Total Recall

Total Recall: Anthology Movies

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

by | January 24, 2013 | Comments


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


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.”

Boccaccio ’70


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.



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.”

Four Rooms


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


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


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.”

7 Days in Havana


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?”

Six in Paris


The Directors: Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Eric Rohmer, and Jean Rouch

The Big Idea: As you can probably guess from its title, Six in Paris united six Gallic filmmakers for an omnibus trip through the French New Wave, combining to offer one of the stronger anthologies of the early-to-mid 1960s. At the time, some critics dismissed it as little more than a mildly diverting trifle, but Paris has held up over time — as evidenced by the words of the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Kathie Smith, who later mused, “What most ensemble films lack in cohesiveness, Six in Paris finds in historical context. Forty years later, it is an essential testament of the French New Wave’s energy, ingenuity and aesthetic.”

Spirits of the Dead


The Directors: Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, and Roger Vadim

The Big Idea: A horror anthology with a remarkable pedigree, Spirits of the Dead presented film fans with three segments, all inspired by Edgar Allan Poe stories. Anchored by an impressive cast that included Jane and Peter Fonda, Terence Stamp, and Brigitte Bardot, Dead transcended its genre trappings to earn enthusiastic reviews — and it still continues to resonate with currently active scribes such as Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club, who argued that “It offers pleasures above and beyond its status as a relic of a groovier and exponentially more swinging era.”



The Directors: Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-ho

The Big Idea: Quite a few anthology films are based around cities, but rather than offering viewers an insider’s perspective into the titular city, 2008’s Tokyo! took the opposite approach, enlisting three non-Japanese directors to use Tokyo as the background for a wildly diverse trio of segments. (Example: Gondry’s short film adapted a comic, while Carax’s concerned an onerous sewer-dwelling creature). “Grasping a unifying theme from the three distinct tales is one of the pleasures of watching the movie,” mused Steve Ramos of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Loneliness gets my vote, but Tokyo! is adventurous enough to spark many different theories.”



The Directors: Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, and Johnnie To

The Big Idea: A sort of Chinese action flick version of the grade-school game Telephone, Triangle used three directors, all working independently with separate crews and screenwriters, to tell the overarching tale of three friends (Louis Koo, Simon Yam, and Sun Honglei) who come into possession of a treasure map — and who subsequently discover that finding said treasure may not be everything it’s cracked up to be. Although a sizable number of critics found the result every bit as disjointed as you might expect, given the process that produced it, Triangle is notable for being the now-retired Lam’s final film — and, in the words of Little White Lies’ Anton Bitel, for being “a convoluted crime caper with strong ethical underpinnings to support its many moods and styles.”

Twilight Zone: The Movie


The Directors: John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller

The Big Idea: The Twilight Zone had been off the air for nearly 20 years when its cinematic counterpart arrived in theaters in 1983, but its basic proposition — offering a series of unrelated, grimly disquieting short stories to viewers looking for a few things that went bump in the night — remained just as brilliantly effective. And given that Warner Bros. lined up a stable of suitably talented directors to usher filmgoers into its theatrical Zone, it should have been a huge hit — but while it more than recouped its $10 million budget, critics and audiences were relatively lukewarm to the movie, which also suffered from being overshadowed by a real-life on-set tragedy that killed actor Vic Morrow. For Keith Breese of Filmcritic, however, the overall effect was “a roller-coaster homage to adolescence.”



The Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella)

The Big Idea: Giving a smart-in-theory twist to the burgeoning crowd of found-footage horror flicks, V/H/S used a framing device (a group of criminals break into a house to steal a VHS tape for a client) to unite a series of lo-fi-looking shorts into a 116-minute whole. Unsurprisingly, critical mileage varied wildly, with some scribes hailing it as brilliantly scary and others dismissing it as two hours of footage that was visually as well as narratively shaky. “The mostly played-out found footage aesthetic has its limitations, and V/H/S doesn’t escape all of them,” admitted Ian Buckwalter for the Atlantic. “But the collected directors do manage to make many of those limitations into the films’ strengths.”

Visions of Eight


The Directors: Milos Forman, Claude Lelouch, Yuri Ozerov, Mai Zetterling, Kon Ichikawa, John Schlesinger, Arthur Penn, and Michael Pfleghar

The Big Idea: Admirable in theory if perhaps not entirely in execution, Visions of Eight united eight of the most noteworthy directors of the early 1970s to offer their unique takes on the 1972 Summer Olympics. Intentionally incomprehensive and willfully scattered, Visions resisted the familiar narrative frameworks of traditional sports films, and paid for it with largely dismissive reviews that accused the film of — in Variety’s words — “[forgetting] the idea of sport and competition itself, to indulge in ideas.” It found an appreciative audience in Roger Ebert, however; as he wrote approvingly, “What nobody could have anticipated, perhaps, is how similar many of those visions would be.”

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Movie 43.


Tag Cloud

transformers Mystery The Walt Disney Company feel good TCA Winter 2020 Thanksgiving french Starz Polls and Games Winter TV Chernobyl screenings Esquire Britbox robots Syfy tv talk BBC video on demand action-comedy Tokyo Olympics ratings Mary Poppins Returns know your critic vs. Rom-Com films worst Food Network Pacific Islander biography Musicals DC streaming service Christmas A24 suspense joker chucky police drama Podcast franchise lord of the rings jurassic park gangster HBO Animation richard e. Grant NBC thriller Cosplay documentary IFC Films First Reviews Toys Elton John Countdown trailers Awards Tour rt labs critics edition archives cartoon fresh best Shondaland Lifetime Christmas movies book Turner TNT Travel Channel space name the review nbcuniversal marvel comics movie MCU debate royal family VOD docudrama Sneak Peek television Ghostbusters IMDb TV laika DC Universe WGN 71st Emmy Awards Tubi doctor who Turner Classic Movies crime Amazon Studios superman kong festival Mary poppins blockbusters kids Adult Swim Masterpiece Columbia Pictures NBA new star wars movies Television Academy dceu 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards MSNBC what to watch Grammys Tomatazos Mary Tyler Moore Certified Fresh FX Arrowverse live event Pop TV Family Rock FOX Music Comedy Central worst movies APB reviews RT21 comiccon new york documentaries twilight The Academy stand-up comedy rt archives OWN Trailer rom-coms docuseries movies Logo talk show rt labs Disney Plus President news Pop renewed TV shows History scary movies wonder woman PaleyFest boxoffice Nat Geo USA Year in Review disaster Hallmark independent AMC king arthur hispanic Funimation Alien ABC Signature kaiju cars Best and Worst Legendary Lucasfilm free movies Broadway medical drama TV Land mob FX on Hulu Sundance green book sequel heist movie Apple TV+ DGA Emmys Sony Pictures women godzilla TV renewals children's TV Lifetime Fox Searchlight japanese comic book movie series young adult indiana jones art house hist AMC Plus zombie justice league 007 CBS All Access 4/20 CBS Bravo dramedy deadpool OneApp HFPA Cartoon Network TBS directors comic book movies SundanceTV asian-american latino X-Men sequels TCM discovery streaming classics spinoff Song of Ice and Fire Ovation spanish language Disney Instagram Live streaming movies Character Guide Disney Channel finale spider-man harry potter spider-verse hispanic heritage month quibi Netflix Schedule Sundance TV obituary A&E psychological thriller American Society of Cinematographers canceled 73rd Emmy Awards PBS Country 24 frames ABC Family rotten movies we love TV One werewolf foreign cinemax dragons Holiday IFC Rocky Acorn TV Fargo ABC reboot HBO Max Fall TV LGBT DirecTV natural history Prime Video Awards Disney+ Disney Plus political drama Mudbound zero dark thirty black Pride Month basketball 99% sports Spike live action Pet Sematary Cannes Spectrum Originals cancelled TV shows Western psycho die hard science fiction nfl posters Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt composers Image Comics Nickelodeon period drama VH1 vampires fast and furious biopic Captain marvel Fantasy blockbuster prank spy thriller Marathons Comic Book dexter japan zombies BET anthology CNN Academy Awards saw TLC cancelled television SXSW National Geographic Amazon Prime Video Classic Film adventure comic books Star Wars Black History Month El Rey New York Comic Con serial killer game show crime drama DC Comics boxing Paramount Amazon Prime teaser Comics on TV Opinion cats pirates of the caribbean Discovery Channel book adaptation target mockumentary Exclusive Video YA south america romance video USA Network GIFs Avengers marvel cinematic universe sopranos true crime Tumblr Paramount Plus Vudu cancelled TV series Writers Guild of America Hulu Watching Series Universal Pictures Extras revenge YouTube Trivia batman universal monsters scorecard Shudder scene in color See It Skip It The Purge Kids & Family Winners 72 Emmy Awards GLAAD YouTube Red historical drama Crunchyroll BBC America TV 79th Golden Globes Awards popular NYCC Hallmark Christmas movies 2015 new zealand Superheroes Neflix Disney streaming service Interview golden globe awards adenture Wes Anderson Horror Mindy Kaling TCA 2017 critics crossover Endgame 45 dark cancelled Photos comic TIFF Baby Yoda international hollywood The CW indie australia Binge Guide high school singing competition Peacock supernatural BAFTA stoner canceled TV shows Election Video Games stop motion Star Trek The Walking Dead Set visit versus 2019 CMT slashers Pixar satire Reality Competition E3 The Witch PlayStation Freeform Paramount Network comics RT History leaderboard facebook politics 21st Century Fox remakes Epix Spring TV criterion Hear Us Out comedies Tarantino ESPN Calendar 2021 all-time TCA Awards legend Universal Ellie Kemper casting festivals 2018 monster movies razzies aapi award winner Holidays BBC One war 93rd Oscars Apple TV Plus Reality miniseries Walt Disney Pictures BET Awards 2020 Nominations venice Stephen King Dark Horse Comics 2017 ITV HBO Go blaxploitation parents Showtime elevated horror cults Marvel TV movies Netflix Christmas movies Infographic rotten diversity TCA concert Film Anna Paquin Sundance Now ID LGBTQ mcc critic resources Teen golden globes screen actors guild Martial Arts Pirates MTV spain Marvel Television Super Bowl slasher aliens Film Festival olympics unscripted Sci-Fi cops breaking bad Premiere Dates technology Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Comic-Con@Home 2021 scary romantic comedy Warner Bros. theme song Tags: Comedy ghosts Lionsgate mutant VICE dogs witnail Oscars The Arrangement italian YouTube Premium black comedy Action binge Women's History Month 1990s San Diego Comic-Con Black Mirror toronto Musical strong female leads game of thrones toy story Red Carpet spanish travel trophy Emmy Nominations Summer ViacomCBS 20th Century Fox TruTV Heroines SDCC Brie Larson 90s Creative Arts Emmys sitcom social media halloween 2016 Superheroe christmas movies Amazon GoT football Crackle sag awards adaptation nature FXX jamie lee curtis dreamworks halloween tv Rocketman First Look Drama Comedy CW Seed Television Critics Association animated mission: impossible Box Office a nightmare on elm street james bond superhero child's play king kong anime Quiz based on movie crime thriller hidden camera Marvel Studios Biopics Fox News WarnerMedia Trophy Talk cooking telelvision Apple emmy awards genre Valentine's Day dc E! Hollywood Foreign Press Association