| April 11, 2005

As the title implies, this is a film about love and sex- or rather it was supposed to have been a film about love and sex. Divided into three segments, each vignette was written and directed by three different filmmakers: Kar Wai Wong, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni. By the way, did you happen to notice that they’re all men? Now, I’m not going to go on some feminist rant here. If three women had directed the film I would have the same complaint. Where’s the viewpoint of the opposite sex? A movie about love that has no female representation? Regardless, though, this film is missing more than just the perspective of the gentler sex. It’s ironic that Soderbergh’s vignette should be called Equilibrium for in general this film has very little of it.
At least Eros opens strong. Of the three directors, Kar Wai Wong by far has the most interesting tale to tell. In his segment entitled The Hand (which is very apt indeed), he follows the impossible love affair between a high-end call girl and her devoted tailor. Although the story itself is nothing new- a man in love with a woman whom he can never have- it is the subtle eroticism of the narrative which makes it so appealing to watch. Unlike so many typical Hollywood films where the characters go from first kiss to first copulation within minutes, the sexual tension between these two characters is stretched out over many years. Yet all the while, the desire is evident within every encounter they share. Whether it is merely a look or a momentary embrace, these would-be lovers let their passion for one another simmer in every scene…
Then we have the second segment, Steven Soderbergh’s aforementioned Equilibrium. I must say, he certainly took an unusual approach in telling a story of love and sex, mostly because there is so little of either throughout this tale. Yet it opens promisingly enough. A woman readies herself in a hotel room after what is clearly an afternoon tryst. However, it soon becomes clear that not only are we watching her, but also there is someone else in that room following her every move. But ah ha! It was only a dream. Abruptly, we enter the black and white interior of a 1950s psychiatrist’s office. A Mr. Penrose (Robert Downey Jr.) is in the middle of explaining to his shrink (Alan Arkin) that he is “out of balance.” For one, his wife is very upset about these sordid dreams that he’s having. Moreover, he just doesn’t have any more good ideas to pitch at work. What is he to do? And might I add, just where have we gone in this film? For the next half-hour, we are treated to Downey’s droning on about the dream which we just witnessed while Arkin regresses to middle school, spying out his window with binoculars and throwing paper airplanes at some unidentified acquaintance. All the while, he coaches Penrose along and eventually helps him to think up a great new idea for work. Yet how this has anything to do with love and sex is beyond me. To be fair, the segment does bounce back to Penrose’s dream one more time. Both the mystery woman and another cutesy twist are revealed, but neither is any kind of revelation about either love or sex. Hmm…
Unfortunately, Eros can’t recover with Michelangelo Antonioni’s contribution, which is the third and final segment of the film. Now for the record, the randomness of this filmmaker’s narrative was not the problem. That’s just par for the course with Antonioni. If anything, it was the lack of imagination from this gifted director that was the real disappointment. In his The Dangerous Thread of Things, we follow a couple that is on the brink of breaking up. They argue. They walk. They have lunch. They walk some more. They argue some more. Okay, let’s see where this is going. Yet when the irate girlfriend finally gives up and storms off, so too does the story take a detour for the worse. We are then treated to a “no names please” rendezvous with a third party and another cutesy turn of events where two of the three characters later on run into each other. Hence, the clever title. Sidenote- they just happen to bump into each other while completely nude. Those crazy Europeans! I’ll tell ya!
So, folks, how do I even end this one? Well, I’m over the whole “no female representation” thing. I was never one to hold grudges anyway. What I can’t let go of, however, is that two of these three talented filmmakers so obviously missed the mark on this one. Without a doubt, there are infinite ways to tell a tale about love and sex, which is why Soderbergh and Antonioni have no excuses here. One out of three might be good odds in Vegas, but for Eros I just can’t say the same.

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