Monday, May 22, 2006

Eros: Grade B



Directors = Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderbergh, Michelangelo Antonioni

Three short movies, one by each of the directors, on the subject of eros in the original sense of bodily love (as opposed to mere sexuality). Wong’s is easily the best, a story set in China (subtitled) of tailor who makes clothes for a haughty call girl (Gong Li), falls in love with her from his close distance of fitting clothes to her body. The last scene repeats the first, but we only understand it in the last. Beautiful photography and daring camera work. A miniature masterpiece.
The second, by Soderbergh has Alan Arkin as psychiatrist to Robert Downey Jr.’s anxious advertising man of the 1950s. Artful mostly B&W, emphasizing slanting window light through louvered blinds. Well acted, humorous, thought-provoking, but doesn’t have much to do with the theme of eros.
The third piece, by Antonioni, has a young Italian couple (subtitled) each encountering a mysterious woman who lives in a stone tower by the sea. There is a vague narrative, but mostly scenes loosely connected, Fellini-like. The guy flirts with tower-woman, but she inexplicably leaves him on the roof and goes to her bed where she strips and starts masturbating. He, inexplicably, stays on the roof, looking at the scenery. (It would have been a better story if they had each masturbated separately.) The camera returns to her, now inexplicably wearing a thong. Like she put underwear on for a better effect? It could only be a postproduction afterthought, revealing the director’s ambivalence about sexuality. The whole scene should have been cut anyway since the theme is not sex. Finally, the guy finds her and they have sex shown from the waist up, so we can only guess about the thong. Then the guy’s girlfriend and tower-woman twirl around naked on the beach, for no reason, in a very beautiful scene.
An enjoyable disc, despite being only a male POV, but the kind of cinema one likes to talk about afterward; not pornographic or biological, not sex but eros.

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