and betrayal, and the nature of reality, have been integral parts of The Wachowskis’ screen-worlds since The Matrix, and they are here, too. We may tend to call what used to be ‘personnel’ by the name HR. If so, we overlook what these film-makers keep returning to, the behaviour (and morals) of those who see their fellow human-beings as ‘resources’ (thus, the earlier film has Jim Broadbent (as Timothy Cavendish) exploited by his family, and David Gyasi (Autua, a free man in slavery))…

Yes, The Wachowskis have 'delivered an action film', but what and where is the action, and what levels of reality (mirrored by different grading of CGI versus live action) are we meant to perceive ? :

That said, the amount of undiluted action is far greater, and it as though the proportion of threat, pursuit, and rescue in the time-period of Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) and Chang (Jim Sturgess) had expanded proportionally to fill out the rest of Cloud Atlas. One will have to come to the action (and the nature of what action depicts / denotes on a cinema screen) at a later date, but it is not as if Lana and Andy Wachowski, always wearing their cine-literacy easily, have deprived those less keen on it of plenty of other insights.

Some key references (not exclusively to this one film of theirs) are :

* Metropolis (1927)

* Carry on Cleo (1964)

* Brazil (1985)*

* Akira (1988)

* Looper (2012) (mixed with that scene from North by Northwest (1959))

* Platonic Ideals / ‘The Theory of Forms’ / οὐσία (or ‘ousia’)

* Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) / The Makropulos Case (Leoš Janáček (based on Karel Čapek’s play)) / Bernard Williams’ essay of that name**

* Free will v. determinism / the craze for 'genetic screening'

* Etc., etc. – and one should not doubt, when The Matrix (1999) alluded to Lewis Carroll and The Wizard of Oz (1939), amongst others – that these references are any more than coincidental !

So what, also, about these possibilities (arising from that Film 2015 questioning / Tweeting) ? :

As to the film more than twenty-four hours later, it is still a fertile ground for reflection, because its makers’ knowingness should never be taken for granted.

Then again, one does not please everyone... :

More to come, but, for those who like spoilers, here are some Tweets in the meantime…


* With even a little cameo from its own Terry Gilliam, an influence to which The Double (2013) also nods*, with what it has become fashionable to call its steam-punk feel. [Also in Paddington (2014), though perhaps distilled through Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter films (numbers 1 and 7 ?).]

** Williams, Provost of King's College, Cambridge, was also rather fond of opera...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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