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  • 15
  • Drama
  • 2004
  • 120 mins

Eros

Eros

Synopsis

Directors Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni each contribute to this love triangle of short films on a loosely-linked erotic theme.

About

Like Aria and Two Evil Eyes, like New York Stories and Four Rooms, like 11'09'01-September 11 and Three, like Three Extremes and Tickets, the three-parter Eros is an anthology film, offering a selection of different directors' work in bite-size samples.

Fans of Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood For Love and 2046 will not be disappointed with 'The Hand', which opens Eros. Young apprentice dressmaker Xiao Zhang (Chang) remains under the erotic spell of his first client and love, the exquisitely outfitted courtesan Hua (Gong), and watches his own prosperity increase as she gradually falls from grace.

'The Hand' is a Proustian riff on time, nostalgia and longing, even if it is a hand job rather than a madeleine that keeps the protagonist in memory's firm grip. Despite the focus on masturbation, what Wong really fetishises is the fabrics, designs and textures with which his characters and sets are dressed, making for an elegant mood-piece tailored with immaculate style and aching restraint. Its very perfection overshadows everything else in Eros, making viewers wish, like Zhang, that they could somehow keep going back to a time now lost forever.

The unenviable task of following Wong falls to poor Steven Soderbergh, who accomplishes this rather unexpectedly with the light-hearted enigma 'Equilibrium', featuring Robert Downey Jr and Alan Arkin.

Stressed about his upcoming bid for an advertising contract with a clock manufacturer, and mystified by his inability to recall who the woman (Keats) is in his recurring erotic dream, Nick Penrose (Downey) visits psychiatrist Dr Pearl (Arkin), who seems more interested in whatever he can see out the office window than in his patient's neurotic narrative from the couch. This witty story of conspicuous toupees, elusive lovers, confused identities and snooze alarms provides plenty of entertaining distractions, and has a satisfying twist (if not quite a kink) in its tail.

The final segment, 'The Dangerous Thread Of Things', is the raison d'etre of the entire film, conceived as a short piece by Michelangelo Antonioni on eroticism, with two other pieces on the same theme by younger admirers of Antonioni. Based, like Antonioni's previous feature Beyond The Clouds (1995), on stories from his book 'That Bowling Alley On The Tiber: Tales Of A Director', and with a screenplay by his regular collaborator Tonino Guerra, it dreamily dramatises the breakdown in relations between a middle-aged couple (Buchholz and Nemni), both seduced by a younger other (Ranieri).

'The Dangerous Thread Of Things' employs a dense symbolic landscape of towers, sportscars, apples, butterflies, muddy waters, bolting horses and rusting cockvanes to explore the chasm between sex and love, youth and age, man and woman, life and death - and it also clearly reflects Antonioni's concern with his own advancing years.

Unfortunately it is so heavy-handed and pretentious, with dialogue so unintentionally risible, as to seem less the director's swansong than his agonised death throes. It is as though Tinto Brass had discovered psychoanalysis, and the resulting arty Eurosleaze does few favours to the director of Red Desert and Blow Up.

Despite having in common both their erotic theme (however freely interpreted) and interstitial scenes comprising the amatory artwork of Lorenzo Mattotti to the accompaniment of Caetano Veloso's original song 'Michelangelo Antonioni', perhaps the most surprising thing about these three films, each independently produced, is just how profoundly different from one another they are. It is just a pity that, like so many ménage a trois, Eros begins so wonderfully and yet ends in frustration and tears. Three is a crowd, and Wong and Soderbergh would have got along just fine without Antonioni there to wreck the marriage.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Christopher Buchholz, Chang Chen, Luisa Ranieri, Alan Arkin, Ele Keats, Robert Downey Jr, Regina Nemni, Li Gong
  • Director: Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh, Kar Wai Wong
  • Screen Writer: Tonino Guerra, Michelangelo Antonioni, Kar Wai Wong, Steven Soderbergh
  • Producer: Stéphane Tchalgadjieff, Jacky Yee Wah Pang, Raphael Berdugo, Domenico Procacci, Jacques Bar
  • Photographer: Marco Pontecorvo, Christopher Doyle, Peter Andrews
  • Composer: Vinicio Milani, Paul Ledford, Peer Raben, Enrica Antonioni

In a nutshell

An anthology of erotic shorts that goes from initial ecstasy to disappointing tedium.

by Anton Bitel

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