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Warner Home Video presents
"Never touched a woman before, have you? Then how can you be a tailor? You'll be touching many women."
DVD ReviewThe first thing that comes to my mind when I think "anthology film" is something in the horror genre. Memorable entries like Creepshow, Trilogy of Terror, and the more recent Three...Extremes are rooted in terror. Every now and then, an anthology film comes along that is far removed from any horrific elements, and the 2004 effort, Eros, is a trilogy of erotic tales from three of cinema's most respected directors.
Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood For Love, 2046), Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Bubble), and Michelangelo Antonioni (L' Avventura, Blowup) represent a lineup that makes any cineaste shudder with joyous anticipation. However, Eros is a disappointment in the sense that only one of these extraordinary filmmakers are at the top of their game. Wong Kar Wai's segment is the first and best of the shorts, crafting the perfect erotic mood and getting the best out of his actors as always. Soderbergh is next, but his piece is hardly erotic, and is only saved by a neat twist of a finale. The elder statesman of the trio, Antonioni, gives us the most disappointing segment. His film is all over the place, with the end result seeming to be a man's decision between two women, one of which he has always known, and one that is forbidden.
An early scene in The Hand finds a tailor (Chang Chen) in Ms. Hua's (Gong Li) apartment, where he can clearly hear her making passionate love to another man. We never see the act, utilizing the power of sound to create a perfect tone of eroticism. If the rest of the segments had used half as much sensuality in such a simple thing as sound design, the project, as a whole, would have been much better. The rest of this tale of a "love that can never be" is sad, with an ending that opens the door for a possibility that is even more heartbreaking. Wong Kar Wai is a master at crafting erotic tone, and despite the similar settings in his more recent films, his vision is always fresh and powerful.
I'm not really sure what Steven Soderbergh is trying to accomplish in Equilibrium, other than an oddly comic take on psychiatry. A downtrodden salesman (Robert Downey Jr.) visits a psychiatrist (Alan Arkin) to turn his fortunes around. While he talks about a dream he's been having involving a beautiful naked woman, the doctor is clearly distracted, constantly motioning to someone outside and even throwing a paper airplane. This turns out to be a tedious exercise in masking a weak story with snappy dialogue and comedic physical acting by Arkin. Both actors are good, but not at their best, however the big reveal at the end proves worth the wait. It's just too bad that the slow, frankly boring lead-up makes it difficult to recommend this entry.
Antonioni's The Dangerous Thread of Things is the least of the collection; a real shock coming from one of the world's most respected directors. It's nice to see him stick to his guns and exhibit the same deep symbolism and dark themes that put him on the international map, but despite his intentions, the sum of these parts just doesn't add up to anything. Antonioni tells the story of Christopher (Christopher Buchholz) and his lover, Cloe (Regina Nemni). They take a trip to the beach despite constant bickering, where Christopher meets Linda (Luisa Ranieri), whom he is instantly drawn to. Erotic acts ensue, and no one seems to get hurt emotionally, leaving us with a pointless ending that is an unsatisfying head-scratcher. It's too bad that Eros has to end on such a sour note, but most of the film is a prime example of missed opportunity.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer stays true to each of the filmmakers' stylistic choices. The dark tones used by Wong Kar Wai look great, thanks to well-handled black and shadow levels. Colors come into play for Soderbergh's film, which features stark shifts between black-and-white images and bright, vivid hues. Antonioni has always excelled in using beautiful locations to his advantage, and this transfer allows these images to sparkle with sharp detail. There's hardly any dirt or grain, with what little there is appearing during the Wong Kar Wai film.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: All three short films are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, with the languages varying between them. This is a wonderfully atmospheric mix, with active surround usage and nice bass presence. For some reason, Antonioni's film was dubbed in Italian, even though the actors' lip movement suggests it was originally recorded in English. Despite that odd choice, the track is solid, overall, with crisp and clear dialogue throughout.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA great idea with a surprisingly sub par result, Eros is worth a look for curiosity if nothing else. This project has been available overseas for quite some time, finally hitting a few stateside theaters late in 2005. A Hong Kong import DVD has also been on the market for a while, with Warner Home Video presenting it on domestic DVD for the first time here. Comparisons have already been made, focusing on a bit of trimming done to the Antonioni film, but this disc is better technically. The bonus short film, Michelangelo Eye to Eye, is a sure selling point for this release, but completists might want to own both this and the import disc.
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