Total Recall: Anthology Movies

With Movie 43 hitting theaters, we look at some memorable movies with multiple directors.

Anthologies

With 11 directors, 15 writers, and a cast of dozens, this weekend's Movie 43 is the biggest picture of 2013 -- at least in terms of cast and crew. But all those people didn't get together to make any old film: Movie 43 is part of the rich Hollywood tradition of anthologies -- movies in which sometimes-disparate collections of filmmakers come together to create a larger statement. We decided to dedicate this week's list to those efforts, and while limiting our choices to movies with multiple directors forced us to make some painful cuts (sorry, Creepshow fans), we still ended up with a pretty broad overview of a genre that's probably never gotten enough love from mainstream audiences. It's time for Total Recall!

Amazon Women on the Moon

64%

The Directors: Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, and John Landis

The Big Idea: Perhaps because the format lends itself to larger casts and crews, anthology films tend to explore big ideas and weighty themes -- but they can also work pretty well as comedy collections, as evidenced by 1987's pleasantly scattershot late-night cable staple Amazon Women on the Moon. Offering a manic 1980s update to earlier goofball shorts compendiums like The Boob Tube and Kentucky Fried Movie (whose director, John Landis, helmed a segment here), Amazon Women is probably silly more than anything else, but on the whole, it generates a surprising amount of laughs. Janet Maslin of the New York Times was suitably entertained, calling it "An anarchic, often hilarious adventure in dial-spinning, a collection of brief skits and wacko parodies that are sometimes quite clever, though they're just as often happily sophomoric, too."

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Boccaccio '70

75%

The Directors: Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, and Mario Monicelli

The Big Idea: Weighing in at a hefty 208 minutes, the complete Boccaccio '70 is more of a cinematic endurance test than most anthology films, at least in terms of sheer length -- but for devotees of the titular 14th-century essayist, its four segments offered valuable insights into timeless truths regarding morality and love. "It has glamour, sophistication, color, wit and sensuality (not necessarily in that order), all of which blend very well in the enveloping air of a facility that is to be devoted to the showing of sophisticated films," asserted an approving Bosley Crowther for the New York Times.

Eros

34%

The Directors: Wong Kar-wai, Steven Soderbergh, and Michelangelo Antonioni

The Big Idea: Love, goes the saying, makes the world go 'round -- but lust and sex are some pretty powerful locomotive forces on their own, and all three of them get their share of the spotlight in this 2004 Italian drama. In spite of its universal themes, talented crew of directors, and a cast that included Robert Downey Jr. and Gong Li, Eros played on relatively few screens during its brief North American run -- and it was greeted with widespread critical disdain, with the New York Observer's Rex Reed calling it "a triptych only a film festival could love." Still, it was worth a look for critics like Jan Stuart of Newsday, who summed it up by writing, "Wong's is the sexiest, Soderbergh's the funniest, Antonioni's the most Italian."

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Four Rooms

14%

The Directors: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino

The Big Idea: Like the long-running ABC drama Hotel with an indie sensibility, Four Rooms plunged viewers into the wacky goings-on at a posh Los Angeles hotel on New Year's Eve. With its rich premise and a splendidly eclectic cast that included Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Beals, Madonna, Marisa Tomei, and Ione Skye -- plus Tim Roth as the hapless bellhop whose absurd travails framed the four segments -- Rooms should have been a winner; alas, it was more of a critical punching bag for writers like Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle, who called it "a batch of shrill, self-indulgent sketches that turn so wretched in spots you start to wonder if the filmmakers wanted them to be bad."

New York Stories

73%

The Directors: Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese

The Big Idea: A trilogy of short films about New York City, all made by three of the most talented -- and NYC-indebted -- directors in modern film, New York Stories should have been a slam dunk. The reality turned out to be a little more complicated, with critics sort of shrugging their shoulders at the film and audiences neglecting to turn out in sufficient numbers for it to earn back its $10 million budget, but all in all, Stories is one of the more critically well-regarded anthologies of the 1980s -- which is really as it should be, given the talents at work behind the cameras, not to mention appearances from Nick Nolte, Rosanna Arquette, Mia Farrow, Steve Buscemi, and many others. It is, as Joe Brown wrote for the Washington Post, "A novel and fascinating foray into highly stylized, highly personal filmmaking."

Paris, je t'aime

86%

The Directors: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Gérard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant

The Big Idea: As you've probably already inferred from its title, Paris, je t'aime is all about the City of Light -- and whatever you think about the movie itself, let's say this much for it: With 18 segments and more than 20 directors wrapped into its two-hour running time, this is one anthology that takes the "short films" part of "collection of short films" seriously. With so many disparate talents jostling for attention, Paris probably should have been a disjointed mess, but according to most critics, it was quite the opposite -- as Owen Gleiberman put it for Entertainment Weekly, "Anthology films usually work better in theory than execution, but this feature parade of shorts is a blithe, worldly, and enchanting exception."

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7 Days in Havana

43%

The Directors: Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Médem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Juan Carlos Tabío, and Laurent Cantet

The Big Idea: It's pretty much what the title says: Seven short films, each revolving around one day in the Cuban capital. Given that the project bought itself a little narrative cohesion thanks to a screenplay written by one author -- Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura Fuentes -- a surprising number of critics felt that 7 Days in Havana was too dull and clichéd to justify such a long cinematic trip. As Tara Brady queried in her review for the Irish Times, "It's enough to justify the admission price, but only just. 7 Days? Is there a weekend package we might avail of?"

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