Ninety-two-year-old Michelangelo Antonioni is having an intercontinental threesome. His sort-of tribute Eros compiles three independently produced short films loosely draped around the themes of “love and desire.” The most fun section is the middle one, Equilibrium, Steven Soderbergh’s brisk tour-de-fizz. Everything about it tickles: two of the driest voices in movies, Robert Downey, Jr. and Alan Arkin, deadpan through a shrink’s session shot in teasing monochrome, discussing the breezily jumbled implications of a semi-erotic dream.
Eros puts its gravest foot forward with Wong Kar-Wai’s chronicle of repressed passion, The Hand. As a lady (Gong Li) and her tailor (Chang Chen) circle each other at arm’s length, Wong constricts his would-be lovers, framing them with a static camera, in dim interiors with a brooding palette as bottled up as their longing. Sealing the story within a world where even the passage of time is vague background draws Li and Chen’s muted suffering into acute focus, but the prolonging of their misery is, eventually, as much oppressive as evocative.
If Wong is earthbound, Antonioni’s The Dangerous Thread of Things practically floats away. The thread, such as it is, weaves through an embittered married couple and their airy neighbor, but in his dotage Antonioni is more interested in frayed strands. There’s no logic behind the moment when a character languidly rolls an empty wine glass across the floor, or for the wild horses in the background of another scene, but their elusiveness lingers past explanation. As Antonioni ages, he seems more inclined let the contents of his head play out onscreen; this may be the last glimpse afforded us, and it’s certainly worth looking in.