Although rare; anthology films consisting of multiple acts and directors started as early as the 1930’s when vaudeville acts were cut together. Essentially these omnibus films are short films cut together and marketed as a feature film.
What differentiates them from watching 90 minutes worth of short films is that they were made in conjunction with the final project in mind and therefore follows a theme and flow together.
Segments have sometimes even been cut from an anthology film just as scenes would be deleted from a feature film. Except you get three or more stories rather than just one.
Probably the most famous anthology film by a single director is ‘Pulp Fiction’. But now we look at those by multiple directors. Fifteen films and one hundred and fourteen stories. Rest assured, “Movie 43” is excluded.
1. Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963)
The title of the film is a collective of the director’s surnames. Ro for Rossellini, Go for Godard, Pa for Pasolini and G for Gregoretti. Three Italian directors in the mist of Italian neo-realism and one French new wave director made this four-segment film ahead of its time. These directors helped pushed boundaries and this film gives great examples. Cinema today is better because of artists like Rossellini and Godard.
Illibatezza (Virginity) directed by Roberto Rossellini shows an unwanted meeting between a lonely and horny middle-aged American man on his way to Bangkok, Thailand and a beautiful engaged flight attendant. They keep bumping into each other at what appears to be chance encounters from coincidently visiting the same parts.
Maybe the man feels that it was meant to be and the girl thinks the annoying man is stocking her. We’re not told an exact reason for him going to Thailand, only that he’s a tourist. During this time it could have been a number of things and you wonder if it’s general tourism, job related or the sex tourism, which has sadly given Bangkok a bad reputation.
French new wave director Jean-Luc Godard, who had been inspired by Italian realism, was sought after by the Italian film industry and as a result is in the film along side Italian greats such as Rossilini and Pasolini. Godard’s segment, Il nuovo mondo (The new world) brings up the fear of nuclear weapons and how it would change people. Nuclear was a big fear in that time. After a nuclear explosion a man starts noticing behavioral changes in others as well as himself.
The third segment is La Ricotta (Ricotta) directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini and stars Orson Welles. It’s the production of a movie set around Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s the only segment to use colour but only uses as clips of the fictional film. It focuses around one actor who is yet to become successful and is literally a starving artist. It’s one of those stories that will leave you thinking.
Surprisingly Ugo Gregoretti, who had yet to establish an international acclaim, directs the last segment Il polloruspante ( Free-range chicken). A family takes a road trip to see a new town that they’re thinking of moving to. When out and about they try to present themselves well by spending, worried that others in the town will think their poor. Out at dinner, the father explains free-range chickens, which is a metaphor of society.
2. Paris in Six (1965)
Six stories each taking place in a different area of Paris. It’s a blast of French new wave filmmaking. Showing the different economic classes and ideologies yet showing similarities. Some are introverts, others extroverts. We’re shown couples, friends and loners all living amongst one another in the cultured and historic city of Paris during the swinging 60s.
3. Spirits of the Dead (1968)
Three mysterious macabre tales from author Edgar Allen Poe interpreted and adapted for the screen. Lost with guilt or petty, each main character has a mentally inspired by Poe.
The first segment Metzengerstein directed by Roger Vadim shows a family feud and when revenge is taken its met with painful guilt.
William Wilson directed by Louis Malle is the story of William Wilsons hatred and murder of his kind doppelganger of the same name. The evil William Wilson starts to feel the remorse haunt him but it’s too late. He jumps to his death believing he is a monster for such actions.
Federico Fellini sets his segment (Toby Dammit inspired by the story Never Bet The Devil Your Head) in modern day Italy and makes it about a film actor, something he was around and knew about. Other adaptations didn’t take this approach. The main character Toby Dammit is a drunken mess who is going down a crazy destructive path until he reaches death.
4. New York Stories (1989)
A dream team of American directors put together something for all tastes. Martin Scorsese directs a serious drama with conflict. On the other hand Woody Allen takes you away from the realist seriousness of the previous segment in an extremely funny story.
And Francis Ford Coppola transforms the film into a children’s tale. All take place in New York City yet are vastly different. The major metropolis is diverse with culture and so is the film.
5. Four Rooms (1995)
Set in a hotel on New Years Eve, each of the four comedic segments take places in a different room and is tied in by a bellhop played by Tim Roth. Two of the directors are Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino whom have worked well together over their careers. Each hotel room holds a different realm. Each director has a their own style but they change it up. It’s interesting to see Allison Anders direct a fantasy or Tarantino not direct gratuitous violence.
A group of witches cooking up spells need The Missing Ingredient. Funny enough the bellhop is told of the ingredient. Its seamen and they need it in one hour. Allison Anders directs this group of crazies.
In The Wrong Man, directed by Alexandre Rockwell, the bellhop goes to the wrong room and is shocked when he finds a hostage situation. Later he learns more of the awkward situation and that it was a fantasy played out by a consenting couple.
The Misbehavers are two children whose father is played by Antonio Banderas. But they’re not “spy kids”. Robert Rodriguez directs this funny tale of the two nightmares having the bellhop look after them. They terrorise the bellhop and go from finding adult TV channels to a corpse.
Tarrintino not only directs but also plays the role of a famous Hollywood film director called Chester Rush in The Man from Hollywood. This is a nice ending for the bellhop as he ends up joining the party of the director and a few friends such as Bruce Willis.
6. Memories (1995)
With well-written stories, Memories has a place among non-anime films. Three sci-fi shorts with emotion. The films title comes from the reminiscent memories and the creation of new ones in the present and future. It’s about the relations between people despite the science fiction settings, which are used as a tool to drive the characters expressions.
The first segment, Magnet Rose, is the story of a spaceship transporting salvage. When they learn of a distress call they go and investigate to find a strange home inside of an asteroid crater. It belonged to an opera singer who moved to this remote home when her husband died. Now her ghost roams the abandoned home. The décor and spirit and her manipulation causing the characters to have hallucinations’ show past memories had.
The second: a man working in a science lab takes a pill thinking it would help relieve him of his flu but instead turns him into a Stink Bomb. The smell he emits kills animals and other humans but helps vegetation grow. The change is erasing old memories and creating strange new ones.
A Canon Fodder society lives their lives battling the threat in the sky. A farther and son team load up canons. A time when they should be making memories and bonding over kicking a ball back and forth or playing catch. Instead they are in a perpetual war.
7. Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (2002)
Released with Ten Minutes Older: The Cello; the film is about time. It emphasizes the importance of time and how one minute something drastic is capable of changing. Unlike other anthologies it features two short documentaries one by Werner Herzog and the other by Spike Lee.
Other segments are either one scene that takes place in 10 minutes, a lifetime or a day highlighted in 10 minutes. A few of the segments even focus on the manipulation of time.