I'm not quite sure what has happened in Fernando Meirelles' life/mind that he has moved away from such stunning filmmaking in the form of 'City Of God' to the bland, ensemble relationship drama of '360'. Not that '360' is without merit - a cast featuring the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz would never have been assembled otherwise - but all it eventually transpires to be is an arthouse version of 'Love Actually'.
'360' begins in Vienna, with the story of Blanka, posing for website shots to begin her "career" in prostitution - her sister looking on disapprovingly. The narrative then moves around the globe taking in London, Paris, Denver and more. Each location sees the addition of a new character or the further intertwinement of existing characters - for example, Anthony Hopkins meets the former girlfriend of Rachel Weisz's lover on the plane to Denver - before a perversely upbeat ending.
The fundamental problem with '360' is that there are too many strands - the film becoming something closer to a series of vignettes than a sole statement of intent. Some of the strands are compelling however, with Ben Foster's recently released sex offender character proving to be a particularly vivid and fascinating representation of temptation, one of the more indepth themes on offer.
Unfortunately, the more interesting moments during the film suffer from the script's necessity to move to and fro and in and out of the different characters' lives. There's barely any time for a character arc from anyone, although Anthony Hopkins is given an unexpectedly long monologue which he delivers impeccably - his plot involving the search for his missing daughter being one of the few other highlights of the film.
Peter Morgan's wayward screenplay for '360' was loosely based on an Arthur Schnitzler play, 'La Ronde'. Morgan is becoming an increasingly inconsistent screen-writer, with a back catalogue featuring the lauded 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' and 'The Queen' but also the derided 'Hereafter' and now the uninspiring '360'. Hopefully his next project, the forthcoming James Bond film, will be a hit rather than a miss.
The film's director Fernando Meirelles is almost echoing Peter Morgan's boom or bust approach having followed up 'City Of God' with 'The Constant Gardener' but also the mixed 'Blindness'. Much like his penchant for split-screens in '360', Meirelles' career is divided and I suspect his newest film will receive a similarly mixed reception to his last film. If he's lucky.
'360' is the opening night gala at the 55th BFI London Film Festival 2011.