The Constant Globe-Trotter
Opening the BFI London Film Festival is Fernando Meirelles’s “360” — in reality an international production, but for London’s purposes the director’s second British film after “The Constant Gardener.” It’s a modernization of Arthur Schnitzler’s sexual-morality play “Reigen” (a k a “La Ronde”) adapted by acclaimed screenwriter Peter Morgan, who’s had most of his success with semi-fictionalized biographies such as “Frost/Nixon” and “The Damned United.”
Although the material is venerable, the film comes across as something of a Johnny-come-lately to the fad of interconnected stories, popularized in the last decade by Mr. Meirelles’s Latin American peer Alejandro González Iñárritu (who was surely first choice for this project).
Where the original play pokes fun at a range of classes — from aristocracy to artists — in a single Viennese setting, Mr. Morgan’s 21st-century take is more concerned with the international implications of humanity’s intertwined fate in a globalized age. So we travel from Vienna to Paris, London and Denver following the mostly romantic predicaments of a variety of characters. The roles are taken by a healthy mix of old pros (Anthony Hopkins in a wonderfully watchable turn, Jude Law) and newer faces (Maria Flor, Gabriela Marcinkova), all of whom impress in a production that bends over backward to ooze its highbrow cinematic credentials.
But there’s a confusion at the heart of it. Through a voice-over, we’re informed the message of the film is taking one’s chances when fate offers them. But while some characters are rewarded for following their impulses, others are left disappointed and even in peril, wishing they’d stuck to the status quo.
Although the main problem is the over-familiarity of the interweaving story line device, and Mr. Meirelles’s refusal to change pace when required. The best of this type of film — from “Short Cuts” to “Carnages” and “Code Unknown” — usually have a violent and shocking midsection to grip audiences who might be drifting, but “360” rigidly adheres to placid themes of love and romance for most of its duration. There is a hint of danger to the final act, but the outcome is predictable far in advance.
Visually, Mr. Meirelles and cinematographer Adriano Goldman keep things relatively restrained, accentuating the dreamy reflections of glass-fronted airports and car windows, so as to emphasize the ephemeral existence of the film’s modern globe-trotting wanderers. And it’s all fine, ringing with care and quality but lacking a killer punch. Schnitlzer’s original is a classic of fin de siècle literature (the period also fascinated previous adapter Max Ophüls), and you can’t help feeling Mr. Morgan missed a trick not satirizing his characters’ strolls through their lightweight predicaments while a world teeters on the verge of cataclysmic change.
Opens on Aug. 3, 2012 in New York and Los Angeles and on Aug. 10, 2012 in Britain.
Directed by Fernando Meirelles; written by Peter Morgan; director of photography, Adriano Goldman; edited by Daniel Rezende; production design by John Paul Kelly; costumes by Monika Buttinger; produced by Andrew Eaton, David Linde, Emanuel Michael, Danny Krausz, Chris Hanley, Marc Missonnier and Olivier Delbosc; released by Magnolia Pictures (United States) and Artificial Eye (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. This rilm is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.
WITH: Anthony Hopkins (Older Man), Ben Foster (Tyler), Dinara Drukarova (Valentina), Gabriela Marcinkova (Anna), Jamel Debbouze (Algerian Man), Johannes Krisch (Rocco), Jude Law (Michael Daly), Juliano Cazarré (Rui), Lucia Siposova (Mirka), Maria Flor (Laura), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Fran), Mark Ivanir (the Boss), Moritz Bleibtreu (Salesman), Rachel Weisz (Rose) and Vladimir Vdovichenkov (Sergei).