This Korean bootleg DVD was a blind buy from a local Goodwill, mostly with the intent of reselling, after I did a quick Amazon scan and realized it was worth a few bucks, however, when I further examined the case it came to my attention that the film appeared to be directed simultaneously by Michealangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders. At that point I could not resist grabbing the work only to later discover that the film was something initially created by Antonioni, only to be finished by Wenders after the late Italian director suffered another crippling stroke. This knowledge makes an already cinematic and sweetly saddening film that much more sentimental and profound. While I know I have professed an up and down relationship with Antonioni, it is works like this that have helped me come around to the director as a whole, particularly in that there is perhaps no better director to map philosophical evolution with than Antonioni, to me he is a director who continually greatened in the works he produced, coming up with some particularly key social work, most notably Zabriskie Point. In fact, the addition of Wim Wenders to this film is the proverbial icing on the cake, not to mention the ambient soundtrack help of U2, as well as a personal favorite of mine, Brian Eno. This film begins with its head in the clouds and, as the title suggests, goes some were far above them, questioning lust, friendship and sexual awakening all along the way. Furthermore, you can easily see the very personal touches in the film despite being an adaptation of short stories, particularly considering that to one degree or another Beyond the Clouds is, ultimately, about imagining and creating movies. There are a handful of moments that come throughout the movie that had me at a loss for words and catching my breath at the simplistically grand nature of the scenes composition, often the camera lingers in this film capturing lengthy reactions the events unfolding, but do not let the stagnant nature of the cinematography fool you, because this is a film about imagination and desire, two things constantly moving.
While the film is a set of different events, to call it a series of short films or even vignettes would be to miss the entire point of the work altogether, instead, I would argue that it is a series of interconnected moments, neatly and cleverly tied together around the reflections and memories of the main character simply known as The Director (John Malkovich) as he drifts through what we assume to be Italy. The stories all involve some degree of romantic connection, whether it be the initial encounter between two hesitant lovers, only to reconnect a few years later, with an intimate fire, or two older individuals who meet up after one's wife leaves him as he is meeting a wife who has recently left her husband. Occasionally, The Director will interject his thoughts on a specific situation, often in hyperbole or roundabout poeticism. The moments of intimacy are rarely subdued and often become quite intimately intense, as is the case with two lovers who engage after seemingly having nothing in common, the guy an atheist free floating individual and the girl a deeply religious individual who is to commit the convent life the very next day, yet something transcendent of spiritual leanings allows them to connect physically in a new definition of a religious experience. Even the moments in between seem to consider the possibilities of love, as occurs when one man reflects on the nature of art, recreation and admiration. Even The Director engages in his own moments of intimate reflection, one that causes him to exit from it with a smug sense of happiness as he looks upon his decision through a window of the very recent past.
Beyond the Clouds is an incredibly poetic film, often taking long moments to consume the landscape, or gauge an emotion, something that does not seem to occur, nor does it ever seem to bode well when directors take this approach, popularly speaking at least, as has been the case with more experimental narratives released by say Soderbergh or Van Sant. It begs to be asked what can be gained from this approach, and what, if anything, is lost. Certainly a poetic and surreal approach in a film like Beyond the Clouds allows for multiple narratives that do not require a logical connection, often transcending time, as well as space in order to occur, which is seen from the onset in this film, as new stories often overlap the very places in which The Director resides, perhaps suggesting a multiplicity of times occurring at once, or more likely the physical yearning that so often comes with bittersweet memories. The notion of memory with in a surreal sense often adds new layers to seemingly simple acts as well, heightening the metaphor of something like riding in a plane or staring longingly at the ocean from a swing seat, events that happen quite beautifully in the films many dreamlike sequences. This is all fine and well and something I favor as a film viewer and critic, but I am fully aware that such approaches can become a cause for disconnect and discontent in viewers, when such filmic constructions do not have an ultimate unifying force. Fortunately, Beyond the Cloud unites quite brilliantly and makes viewers long for a continuation even after the screen fades to blue, it reminds those watching that life does end and no matter how greatly one desires to return to its moments of beauty, they are and always will be tragically fleeting, so embracing the moment is quite important.
Key Scene: It is a dead tie between The Director at the park and the couple falling in love at church.
This movie is a bit hard to come by and the copy I found was purely by luck, unfortunately, the Korean copy I have also censors all full frontal nudity which gets old really quick. I would say check this movie out if you find a decently priced copy, but for now we will have to patiently wait and hope it gets save from obscurity.