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For Your Consideration: '360'

The screenplay with umpteen unrelated characters who eventually come together to make a story is getting old. Robert Altman was the master of the device, and it has been imitated countless times and continues to be. With the right screenplay it can still be effective, and when it is not, as in Fernando Meirelles's new film 360, it is unbearably dull, not fulfilling the promise of the Brazilian director's last major features, Blindness and The Constant Gardener. The screenplay, by Peter Morgan, is based loosely on Arthur Schnitzler's play Reigen, in the sense that it revolves around the sexual interactions, or non-interactions, among a gaggle of characters in places around Europe and the rest of the world.

Peter Morgan's screenplay is laconic and awkward in many ways, and the primary lesson it seems to want to teach is that the only fulfilling sex is the illicit kind. A British husband and wife (Jude Law and Rachel Weisz), having grown distant from one another after the birth of their daughter, seek excitement from a Czech prostitute in Vienna (Lucia Siposová) and a Brazilian photographer at work (Juliano Cazarré). A Russian couple in Paris (Dinara Drukarova and Vladimir Vdovichenkov) want to live different lives and fall for her boss at work (Jamel Debbouze) and the sister of the same prostitute (the much more beautiful and fragile Gabriela Marcinkova), procured for his Russian crime boss (Mark Ivanir). The angry girlfriend of the Brazilian photographer (Maria Flor) is snowbound in Denver, on her way back to Brazil, and meets an older man looking for his runaway daughter (Anthony Hopkins, in a slightly irritated performance that approached the banality of his unforgettably awful turn in Legends of the Fall). In the airport, she falls for a man whose troubled past she does not understand (Ben Foster). In all of these interactions, the boundaries between love and attraction, even between promiscuity and rape, are blurred and made uncomfortable.

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That last description probably makes the movie sound more profound than it actually is, but you get the idea. None of the characters is given much depth, a neglect made worse by the proliferation of supporting characters, locations, and plot lines. On the way out of the screening, most people were still trying to sort out who was who and exactly what happened -- yes, that kind of film. Not in the good way, where the nuanced ambiguity of tense situations leads each viewer to see the outcome differently, but in befuddled confusion. This is one to skip.

This film opens today, at the West End Cinema.

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