The problems confronting omnibus productions are readily apparent in “Erotique.” The trio of female-leaning “sexy” tales suffers from episodes that vary in quality from good to bad to ugly. But even the good isn’t enough to carry the weaker components and, finally, all the film has to sell is a novel concept. Mildly titillating, rather than shocking or controversial, it will initially disappoint with its come-on and ultimately disappoint at the box office. It’s specialized fare with limited appeal, with best prospects down the road on homevideo.
The initial idea was to give four distaff helmers from different continents the chance to create a modern, female erotic tale (an episode in Brazil was shot but is not included in the completed film). But the carte blanche invitation has failed to stimulate the trio’s creative juices. The vignettes can be respectively categorized as not fully conceived, embarrassing and just OK.
First up is Lizzie Borden’s “Let’s Talk About Love,” which centers on Rosie (Kamala Lopez-Dawson), who works a phone sex line. One particular regular sparks her interest with his slightly upscale erotic fantasies. Chief interest in Borden’s story is the constant shifting of dominance between the phoner and the phonee. Eventually Rosie uncovers that the caller is a sex therapist (Bryan Cranston) and she sets out, with the help of a friend, to exact the ultimate humiliation on him. Though the setup is intriguing, the confrontation deflates all that has proceeded it.
In Monica Treut’s “Taboo Parlor,” a lesbian couple (PriscillaBarnes, Camilla Soeberg) plan a night on the town that will culminate in their having their way with a man. They arrive at the club referred to in seg’s title, which is run by Peter Kern and in which Marianne Sagebrecht is a sort of social director. The activities of latter actress are more amusing in theory than the rather banal entertainment exacted onscreen.
As with the first section, “Taboo” is rather a single-joke premise. While neither narrator particularly knows how to tell the story, the Treut encounter sags long before the punch line.
The finale takes viewers to Hong Kong for Clara Law’s “Wonton Soup.” Unlike its sister chapters, the episode doesn’t attempt to spin a sexual or sensual yarn. It centers on an Australian-born Chinese man (Tim Lounibos) and his H.K. girlfriend (Hayley Man) in the throes of attempting to bridge cultural friction in the British colony.
Dramatically, it is the most ambitious and textured of the trio. It also has a sweetness that’s in sharp contrast to the others. “Erotique” is just the latest in a long line of failed omnibus pix grappling with sexual themes. The prospect of handing an open ticket to filmmakers to let their erotic imaginations go wild onscreen has historically produced a series of cinematic fiascoes. The latest exercise is no exception — an interesting curio for the record books unable to rise to the occasion.