STARRING Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz, directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and with a screenplay by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), 360 is the kind of picture that purrs a promise of intelligent drama.
Just a pity that in execution it positively shrieks shallowness. If you've ever wanted to know what the world's best-shot, most luxurious car commercial looks like, take a spin round Meirelles' yarn about the haves and have nots in the game of love.
Here is a tale, inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play Reigen (La Ronde), of East European prostitution in Vienna, unrequited love in Paris, middle-class woes in London, Russian gangsters and much else besides. If cinemas awarded air miles with each ticket, 360 could probably pay for a jaunt to Barcelona. As it is, the film puts the viewer on a one-way trip towards the question: "What is the point of all this?"
It is not a query that always needs to be directed at a film. The joy of cinema is often its utter randomness. As Sam Goldwyn put it, messages are for Western Union. But when you have a cast, writer, director and source material like this, expectations are inevitably raised that something memorable will result.
Here, only the contribution of Anthony Hopkins, playing a dad looking for his missing daughter, falls into that category. The rest is either a case of trying too hard, or not attempting very much at all save for assembling pretty pictures.
Meirelles' roundelay begins promisingly enough with the story of two sisters from Bratislava. Blanca (Lucia Siposova) wants to earn enough money to open her own beauty business, and the only way she can think of doing so is to go into the ugly business of prostitution. Blanca becomes goods for sale on the internet, and her first appointment is in Vienna, a coach ride from Bratislava, where a trade convention is in town. This is old Europe meeting new Europe, a rich story seam to tap into, but Meirelles soon flits to something else. He has a lot of ground to cover, like it or not.
So we head to Paris where the talents of Jamel Debbouze (Days of Glory) are wasted playing a widowed dentist who has fallen for his married assistant. Then it's on to London and the film's most banal strand. Jude Law and Rachel Weisz are a married couple; he's in business, she is a magazine writer. Michael and Rose live in a fabulous home straight out of the Sunday supplements, have a gorgeous child, and no apparent money worries. But still they are not quite happy enough. Yes, I know, your nose bleeds for them. As they try to communicate their unhappiness to each other one should be drawn to their plight. Instead, such is the dreariness of the situation, it's more fun to drool over their lovely bedding and designer lamps. Oh for a life of white waffle duvets and endless waffling before lights out.
With London done, it's off to Denver, where the girlfriend of a man Rachel Weisz knows in London – do keep up – is stuck in a snowbound airport on her way home to Rio. She meets Anthony Hopkins, travelling to the US to continue the long search for his missing daughter, and a recently released prisoner. Such is the giddy whirl in the world created by Morgan and Meirelles.
A similar waltz took place in La Ronde, Max Ophuls' 1950 adaptation of Schnitzler's play. But where Ophuls' film had a light touch and sure tone, Meirelles' picture plods along, searching for meaning and never succeeding.
The closest it comes is in the Hopkins segment in which his character attends an AA meeting. Unlike the other characters, his is a fully rounded creation, a person with a past, a person we care about. In the space of a single speech, he steals the picture. More than that, he makes you realise what a triumph Meirelles might have had on his hands had he trimmed his cast, concentrated on the stronger stories and limited his travels.
As it is, we are left wondering why all this effort has been expended just to prove, yet again, that no man is an island, one life touches upon another, we're all in this together, and so on and so on.
The last time that idea was played out in this grand style was in 2007's Babel. It, too, had a stellar director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) and Hollywood A listers (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett) mingling with lesser known international actors. It, too, hopped around the globe. It, too, was a lot of sharp sound and glossy fury signifying nothing much in the end.
Cineworld Renfrew Street, Glasgow, Glasgow Film Theatre, Filmhouse, Edinburgh, from tomorrow-August 16; DCA, Dundee, August 17-23.
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