Robert Downey Jr.
The compendium flick is a rather odd beast – generally the preserve of arthouse cinemas and trendy, kitschy festivals. Line up two or three directors, get each to make a short film about the same subject, and you might get a decent hour and a half made up of a few carefully chosen vignettes, each one with enough ideas entertain and none of them long enough to get boring.
This premise has a more mainstream variation: one director weaving several short stories into one whole. At its best this type of storytelling can be powerful entertainment – Pulp Fiction has shown just how good the format can be. But it’s a dangerous way to go as well: more stories means more characters, more plots and more directions. Done without proper consideration, the whole thing can dissolve into a mess, confusing the outcome and drowning decent ideas with mediocre ones – see Richard Curtis’ abysmal Love Actually for details.
This is a problem which Eros, a 3 part compendium movie, wrestles with from the start. Linked distantly by themes of impossible love, its three sections form rather amorphous parts, none quite sure why the others are there.
It opens with Wong Kar Wai’s slow, meditative The Hand. Chen Chang is a tailor to Gong Li, a fading, jaded prostitute, desperately looking for someone to cling on to. As Gong Li’s life slowly dissolves around her, roles are gradually reversed and hidden desire is exposed. Beautifully shot and pleasingly acted, it’s nevertheless perhaps a little too languorous, drifitng towards a conclusion but never quite seeming to get there. It may seem peverse to criticise a short movie for being too long: but it was. A short takes one idea, a couple of characters and one joke or premise, explores them fully – then quits. Kar Wai sets up them all, but can’t get out quick enough.
Soderbergh’s effort, Equilibrium, is undoubtedly the highlight – a witty, concise tale. Robert Downey Jr. is the advertising executive dreaming of an impossible women and an impossible advertising campaign, talking it over with Alan Arkin, who reprises the psychiatrist role that he pulled off so well in Grosse Pointe Blank. Short, funny and great watching, it’s let down by what follows.
Which is some cheap softcore from aged Italian director Antonioni. Trapped on an incomprehensible love island, a man cavorts with an impossible duo of naked italian girls, each one more ready than the next to take off her clothes. Supposedly lessons are learnt about failing love and doomed romance – if so, I missed them completely, lost in Luisa Ranieris cleavage.
In the end it’s not terrible, it’s just hard to understand what it was doing altogether. Most of all, it does what any multi-part movie usually does – confuses the issue without resolving anything. A shame.