Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Lucia Siposová, Gabriela Marcinkova, Johannes Krisch, Danica Jurcová, Moritz Bleibtreu, Jamel Debbouze, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Djemel Barek, Juliano Cazarré, Maria Flor, Ben Foster, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Mark Ivanir
Written by: Peter Morgan
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity and language
Language: English, German, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/09/2011
IMDB

360 (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Going in Circles

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles exploded on the scene a decade ago with City of God. According to the Oscars and several internet fan clubs, this is one of the greatest movies of all time. But to me it was just a retread of things like GoodFellas, Pulp Fiction, and Boogie Nights, transported to a dynamic new setting: the ghettos of Brazil. In other words, it was a movie that wore a disguise to cover up what it was lacking.

Meirelles probably let all the attention go to his head because, for his next film, he tried for more accolades. He made an English-language picture, and made it on an Important Subject (AIDS in Africa), and though The Constant Gardener was a very bad picture, many people took the bait. It placed on many critics' ten-best lists, received four Oscar nominations, and won an Oscar for Rachel Weisz.

His next was Blindness, which was -- of course -- adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I couldn't bring myself to sit through it, but acclaim was not forthcoming. Perhaps people were becoming less blind.

Now comes 360, a film that, so far, has very few defenders. Despite a few good moments, it's depressing, obnoxious, and condescending. To use a favorite critics' word, it's "leaden"... it just refuses to move.

It's reportedly inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, which Max Ophuls once made into a fluid, lively, erotic movie. On the other hand, Meirelles' 360 follows several characters through several little dramas, many of them sexual, but not always. In Schnitzler's original, we left one character for another, met a new one and then followed that one, but 360 isn't quite that neat.

We can start with businessman Michael Daly (Jude Law), who is abroad making deals. He orders a hooker, but before he can meet her, he's confronted by a salesman (Moritz Bleibtreu) who lost out on his deal. The salesman figures out what's going on and blackmails him. Michael returns home, where his wife Rose (Rachel Weisz) has been sleeping with a younger Brazilian photographer, Rui (Juliano Cazarré). Rui also has a girlfriend at home, Laura (Maria Flor).

Upon discovering that Rui is cheating on her, Laura decides to head home, and she meets John (Anthony Hopkins) on the plane. John is searching for his missing daughter, and is on his way to Phoenix to identify a body. Laura also meets Tyler (Ben Foster), a sex offender newly released into the world and now trapped at an airport during a snowstorm.

There's also a Slovak prostitute, Mirka (Lucia Siposova), who brings her sister Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova) along on certain jobs for moral support, and on one of these, Anna gets to know Sergei (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a driver for a nasty gangster. Finally, we get the fussy little dentist (Jamel Debbouze), who is in love with his assistant, although she is married (unhappily, to Sergei).

I think that's about it. Clearly Meirelles has given up Pulitzer Prize novels for the time being and is concentrating on other Oscar-ready films like Crash and Babel -- neither of which worked for me much better than 360 did. The focus here is thankfully less on social issues, but even so, the emotional content of each story has been stripped, not only by its brevity, but by the very focus on the film's overall structure.

Strangely enough, one great scene comes of it. Anthony Hopkins, having completed his story's circle, attends an AA meeting, and gives a long speech. It is about life, love, prayers, and just about everything. It's the kind of speech you want to take with you, and perhaps memorize for future use. The writer of this speech, and indeed, the entire screenplay is the gifted Peter Morgan, of The Queen, The Damned United, Frost/Nixon, Hereafter, and more. His words, coupled with Hopkins' kind, warm-hearted, reflective delivery (not a trace of Hannibal Lecter), make for a great scene that not even Meirelles could over-think.

However, the rest of the movie is another story. It's over-thought to the point of stillbirth.
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