In this curious collaboration, Wim Wenders persuades Antonioni out of his stroke-imposed retirement of over a decade, and then stays around to help the aged auteur realise his cinematic visions. The result is a varied collection of stories, all dealing with the tangential nature of relationships, chance encounters and partings.
Linking these tales, albeit very loosely, is Malkovich as a film director trawling Europe for inspiration. Moving between France and Italy, the first focus is on a couple who meet by chance twice, and still never consummate their relationship. Malkovich himself instigates the second tale, involving a young woman who has stabbed her father to death.
But as the director rambles, so does the narrative, pausing briefly to take in Peter Weller as a man caught between his wife and his mistress, Jean Reno facing up to an empty apartment after his wife has left him and Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau popping up extraneously. Continuing the movie's themes, the final story concerns a meeting between a young man and a woman due to enter a convent the next day.
Sadly, however, the film never quite manages to be the sum of its beguiling parts. Malkovich's character allows Antonioni to offer a fresh perspective on the nature of his art, but this quickly slides into pretension, something which neither the stories or the collective talents on show - Sophie Marceau, Irene Jacob etc. - are able to prevent. And so despite occasional glimpses, this is, for the most part, a wasted opportunity.