Can't Take My Eyes Off You

Wong's 'Hand' Offers Cinephilic Foreplay in 'Eros'

As if aroused by the M-SPIFF's nascent scent of softcore cinephilia, the Lagoon mounts a rare entry in the art film's most buff-oriented subgenre: the auteur omnibus movie about S-E-X. International film-fest studs Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar-wai join sex, lies, and videotape's Steven Soderbergh in contributing a half-hour segment apiece to Eros, which no one vaguely familiar with the omnibus tradition (or the titular god) will be surprised to discover leaves...uh, a bit to be desired. Neither is it surprising that Wong's "The Hand"--his fifth work since In the Mood for Love and his fifth to lament that movie's lament(!)--would appear first and feel like foreplay toward a climax that never comes. The rain still drips like tears in Wong's faintly lit alleyways, the paint in his narrow corridors continues to peel, the floral-print curtains in his '60s drawing rooms still billow in the breeze--but the colors have faded and the ache of unrequited love has been replaced by the memory of a hand job that a melancholy tailor's assistant (Tony Leung stand-in Chang Chen) won't allow to recede. If this short about a lonely tailor left to fondle the fabric looks a little threadbare by its maker's exquisite standards, that not only suits the theme of lost Love, but makes sense in the context of Wong's preoccupation with an altogether sexier project (the forthcoming 2046). Maybe "The Hand," despite being named for a part of Gong Li, isn't a date movie in the popular definition. But especially since Soderbergh's "Equilibrium" and Antonioni's "The Dangerous Thread of Things" are, respectively, boring and boring, single cineastes looking to score might well borrow an old omnibus trick from yours truly, who took a date to New York Stories in 1989 and pulled her out after the first episode--that being Martin Scorsese's. At the risk of sounding like Will Smith in Hitch here, I'll suggest that no fewer than three seductive signals can be sent to your date by such an act of cinematic interruptus. First: I'm the sort who devotes himself exclusively to one person--just like I devote myself to one director, for example. Second: I can afford two tickets to a movie regardless of whether we leave a third of the way through--really, I can. And finally: I'm sorry, babe, but I simply cannot take my eyes off you for more than half an hour.

 
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