Jude Law Tempted by Call Girl, Anthony Hopkins Mourns in ‘360’

A skinny brunette from Slovakia poses for a photographer-pimp so she can become an escort girl and make some easy money.

Her first customer is a married London businessman by the name of Michael played by Jude Law in “360,” which opened the London Film Festival. Minutes before she meets him in a Vienna hotel bar, however, the guilt-ridden Michael runs into a business partner, and calls it a night.

Michael’s missed rendezvous triggers a chain of transcontinental events in “360,” directed by Brazil’s Fernando Meirelles. (He previously made “The Constant Gardener” and “City of God.”)

The film grew out of scriptwriter Peter Morgan’s urge to portray the borderless, contagion-prone world we live in. It was inspired by two recent plagues: the global financial meltdown and the swine-flu epidemic.

“To say ‘the world is flat’ is such a commonplace now,” Morgan said at a festival news conference. The screenwriter -- previously credited for “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon” -- described the plot of “360” as “a viral romantic connection.”

“360” raises an intriguing philosophical issue: A chance encounter can shake up multiple lives. Yet that single point is conveyed in seven languages and seven international settings, making the movie seem, at times, like a higher-brow version of the multinational Eurovision song contest.

Busy Rose

The character played by Law proves pivotal to the plot. After walking out on the prostitute, he eats alone, and calls his wife Rose (Rachel Weisz). “I’m sitting in a restaurant wishing you were here,” he whimpers in a voicemail message.

Rose, meanwhile, is busy cheating on him with Rui, a well- built Brazilian photographer. He, in turn, has a live-in girlfriend. Each of these characters, and half a dozen others, undergoes some kind of life change as the movie unfolds.

In the end, everybody is connected to everybody else. The film is strongest when that connection is revealed.

The best acting is not where you’d expect it. Anthony Hopkins, who plays an ex-alcoholic desperately looking for his missing daughter, is overly sentimental.

The Slovak and Russian actors lend the film its authenticity. They convincingly represent life’s everyday burdens: bleak prospects, a failing marriage, an abusive boss.

Two other cast members deserve special mention: Ben Foster, as the repentant sex offender freshly released from jail; and the French-Moroccan actor-comedian Jamel Debbouze, in the role of a lovelorn widower.

In its portrayal of intersecting lives, “360” recalls the work of another filmmaker: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who made “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams” and “Babel.” Inarritu definitely does interconnectedness better.

The problem with “360,” as with most transcontinental movies, is that the director bites off more cultures than he can chew. It’s bad enough steering actors in one foreign language. When it’s half a dozen, you end up with a muddle that seeks but fails to be all things to all people.

Rating: **1/2.

The London Film Festival ends on Oct. 27. Information: http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff. The festival’s sponsors include American Express Co. (AXP) and American Airlines Inc.

What the Stars Mean:
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri in London on farahn@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff on mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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