March 13, 2006
Aside from the box office failure of the uneven Four Rooms (1995), there are very few high profile anthology films being made. Along comes Eros (2004) that features a collection of three short films exploring eroticism via three distinctive filmmakers: Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni.
“The Hand” by Wong Kar-Wai feels like an outtake from In the Mood For Love (2000) or his more recent 2046 (2004) with its retro look – Hong Kong in the ‘60s. It seems to exist in the same world as those two movies and concerns a tailor (Chen) who is enlisted to make a dress for a high class prostitute (Li). He becomes infatuated with her.
Wong employs the same sumptuous production values as in the aforementioned Mood for Love and 2046, evoking a bygone era. Chang Chen, with his pencil-thin moustache and slicked-back hairdo resembles Tony Leung’s character in these two movies. Wong continues his reoccurring theme of people who never truly connect with each other because of society’s restrictive social etiquette. This is a gorgeous looking movie, thanks to Christopher Doyle’s textured cinematography.
“Equilibrium” by Steven Soderbergh adopts a film noir look with its rich, black and white cinematography as a man (Downey) describes a woman he dreamed about to his psychiatrist (Arkin) who is clearly thinking of other things. Robert Downey, Jr. plays his character as an anxiety-ridden mess who describes his dream while Alan Arkin as his disinterested psychiatrist spies on someone out a nearby window.
The first shot we get of the man is a prototypical noir image: the shadow of venetian blinds falling across the room. Soderbergh’s segment takes on a more playful tone as the psychiatrist would rather be doing anything other than listening to his patient. The director alternates between atmospheric black and white segments and the man’s dream in colour, saturated by a cool blue colour scheme.
“The Dangerous Thread of Things” by Michelangelo Antonioni begins with a dysfunctional couple who bicker constantly. Inexplicably, they drive out to a waterfall and spot two naked women frolicking and singing. Are they sirens? They go to a restaurant and watch a woman ride by on a horse. She comes in for an apple for her animal and we find out that she lives in an old tower. The man is so taken by her that he seeks her out and has sex with her.
As par for the course with Antonioni in the autumn of his career, there are beautiful women and their naked bodies on display. Unfortunately, this is coupled with laughably pretentious dialogue and imagery. There are also laugh out loud, silly moments, like a shot of a naked woman dancing carefreely on a beach. This segment is beautifully shot but is ultimately quite daft.
Each short film has its own unique look and tone but as a whole this anthology is uneven. Wong’s segment is easily the strongest with Soderbergh’s comical one breaking things up before we slide into the epitome of arty pretension with Antonioni’s short.
Things improve with another Antonioni short film entitled, “Michelangelo Eye to Eye” that dramatizes a 2004 visit to San Pietro in Vincoli. There is some truly breathtaking architecture on display with huge pillars dwarfing a man. Also on display is some exquisite use of light and shadow that envelopes the man and his surroundings. This is a more contemplative short film that should have been included with the other segments instead of the pretentious twaddle of “Dangerous Thread.”
Also included is a theatrical trailer.