Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eros


Eros is a anthology or a triptych of three short films on the same titular theme directed by Wong Kar-wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni. Actually the project was conceived as a homage to Antonioni who with his trilogy of movies L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse (and I'm a big fan of all three) in the early sixties virtually redefined movie eroticism. These three movies take an extremely pessimistic view of eros and its place in modern life but the three films collected here are anything but pessimistic. They celebrate eroticism with mournful melancholy (Wong Kar-wai), satirical riffs (Soderbergh) and last, but certainly not the least, full frontal (but extremely tasteful) female nudity (Antonioni).

The first piece by Wong Kar-wai has widely been praised in reviews and rightly so I think. It is called The Hand, and as this review says, "only arthouse good manners forbid adding the suffix '-job'." Wong Kar-wai is first of all a fetishist and it is fitting that clothes which he fetishizes most often are turned into sexual symbols in this film. Gong Li plays a prostitute who uses her (eponymous) hands to make the young and handsome, but shy and inexperienced, ladies' tailor more responsive to the female form. How else will he make great clothes for her? Rather predictably love and heartbreak soon follow. Wong Kar-wai is one of the world's greatest sensualist filmmakers and this short work is a great representative of his style too. There are no big original ideas in his film, he is not concerned with them, he is concerned only with texture of things and how our perceptions and senses work. I am normally not too excited about this style but he is definitely an exception.

The second piece by Soderbergh is relatively slight and I am not sure if I even understood it. An overworked alarm clock salesman is having trouble with a recurring erotic dream but his psychoanalyst is more interested in making paper planes out of his case files while he recounts his dream in detail. It is a slight and mildly amusing work. Also the two actors have a wonderful comic timing.

And finally it is a shame that the job of rescuing eroticism from idiotic teen movies and ugly, dull pornography and hyper-sexualized but deadening pop culture should fall over to a 92 year old, partially paralysed man (he has been paralysed since a stroke in the mid eighties). Antonioni's contribution The Dangerous Thread of Things will no doubt make you laugh with its embarrassingly high-flown dialogues and a completely preposterous narrative but it is also undeniably very erotic, unless one is made of wood or else a very stuffy film critic. A couple vacationing on some European Beach paradise are having some relationship trouble ("why do you always fill the air with empty words") and it looks like some unintentional and clumsy parody of those great Antonioni movies dealing with break-ups. At other place there are dialogues like, and the mysterious 'other' woman asks the man: "Can you handle my chaos? What chaos? Total chaos." It had me laughing like crazy but soon thereafter they also have some wonderful sex. In fact everything is so eroticised (the lead woman is topless (in a see-through) throughout) that a normal scene like a car passing through a narrow doorway with difficulty also acquires a sexual dimension. My only grouse with the film was that in the end when the two women, after cavorting alone in the nude on the beach, finally come face to face, it titillatingly ends without showing anything more! Antonioni got some really bad reviews for this work. He was called a "dirty old man", "a man who got horny in his dotage" and whatnot. Extremely uncharitable I say. Overall I think it is a very healthy experience. And yes the intertitle sequences are amazing too. The image on the poster above is taken from one of those sequences. Heartily recommended.

More reviews here. (mostly bad though, seems no self-respecting critic can like a movie in public which deals with sex without worrying about philosophy of existence and being and, well... Shameful, is all I can say.)

7 comments:

Antonia said...

maybe I should just go more to the movies

Alok said...

yes it is healthier than reading a book because you get to walk and you see lot of people too :)

Antonia said...

oh yes. socialising. shock and horror.

[but here is storm today and the government has said we have to stay at home :)]

Alok said...

haha. you should definitely follow govt's orders :)

and i avoid socialising too but I like observing a lot. in fact it's one of my favourite hobbies!

Antonia said...

yes it is a bit like observing beautiful people. Actually I don't mind socialising that much,but it has to be with the right people, for the older I get the more stingy I get with my time...

anurag said...

Dont you think you slight appeciation for this film is due to your respect for Antonioni(because of his earlier films), but for any merit of this film (other than nice nudity).

and you didnt write even a single adjective for Gong Li :)

Alok said...

anurag: It was tongue in cheek :) of course it is ridiculous! but still it conveys a feeling of eroticism which I found very refreshing. Gong li? I should have added a link to your blog :)

antonia: same with me here. In parties, not that I attend or get invited to many but still, I am always thinking what else could i have done with this time and energy that i am wasting here? :) stingy with time... that's the right attitude.