Starring Michael Madsen, Megan Maczko, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Sabina Akhmedova, Leo Gregory, Wendy Thomas, Elana Krausz, Julia Verdin, Meredith Ostrom.
A dreamer named Zena (Megan Maczko) clings onto her idealistic views of philosophy, art, poetry and love as she makes her life in 1990s London, running away from her painful past. Against all warnings, she falls for fellow American Bob (Michael Madsen), a poet and playwright who hates rich people, yet always seems to be involved in shady scams. While Bob insists he’s gay and therefore uninterested in her, Zena continues to pursue him, and gets embroiled in a story involving a child war veteran and his missing leg, a rich man keen to improve his image by becoming humanitarian of the year, and Jonny (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a troubled composer who becomes entranced by Zena’s refusal to give into his charms.
For fans of dark, philosophical dramas that contemplate life’s hardest questions, this film is right up your street. Featuring a fantastic soundtrack and an assortment of characters running from the pains of life, The Ninth Cloud is just the right film to screen at Raindance: indie, with a spark of its own, picturing London as a destitute refuge full of life and the promise of hope.
Zena (an ethereal Megan Maczko) lives in near squalor in London trying to make sense of life, death, love, and existence; she meets Michael Madsen’s troubled poet Bob, a man shrouded in enigmas, who’s keen to stage a play on the street using homeless people and local vagrants as actors, to prove an array of points about the vulgarity of money, the harshness of life, and the futility of the human condition. Zena finds this fascinating to the point of being helplessly attracted to Bob, and despite his best efforts to stave off her affection, she is relentless.
At her housemate Helene (Sabina Akhmedova)’s behest, Zena attends a party where she meets Jonny (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a loaded but aloof socialite who has lost but all of his appreciation for art. In trying to get Zena to sleep with him, he bares much of himself – perhaps coming in touch with that part of him for the first time in years. Jonny’s friend Brett (Leo Gregory), lucratively rich and pompously superficial, hears of Zena’s quest to get a prosthetic leg for a young war veteran from Africa and decides he will sponsor her for a chance to be the next Humanitarian of the Year, overcoming his initial dismissal of her. Zena gets the money and rushes to Bob, only to find him in bed with Helene. Brokenhearted, she runs away and tears the cheque to pieces.
With several more secondary characters whose stories we follow on the side (like the kind-hearted Billy, played by David Birkin, who lays his heart at Helene’s feet only to get it trampled on; or the tormented Laura, seemingly harmless yet eerily connected to everyone’s past, played by Elana Krausz; or the wannabe IT girls surrounding Jonny and Brett, played by Elodie Betrisey and Meredith Ostrom), there’s really lots going on in Jane Spencer’s evocative film. While the script teeters dangerously on the edge of not making sense half the time, with dialogue that swoops from intensely poetic to devastatingly banal and back within moments, there’s something about it that makes you linger, and the more you think about it, the more there is to it.
It’s really the excellent performances by the entire cast, the natural flow of Spencer’s direction and the amazingly on-point music (featuring dreamy 1970s tunes by Sibylle Baier, Vashti Bunyan and Jimmie Spheeris, and original score by Marcel Vaid and Raz Olsher) that make you think about this film for hours afterward, discovering more layers to the story in the symbolic sequences that may have seemed random at first. It definitely sets a dreamy, ethereal tone, where musing about whether death feels like falling backwards comes as natural as breathing.
Stay tuned for an interview with director Jane Spencer.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★