Film - The Ninth Cloud

The Ninth Cloud

Playing at last year’s Raindance Film Festival was the Indie film The Ninth Cloud starring Michael Madsen. Our own Mr Blond, Steve Taylor-Bryant, casts his philosophical eye over it...

I am a huge fan of Michael Madsen. As well as his celebrity for performances in Sin City and the Quentin Tarantino collaborations, Madsen has spent many years working on smaller budget independent films. Showing at The Raindance Film Festival is The Ninth Cloud starring Madsen and Megan Maczko, who I only new from Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles. I have long been excited to see Michael star as something not sadistic killer orientated and more relevant to his place in history as an award winning poet, so here we go with The Ninth Cloud.

Zena (Maczko) wanders through life with her head in the clouds trying to work out the meaning of life and love. She has a relationship of sorts with Frenchman Jonny (Jean-Hughes Anglade from La Femme Nikita) but he scoffs at the lifestyle she really wants, a universe that seems to revolve around bohemian artiste Bob (Madsen) who is a squatting writer that funds his lifestyle through washing dishes.

What The Ninth Cloud does so well compared to other films of this type is that every cast member, no matter how small their role, gets a fascinating back story that is essentially important to the plot. The main leads will grab all the attention, and rightly so, but everybody involved in the film has boosted their own careers with some stunning performances. Megan Maczko is addictive watching as Zena. Her narration helps the film flow so well, and her dialogue with the other cast is strong and exceptionally played out. Anglade's Jonny, who almost mocks Zena and her philosophies throughout the film, is vital to allow the more dreamer aspects of the script shine, but it is Madsen that steals my attention.

It is a brave move casting against type at any time, but when a film is so reliant on critical acclaim and bums on seats to survive, so many film makers wouldn’t take that risk. Director Jane Spencer has taken her stage-play experience and produced a stunning performance from Madsen in what is only her third feature film. Under Spencer's watchful eye Madsen has shrugged off any stereotype of a Hollywood bad-ass that he may have had and shows a delicate side as Bob. Gone are the perceived violent tendencies that Madsen normally exudes onto the screen and in its place is a sensitive performance worthy of any Best Actor Oscar performance of the last two decades.

The story, script, cinematography, casting and performances excel any heights of many other independent films and it all makes me ask the question Why doesn't Hollywood make these types of films? Why do great actors have to do the festival circuit to be noticed? A lot is made of the lack of female directors in Hollywood at the moment and I beg studio executives to put a decent budget in the hands of Jane Spencer, you will not regret it.

Stunning, thoughtful, brilliant, I could go on but I would run out of superlatives.

Image - Raindance.