cloud atlas is a pousse cafe

Posted on Updated on

Definition of POUSSE-CAFÉ
: an after-dinner drink consisting of several liqueurs of different colors and specific gravities poured so as to remain in separate layers

French, literally, coffee chaser
First Known Use: 1880
the main thing i remember about a pousse cafe is the layered effect of the drink. it is entirely 
made of liquid, however because of the density and color of each of the liquids, each ingredient remains distinct from its counterparts, resting gently yet firmly apart from its neighbor. each of these layers of colored liquid form a more perfect union- a collection of tastes that seem overwhelming and overpowering perhaps simply because of the presentation. even though i have no plan to drink, the concept of this zany and monumental digestive concoction came to mind.
this is how i interpreted the film “cloud atlas” which i just finished viewing at the theater. it is certainly epic, just as a pousse cafe. it has bold strokes of storytelling layered upon itself, so stimulating to the senses that it is hard to discern the taste. i don’t know if i liked the taste, but the experience was delightful and seemed profound.
i haven’t read the book, so i cannot dissect the story transfer. but i can articulate that that it does present the idea of reincarnation, life, death, heaven in a way that felt genuine. i don’t feel able to retell any particular scenes at this point, because i feel as if i heard a fable and need some time to absorb the intent.
i do realize that i was not able to pick out all the actors in each of their roles. there are 6 story lines running simultaneously with most of the actors having a role in each one. they look very different each time, sometimes changing races and sexes. i understand that the work was a source of inspiration and true joy for each of the thespians.
i know i will see this film again- probably more than once. i also know that the immediate themes that jump out to me such as greed, power, and fate remain a source of intense curiosity and compel and propel each of our generations forward. cloud atlas underscores these ideas. no matter which century there seem to be those who profit and those who foot the bill. 
the film is an adventure, a fantasy, a fable, and a little philosophical. i savored it on several levels. it is visually astounding, intellectually challenging, and opened my imagination. there is a scene near the end which does involve watching the clouds. it reminded me of the wonder of being a child, laying on the ground, and watching the clouds drift by, change shape and density which engaged my brain and stretched my understanding of life. 
i know that film changes my thinking. it is an experience for me which i have always and will always value. cloud atlas has done me a great service with a wide stroke of its brush. it is not a small story. i am compelled to explore my assumptions. it is not just a moment in time. it is a multi-layered and colorful legend that i hope will help me get somewhere.

so the album posted below does not connect anywhere with this film except in my mind. i have recently been introduced to dj nico (nicolas jaar) and am captivated by his sense of storytelling, tempo, and suggestion. it stirs echoes and memories in my heart and mind, perhaps just as this wachowsky/tykwer film “cloud atlas” did for me. this soundtrack, the film, and a pousse cafe are not not a mere digestif for after dinner. they are an experience for the senses to rejuvenate and inspire. 

people like us

Posted on Updated on


after reading a couple of reviews online, i had shied away from bothering to see this film. prior to that, there had been only anticipation on my part. but the review that soured me was from usa today and said something about mawkish cliches featuring unreal people yada yada.

those words and that sentiment are biting and offputting. for some reason- probably chris pine- i decided to see it anyway and boy-o-boy was i surprised. just like a really incredible birthday present surprise – one that really fits and looks good. i had no idea “people like us” would give such a sweet and endearing look at the frailties of modern american families. i didn’t find alex kurtzman’s sweet and tender film a bit mawkish- only the reviewer seems mawkish.

i got hooked pretty early on. any movie than jon favreau takes time to participate in,  usually works for me. the story seemed real- at least most of it. the connections and the disconnections between these two siblings is very familiar to my own story. i have two siblings that i have not connected with much at all. the very few encounters i have had with both have been rife with hurt and rivalry, fear and mistrust, anger and denial. this is my truth and i watched it being played out on the big screen so very adeptly.

michelle pfeiffer’s performance i think might be my favorite of hers to date. she was stellar. imperfect, quite flawed actually, and tough. elizabeth banks is so perky as a recovering alcoholic bartender who is adrift in her life. and of course i loved the 12 step bits. but chris pine really stole the show. he has a tendency to breathe life into his lines (and the story) in a way that seems so very fresh and organic. loved him in star trek, but this one made me a fan.

without a doubt, the young man’s role- the son, nephew, and grandson is perhaps the glue that binds it all. we find him in the throes of acting out his frustration, but his shenanigans (and more) are so very transparent and penetrable that i couldn’t resist believing that i wanted to help this kid somehow. and the characters in the film must have felt the same way. his behaviors never overshadowed his feelings which are at the heart of this film. i guess it is “people like us” that still connect to all the things that were f’d up in our childhood and our families.

if you haven’t seen it, i am not gonna give you the plot or the bits. suffice it to say that it seems to me that no matter what the “focus on the family” folks try to sell at the carnival, american family life is splintered and disparate in enormous ways. we have again become nomadic and gypsy-like, technology and commerce leading some of our choices, while libido and lust still  bring us to howl at the moon.

the loveliest thing i took away was hope in our spirit. our human ability to cope with things that are not easy to cope with. we lie, we cheat, we are greedy, we manipulate to get what we want, and yet we hope for the best and we can often find a way to make good of a very very difficult situation. of course i have no choice in the matter, but i am glad i am “people like us”

i have included the liz phair song written specifically for this movie as well as an interview with her about that process. all in all, a thoughtful and introspective time was delivered by this movie. i needed a look back and a look in. and i did it with some kind thoughts in my heart.

j edgar- a meandering stream

Posted on Updated on

i have been mulling over what i might write about the film j. edgar. i saw it on sunday afternoon and was fairly gobsmacked for some reason. it has taken a day or so for me to ascertain what that might be about. the film is like a mountain stream in late august. it flows gently from here to there and back again. there are no visible rapids and what surprises exist are due more to the invisible depths than what is evident to the eye. that makes sense because john edgar hoover was much more than met the eye. he lived a dual-storyline his entire career. eastwood seems to mirror this with the tale that he spins rolling back and forth between the decades and the insanity( or do i mean drive?)that became hoover at the last years of his life. leonardo is sublimely eloquent. his expression of this historic character is loving and studied, directing me to both understand and empathize with j edgar’s duality. as he dons the makeup that is the elder g i man, it is seamlessly natural to forget who is the actor. perhaps i gush a little too much here, but i honestly can’t remember a performance that took my breath away quite like dicaprio’s hoover. it was really like my first slice of rhubarb pie- both sweet and tangy with both of those seeming dominant.

what is there to say about armie hammer. he again has cashed in on his blue blood demeanor to present a 1920’s poof, who only needs a green carnation to complete the stereotype. the tension between the two actors seems real, as does the overly cautious and entangled relationship that they boarded to ride together as j edgar shaped a federal bureau of investigation for america. typically i don’t like blondes, but somehow he stirs something in me that finds his silver spoon aesthetic not only endearing but attractive.

and when these two characters reach a tipping point in their relationship, i was achingly reminded what it was like to be closeted. there is such a struggle between fear and desire.  i don’t know how true to history this story is. i should care, but frankly i don’t. i do understand that here is another tortured gay couple’s story being played out on the big screen as directed by a heterosexual man. to pretend that lgbt love was without strife seems ignorant. to pretend that our predecessors were flawless is childlike and denialist. gay lives were taut and tenuous most of the time.  clint’s position is one of not assuming too much. he believes they loved each other. he believes they feared detection. he implies others knew about them. he insists the viewers find empathy or not. he insists we think about it.

i wish there were more gay directors who could be as deft with telling our stories as mr. eastwood and mr. lee. lgbt culture is indebted to these men. they respect without much embellishment. and they let viewers make their own opinions. i felt pride in seeing gay men love- even if it wasn’t wholesome, because i know we love. and i know we have tasted tragedy. i also know we have lost and we have won. both sides of this truth are evident in this storytelling. it gently rolls to and fro and a love seems to whisper in the breeze

as a post script- judy dench again shines here. she is understated, yet supports much of the first hour of the film. her most powerful line for me- “no son of mine will be a daffodil” embodies the stigma the stigma that homosexuals endured for the 1st 3/4 of the 20th century.

and twisted

Posted on Updated on

             “Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.”- Kahlil Gibran

jim and i watched a german film called cherry blossoms last night and i must say we were yawning during the beginning. it is a slow and steady paced story about a disconnected adult nuclear family that encounters the daily situations most of us will at some time. the father is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the wife/mother is consulted first and decides not to disclose until family visits have taken place. the couple head to berlin from bavaria to visit 2 of their 3 adult offspring and encounter indifference and nonchalant condescension aimed at the parents. the 3rd son, living in tokyo, is referenced with a crystal understanding that this 3rd son was special.  the family in general are not close, nor does it even seem possible that they were ever under the same roof. yet they were.

but as this quiet and tenacious story unfolds, it is revealed that the mother, who is the nerve center of the nucleus, has always yearned for a different life than the one she had. she wouldn’t have traded her kids and her family even if she had been able. the visit goes a bit sour in berlin and the couple decide to go to the baltic- to get some sun and sea air. while there, unexpectedly, a surprise tragedy occurs and the storyline shifts again.

this new chapter finds the characters in tokyo, visiting the son and trying to carve out a new understanding of where their life is headed. it must be late spring in tokyo as the cherry blossoms are everywhere- hence the name. the dance of the cherry blossoms in the breeze is reflected in the movement of the characters from this point forward. there are surprises here, bringing both smiles and uneasiness.

i loved this film. i didn’t jump for joy nor did i cling to the edge of my seat. but i did find that the storytelling was solid. the plot moved and twisted in the breeze. it reminded me that the desires of people don’t necessarily match their lives. and that love and codependency are real, even surreal, they have meaning and they can be weighty.

it’s a good film. pretty, prickly, and perceptive. and jim makes movies more fun.

i have posted the soft cell/marc almond version of this song  previously, but i hadn’t heard david gray. i am absolutely mad for him. his vocals, his poetry, his storytelling. i thought it fitting somehow. hope you enjoy it, too.