The idea behind Eros is interesting - three directors come together for three short films about desire and eroticism. Especially when the directors are Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderbergh, and the legendary Michaelangelo Antonioni. This was also a chance for Wai and Soderbergh to pay homage to Antonioni, who influenced their careers. The result leaves much to be desired, as the short films are all over the place.

Wai's (In the Mood for Love, Happy Together) is the first and the best. In fact, the vignettes in Eros are presented from best to worst, separated by short musical interludes. Wai's The Hand takes place in 1960s Hong Kong, a favorite stomping ground of his, and recounts the relationship between Zhang (Chang Chen, Sound of Colors, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), a tailor, and Miss Hua (Gong Li, Zhou Yu's Train, The Emperor and the Assassin), a beautiful prostitute. Upon their first meeting, Hua pleasures Zhang with her hand, and at the crucial moment, asks Zhang to remember the feeling and to put the same feelings into the clothes he makes for her. The years pass, and Zhang dutifully makes beautiful clothes for Hua, who grows older, larger, and becomes unable to pay. Zhang lies to her about her increasing size, and will take no other customers. He knows that she will not accept him as a lover, and he shows his devotion to her by his work. Wai and longtime cinematographer Christopher Doyle again create a beautiful tableau. Hong Kong looks dirty but elegant, and the lights are dim but illuminate everything. Chang and Gong are immaculately dressed, and looks gorgeous. The eroticism drips off the screen.

Equilibrium, by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Twelve, Solaris) is the polar opposite. Soderbergh (under his standard alias Peter Andrews) shot nearly all the scene in crisp black and white. Nick Penrose (Robert Downey, Jr., Gothika, The Singing Detective) had a vivid dream about a beautiful naked woman (Ele Keats, March, Hair Shirt) bathing in the bathroom. He just landed a huge account at work, and wants Dr. Pearl (Adam Arkin, 13 Conversations About One Thing, Noel) to analyze his dream. Pearl is much more interested in something outside his window, and constantly looks outside while Penrose, facing away on the couch, talks on. Equilibrium is hilarious, and superficially has little to do with the theme. This is more about desire, although it's more of a stretch.

Antonioni (Beyond the Clouds, Identification of a Woman) did his best work decades ago. If he is going to continue to make movies like The Dangerous Thread of Things, written by Antonioni and Tonino Guerra (The Dog and the General and the Birds, The Chimp), he should just as well stop. The Dangerous Thread of Things looks beautiful, but Antonioni mistakes eroticism with nudity. Cloe (Regina Nemni, And the Ship Sails On) begins and ends the scene naked, and parades around most of the time with a see-through shirt. Her marriage with Christopher (Christopher Bucholz, Mal de Mer, Luther) is on the rocks. The two spend most of their time arguing. Christopher opts for a tryst with Linda (Luisa Ranieri, The Fugitive, The Prince and the Pirate), a beautiful neighbor. It makes sense, but moves a bit slowly and has all the subtlety of softcore pornography.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 41 minutes, English, Italian, Mandarin, and Cantonese with English subtitles, Rated R for strong sexual content including graphic nudity, and for language.

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