‘Cloud Atlas’ and Lana Wachowski’s Return to Public Life

Andy and Lana Wachowski have not stuck the landing on the emotional conclusion really, I think, since The Matrix, but they always produce a fantastic visual spectacle, and Cloud Atlas, which they directed in collaboration with Tom Twyker, looks like it’ll be no different:

One interesting piece of context for this very long trailer that the directors give in their commentary on it is that the actors, who are playing multiple parts in the movie, may be switching genders and races from storyline to storyline. I’ll be curious to see how the movie executes that, given the risk of handling blackface poorly. And I’d be fascinated to see what the movie (I haven’t read the book) ends up having to say about the commonality of human experience across race and gender, given that the time periods it spans, from 1850 into the distant future, are periods of radically changing conditions for women and people of color.

The movie also comes at a period of significant change for the Wachowskis. While I don’t like overreading creators’ personal experiences into their work unless they suggest that I ought to, it’s hard to see it as total coincidence that they’re making a movie about the continuity of the human soul no matter the body it’s in during a time when Lana, who was born Larry, went from living as a man to living as a woman. The Wachowskis have always been totally uninterested in discussing their personal lives, even when it means that something like the Rolling Stone story about Lana’s transition, which was salacious in the extreme, was published without comment from them. Perhaps they’ll break character here, and end up doing a magazine story or a profile. But if they don’t, there’s something radical about Lana just showing up as she is, without explanation. It’s a wonderful thing when gay and transgender people come out and tell their stories and act as role models for others. But there is no universal obligation for gay and transgender people to translate their lives for those who don’t understand them, or to put their sex lives or gender ahead of the work that made them famous and important.