The new film "Cloud Atlas" is heading into theaters this weekend, taking all of its multiple timelines, eras and crazy future cafes with it. It looks fascinating, but it also looks like a viewer will need a collegiate intro course, a flowchart and possibly a graphing calculator to comprehend it.
To celebrate it, here are five other memorably mind-boggling movie experiences – and whether they are worth the ride.
"Enter the Void"
Many people may have seen the psychedelic light show that is "Enter the Void"'s opening credits – the inspiration behind Kanye West's "All of the Lights" video. However, it turns out there's an entire movie after that seizure-inducing sequence, and it's just as trippy, following a dead Tokyo drug dealer's spirit as it watches those he left behind attempt to carry on. Light shows and a 20-minute finale at a neon Tokyo sex hotel ensue.
Worth the trip?: I've seen a lot of movies, but only one of them has caused me actual physical pain while I was watching it. Gaspar Noe's film is told from the spirit's perspective, meaning the camera is constantly swaying like it was filmed on a boat. In case that doesn't cause nausea, "Enter the Void"'s plot isn't much more pleasant, involving suicide, abortion, incestuous undertones and the aforementioned trip to the neon sex hotel that really gets into the action.
A part of me wants to recommend the film because it's certainly unlike anything you'll probably see, but I also can't promise that's a good thing.
To be fair, this entire list could be comprised of David Lynch movies. However, "Mulholland Drive" is the most legendary of the director's trip-tacular work. The film follows a young actress (Naomi Watts) who gets wrangled in a crazy Hollywood system involving corrupt producers, a mysterious cowboy and most terrifyingly, Billy Ray Cyrus. Also, there's a gremlin monster living behind a diner.
Worth the trip?: I don't love "Mulholland Drive," but I can see the allure. The movie seems to exist on another demented plane, both in terms of storytelling and aesthetics, which makes it memorable – and also frustratingly cryptic. It's in the middle of Lynch's focused insanity ("Blue Velvet") and Lynch's complete insanity ("Inland Empire"). Maybe someone will invent a drug that will make sense of "Mulholland Drive" – some might argue they already have – but until then, we can only experience the film and hope to understand it in time.
2010's "Rubber" is about a killer tire named Robert that rolls around a desert town killing people by blowing up their heads with his newly discovered telekinesis powers. There are no typos in the previous sentence; that's actually what "Rubber" is about. I haven't even mentioned the audience surrogates who watch the tire's actions from a distance, making ironic commentary.
Worth the trip?: Can there be such a thing as a pretentious killer tire movie? Yes, and it's called "Rubber." Quentin Dupieux's strange little meta experiment is a presumptuous mess of commentary about typical film plotting and the audience's expectations, which often gives the impression that "Rubber" doesn't like you very much. That being said, it is worth the trip because the look on your friends' faces when you say you watched a movie about a killer telekinetic tire is priceless.
Before Darren Aronofsky freaked out audiences and Oscar voters with "Black Swan," he made the even trippier 2006 sci-fi epic "The Fountain." Hugh Jackman stars as a doctor hoping to save his dying wife. And he stars as a Spanish conquistador trying to find the tree of life. And he stars as a futuristic bubble traveler coping with death with his love, a tree.
Worth the trip?: It's certainly a convoluted adventure, as each of these stories weave together and intersect. Sometimes it's very moving; sometimes it's just silly (mainly when future Jackman argues or shows affection to his tree). I can't say it's an entirely satisfying experience, but it's at least worthwhile for Aronofsky's visuals, most of which are surprisingly not CGI but instead micro-photography.
On a side note, Aronofsky's budget was cut in half in order to bring "The Fountain" to the screen. Take from that what you will.
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
At the debut of "2001: A Space Odyssey," it's rumored 241 audience members (including actor Rock Hudson) walked out, wondering what the heck they were watching and why this black rectangle was freaking out all of the monkeys. Forty-four years after its original release, we don't know much more than we knew in 1968. It's certainly about the evolution of humanity, but beyond that, all you can do is hypothesize and wonder.
Worth the trip?: And wonder you will. Kubrick's effects and way of combining iconic visuals with equally iconic music are mesmerizing. "2001" invites the audience to ponder almost every single scene long after the credits roll, but unlike many other "experience" films, it also offers a tense coherent storyline in the middle about the killer computer, HAL 9000.
You can watch it for the chill-inducing sci-fi thriller, or you can watch it to contemplate the mysteries of the universe. Either way, the audience walks out amazed.
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