Anthology films are a good training ground for young filmmakers to flex their muscles and really get creative. However, with Eros, the three filmmakers have already been around the block a time or two, and on the surface, that could be considered a good thing. But when you consider what Michaelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh, and Kar-Wai Wong, are already capable of, these shorts seem a bit of a letdown. The best segment is Soderbergh’s “Equilibrium,” with its symbolic stylistic effects and wry sense of hu…or. It was the only one of these vignettes, which seemed neither cliché (“The Hand” – Kar-Wai) nor pointless (“The Dangerous Thread of Things” – Antonioni). In “Equilibrium,” Robert Downey Jr. plays a man caught up in an ambiguous dream world, who explains his situation to an eccentric psychiatrist (Alan Arkin). Arkin’s psychiatrist is a capable man, but he often uses his patients’ discussion time to do other less constructive things (i.e. stare out the window with binoculars, fly paper airplanes to the street below, etc.). The whole time, he is equally capable of dispensing advice and helping his patients get to the root of their issues. There are three color schemes in this segment (black-and-white; all blue, natural), all of which add artistic flare by making each portion a genre in and of itself. And in the blue portion (Downey’s recurring dream), the camera bobs slowly from side to side, giving an off-equilibrium effect, which is contrasted in the other two portions.
In “The Hand,” Kar-Wai proves himself a quality director, while the story of fading love and devotion rekindled for one final farewell lacks the intrigue of similar – and better executed – works. However, the performances by the two lead stars are solid. Unfortunately, even that perk is missing from the uninspired Antonioni contribution. “The Dangerous Thread of Things,” meanders about with all the importance of a porno (but without the excessive sex and nudity those, who might find such fare entertaining, are interested in seeing). It’s not a flattering introduction to the works of the great Italian director. As for storytelling, I’m not sure he even attempted to dabble in it here. Stick with Blow-Up, if you want a primer on Antonioni.
Eros is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation and looks great. Again, “Equilibrium” is the most dynamic and striking inclusion. Soderbergh seems to be the only director in on the joke, so to speak, with each of his subtle style experiments paying huge dividends to the interested viewer. The other two segments are as dull and boring as their content, though they do boast crisp, clear pictures. It’s just that “Equilibrium” uses its visuals to do more than just fill up disc space. It tells a story and even engages the senses.
The 5.1 tracks – there are three of them (Mandarin, English, and Italian) – are all high in volume and deliver full rendering for dialogue and background noise. The five speakers do have some wasted moments, due to the largely conversational style of each segment, but when it’s all working together, the flaws are non-existent. The musical score between segments and during opening and closing credits is a soothing highlight.
Bonus materials are few, with only a trailer for the film and Antonioni’s self-indulgent waste of time Michaelangelo: Eye-to-Eye included. The trailer makes the film look like a thriller rather than an experiment in erotica, and the short film will leave you scratching your head as to what it’s doing on this disc.
Eros gives its viewers about 50 out of 100 minutes of worthwhile viewing. Still, the 50 good minutes are hardly worth Warner’s steep asking price. Despite a fine A/V presentation, the faults of this release are far too many to endorse a purchase. Fans of Soderbergh – enjoy. Just don’t waste over 20 bucks doing so, or you will live to regret it.
Special Features List
- Michaelangelo: Eye-to-Eye