In this day and age, anthologies almost never make it to a movie screen. If they do, they are directed by the same director and have unifying story lines or characters. "Pulp Fiction" and "Sin City" are essentially anthologies. As late as the 70s, anthologies were a little more prevalent. The project would give different directors the opportunity to create a shorter film, based on a unifying theme, all of which would be presented together. The payoff for the public is that they have the opportunity to see new work from a favorite director while experiencing new work by someone they may be unfamiliar with. This seems to be the thinking behind "Eros". From what I have read, Soderbergh and Wong wanted to opportunity to work with Antonioni, a filmmaker they respect and admire. Antonioni has created many films considered to be classics of World Cinema; the most familiar of these is probably "Blow Up".
Each filmmaker created a short story about eroticism. Wong Kar-Wai's "The Hand" opens the film, followed by Soderbergh's "Equilibrium" and then Antonioni's "The Dangerous Thread of All Things". The only thing holding the three films together is that they are, ostensibly, meant to be erotic. That is up to your interpretation. Because the films were created in different places, by different directors, have different actors, etc., it is important to first look at each film as a separate entity.
Wong Kar-Wai's "The Hand" tells the story of a young tailor's apprentice sent to the home of a prostitute to make her a dress. Waiting for his appointment, he overhears the woman with her last client. Called in to meet her, she notices that he appears to be `excited'. This leads to one of the most erotic moments I have ever seen on film. Their relationship is a tortured and painful journey over the course of a few years.
One of my favorite films is "In the Mood for Love", made by Wong in 2000. In it, two people living in Hong Kong, circa 1950, find a measure of companionship with each other as their spouses neglect them. They live next to each other, making the possibility of a relationship all the more challenging. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung navigate their characters through the labyrinth of Hong Kong, glancing at each other longingly, avoiding any appearance of impropriety. The cinematography is also very lush and beautiful. In "The Hand", we revisit Hong Kong of the past and it would appear to be a companion piece to "...Love". Gong Li plays the prostitute and Chen Chang plays the young tailor. It is a very moving, visually interesting piece of filmmaking.
Soderbergh treats us to "Equilibrium" starring Robert Downey Jr. and Alan Arkin. Less straight forward than its predecessor, the short tells the story of a stressed ad exec who visits his therapist to discuss an erotic dream. The scenes with Downey Jr. and Arkin are shot in black and white and the dreams are shot in color. This is really the most significant artistic contribution of this segment. I get the feeling that there is a "hook" to this story. If this is the case, the "hook" is really sophomoric. Or perhaps, I just didn't get it. Soderbergh deserves credit for trying, for attempting something new, I only wish these experiments would yield better results. In the last few years, his `experiments' have yielded "Full Frontal" and "Solaris", two of the worst films I have ever seen.
Antonioni's segment is also one of the worst pieces of filmmaking I have ever seen. Opening with a couple lounging outside of their home in the Italian countryside, they fight while the wife is sunbathing topless. As they leave, she puts on a flimsy top and they drive through the country to the beach. At the beach, they have lunch in a restaurant next to a large family. The husband spots a woman riding her horse on the beach. The husband follows the woman to her tower (I'm not kidding) and they have sex. The wife drives out to a field and spots a herd of horses. Then she gets a phone call from her husband, who is in Paris and says the `snow is calming him'. Then the wife is dancing nude on the beach and she comes across the mistress who is sunbathing nude on the beach. They smile at each other. No, I'm not kidding. That is the entire segment. Sorry, if I spoiled anything for you, but let's face it, there's nothing to spoil. It is just bad, bad, bad filmmaking.
The segment is composed of a series of shots which seem to have almost no connection. They appear to be the footnotes of a longer film. Perhaps, the segment is meant to be a homage to the type of foreign films made in the 70s, but that would only serve to reinforce stereotypes of these films. The series of shots I have described are exactly what someone unfamiliar with great films from other countries expects a foreign film to be like. Slow, pretentious, uninvolving, filled with `imagery'. How deep! The segment really serves as an unintentional parody of foreign films.
Also, I am almost positive that the actors are not speaking Italian, or else their voices were dubbed, badly. A while back, I remember watching Visconti's "The Leopard". I was attracted to the film because I am a huge Burt Lancaster fan, but couldn't watch the film because I was so distracted by hearing Lancaster's dubbed voice but watching his lips speak Italian. The same thing happened in this short segment.
I fully understand that Soderbergh and Wong wanted to work with someone they greatly admired. If given the opportunity, I would resurrect a number of great directors and actors from the grave to work on a film with them. But they also have an obligation to the people paying to watch this film. They must have seen that Antonioni's segment was, at the very least, slow. It is incomprehensible to me that they would include such a poor piece of filmmaking in an otherwise acceptable project. I can't believe their vision was that clouded.
Judging each of the segments separately, the best begins the film and the worst ends it. Looking at the project as a whole, it is a shame that the Antonioni segment is included at all, but at least you can stop the DVD after Soderbergh's story. When you rent it. At home.