Eros (2004)

Zach Hines

Wong Kar-Wai's section follows Miss Hua (Gong Li in some of the most gorgeous dresses ever photographed), a sultry but also wistful Hong Kong call girl.


Director: Steven Soderbergh
Display Artist: Michelangelo Antonioni, Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
Cast: Li Gong, Chen Chang, Robert Downey Jr., Alan Arkin
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2005-04-08 (Limited release)

The thematic center of Eros is erotic desire. The formal conceit is more daring and less interesting: divided into three parts, it's designed as a "tribute to" Michelangelo Antonioni, who directs one section, with others by Wong Kar-Wai and Steven Soderbergh. And its misconception is obvious from the start: it opens with a series of drawings, suggestively posed figures on faux oriental tapestries, set to a charming, mildly romantic, Caetano Veloso song (a tribute to Antonioni). It's adult contemporary eroticism.

The tone shifts with Wong Kar-Wai's The Hand, which hits its mark (and is fortuitously set as the first piece, giving you an opportunity to duck out early.) Set in the 1960s, it follows Miss Hua (Gong Li in some of the most gorgeous dresses ever photographed), a sultry but also wistful Hong Kong call girl. Following a passionate and random sexual encounter, her tailor, Zhang (Chang Chen), becomes lost in a web of infatuation. Their intimate (and random) encounter has awakened a passion for life inside of him that he focuses on his dressmaking. His desire reaches a boiling point after Miss Hua contracts an illness and becomes a shell of what she once was. Zhang sees his chance to reawaken her in much the same way that she has done for him.

Their passion builds up until it informs every gesture. But, unlike the other two sections, Wong Kar-Wai's doesn't focus on a kinesthesis of desire at the expense of an emotional undercarriage. The Hand ends with a fragile and wounded Zhang staring into the narrow confines of his tailor shop, his eyes misting with his yet unrealized yearning. The vulnerability of this tableau is far sexier than everything else in Eros. The Hand distills the intimacy and frustration of Wong's greatest films (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express) down to a quarter of the length of last year's 2046 without losing any of its emotional impact.

And so it's a shame that Soderbergh's decidedly un-erotic, one-note show, Equilibrium, is so tedious and trite. A half-realized exercise in which Nick (Robert Downey Jr.) is a patient of psychiatrist Dr. Pearl (Alan Arkin), it serves primarily as segueway to Antonioni's pretentiously titled The Dangerous Thread of Things (Il Filo pericoloso delle cose). Featuring the most skin and the most direct treatment of sex of the three, this section focuses on the interrelations of Christopher (Christopher Buchholzm), Chloe (Regina Nemni), and Linda (Luisa Ranieri).

While Wong Kar-Wai's eroticism is complemented by Christopher Doyle's camera's too-closeness, Antonioni's evocation suffers from the opposite problem. Since it doesn't generate sympathy for its bickering characters, the eventual sex scene seems listless, even strangely pornographic. Antonioni's films are often characterized by their passion and eroticism, usually illustrated with innovative and suggestive camerawork. But here the angles and framing are secondary to the bodies, which fail to elicit any emotional response from the viewer. The characters' serial pairings are increasingly intercut with long, seemingly thoughtful looks at the pretty countryside (hollowly echoing Antonioni's trademark exploration of space, epitomized in L'avventura), until their dialogue finally dries up completely, and the old master brings it on home with some nude new wave movement exercises on the beach. Eros aims high. But aside from Wong Kar-Wai's effectively compressed erotic musings, it falls short.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.