The best portmanteau pics always have one man directing all the stories. Think Max Ophüls LE PLAISIR/’52; Andrzej Munk EROICA/’57; Woody Allen EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX//’72; Vittorio De Sica L’ORO DI NAPOLI/54. So, there’s little surprise in EROS having three very uneven parts. The opening section, and the only reason to watch, finds Kar Wai Wong putting two favorite actors (Li Gong & Chen Chang) thru a favorite theme (unrequited love). It’s a tale about an aging beauty-for-hire, the dressmaker she has a literal hold on, and a fever that passes between them, also literal. Mesmerizing, slow and exquisite, it hardly represents anything new on the Wong palette, but it’s a fine encore to his larger doses of romantic fatalism. Steven Soderbergh is next up with, of all things, a sketch out of YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. (That's be purposefully left out of YSoS.) A high-contrast b&w laugh-free wheeze with Alan Arkin in the Carl Reiner spot as a distracted shrink and Robert Downey, Jr. in the Sid Caesar spot (well, Sid as George Clooney) playing an alarm clock exec in full crisis mode. A couple of full color bookends point to a dream within a dream scenario, but this remains a one-joke dud that might have played better on some private occasion. Finally, a fillip from Michelangelo Antonioni, a spent force long before his mid-‘80s stroke. He’s still gazing at beautiful nonentities who are unable to communicate. At least they can dance. Or, the nude girls can, on a beach, offering non-verbal communication a la Isodora Duncan. Sad stuff to watch. (Included on the disc is a ginned up visit by a digitally mobilized Antonioni getting Up Close & Personal with that other Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, the one with the horns on his head.* The idea that our appreciation of Michelangelo is conditioned upon his appreciation of Michelangelo is a bit much.)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Cecil B. De Mille thought his Moses, Charlton Heston, looked just like the Michelangelo. But here, in some big close-ups, the marble looks more like Laurence Olivier.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: As mentioned above, try an anthology film by a single director. And keep your fingers crossed for a quick DVD release of the restored De Sica GOLD OF NAPLES. The ‘missing’ segment about a little boy’s funeral is stunning. Naturally, the distributors loped it off for the Stateside market. Technically, the brief segment shows the unmistakable influence of Ophüls on De Sica who had just co-starred in Max's EARRINGS OF MADAME DE . . . /’53.