Dir/scr: Wong Kar Wai,Steven Soderbergh Michelangelo Antonioni (screenplay with Tonino Guerra).Fr-It-Lux. 2004. 108 mins.
"I wanted my name on aposter with Michelangelo Antonioni," is Steven Soderbergh's stated reason forcoming on board the three-part portmanteau film Eros. Having seen thefilm, one wonders if Soderbergh will now be asking distributors to take hisname off the posters.
For while his and Hong Kongart-house darling Wong Kar Wai's contributions to this six-hander are bothstimulating variations on the theme of "eros", the Italian maestro's effort isjust plain embarrassing, coming across as a Woody Allen parody of a 1960sEuropean sex-and-existentialism feature.
A resolutely specialisedtitle from the outset, Eros will be hampered further by itstwo-out-of-three hit rate and is unlikely to reach much of an audience outsideits two main co-production territories, France and Italy. Wong Kar Wai'sdedicated fan base, and to a lesser extent Soderbergh's, will be the maincustomers for auxiliary sales and rentals.
The Hong Kong director'ssegment, The Hand, is a minor-key reprise of the suppressed desire themeof In The Mood For Love with Gong Li standing in for the Maggie Cheungcharacter.
Lee plays a beautiful HongKong courtesan, Hua Yibao, whose man-eating glory years and subsequent declineto streetwalking are shown through the eyes of Xioa Zhang (Chang Chen, thedesert bandit from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), a hopelesslyenamoured tailor's apprentice who keeps Hua supplied with stunning high-colouredsilk dresses.
Chris Doyle once againtranslates Wong Kar Wai's vision into slow, careful, caressing images; and thetwo leads are immaculate.
Soderbergh's contribution, Equilibrium,is a quirky 1950s period piece that interprets the given theme in a Freudiankey. Comic and off-beat, it is worth seeing just for the dazzling actors' duelbetween Robert Downey Jr and Alan Arkin who play, respectively, an advertisingcopywriter tormented by a recurring dream, and a shrink more interested in whatis happening outside the window than his patient.
This is a witty, stylish andthough-provoking divertissement, given added value by the black and whitephotography of the central section, which pushes the tonal contrasts of classic1950s Hollywood noir to chiaroscuro extremes.
And so to Antonioni and TheDangerous Thread of Things. A man argues with his transparent-bloused wifeon a beach; she wanders off; he meets a beautiful stranger, gets distracted bythe view while she pleasures herself but eventually does the decent thing andjumps on board. Later, his wife prances in her birthday suit around anotherbeach where the beautiful stranger happens to be sunbathing in her own birthdaysuit.
But the film ends,inexplicably before the hot chick-on-chick action can begin. The stiltedEnglish dialogue sounds like it was rendered from Italian to English viaSwahili using the Google automatic translation machine; the only laugh comeswhen one of the characters says "funny, isn't it - you're always looking forpurity, and end up in shit".
The three disparate episodesare superglued together by linking sequences featuring illustrations by artistLorenzo Mattotti (he of the 2000 Cannes Festival poster) and a hummable tributesong entitled Michelangelo by the great Brazilian singer-songwriterCaetano Veloso. Though pleasant enough, these segues only serve to paper overthe cracks.
Prod cos: Block 2 Pictures, Jet Tone Films, Ipso Facto, RoissyFilms, Solaris, Cite Films Production, Fandango, Delux
Int'l sales: Roissy Films
Prods: Raphael Berdugo, StephaneTchal Gadjieff, Jacques Bar, Jackie Pang Yee Wah, Gregory Jacobs, DomenicoProcacci
Cine: Christopher Doyle, PeterAndrews, Marco Pontecorvo
Ed: William Chan Suk Ping, Soderbergh, Claudio Di Mauro
Prod des: William Chang Suk Ping,Philip Messina, Stefano Luci
Music: Peter Raben, ChicoO'Farrill, Tito Puente, Enrica Antonioni, Vinicio Milani
Main cast: Gong Li, Chang Chen,Robert Downey Jr, Alan Arkin, Christopher Buchholz, Regina Nemni, Luisa Ranieri