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By Desson Thomson
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page WE46

DUST TO GLORY (PG, 95 minutes)

Dana Brown, who made the engaging surfing documentary "Step Into Liquid" gets back on dry land for this loose, freewheeling documentary. Make that real dry land: This doc is about the drivers of the Baja 1000, an annual nonstop off-road race (the world's longest) that has been going since 1967. It's a wonderfully democratic event. Anyone with any set of wheels can enter, whether it's dirt bike, dune buggy, monster truck or old-time VW Beetle. The only criteria: Finish the race. Competitors on this dusty desert terrain know there are many crucial factors to racing the Baja: a great road crew to troubleshoot for them, relay drivers who can take over and keep up the pace, personal resilience and a vehicle that won't die on them. Brown (who shot the 2003 race with a widespread camera crew) brings home the passion of these racers, many of whom come back every year; they pass their enthusiasm along to their sons and, in some cases, wives, who become competitors, too. Andy McMillin, 16, is the grandson and son of previous racers, and there's a father-son duo between 62-year-old J.N. Roberts, who won the 1967 debut race, and son Jimmy. It's a fascinating film, but after a while, the digital photography wears out its gritty welcome, and the footage of endless rough roading becomes repetitive. Contains racing action and peril, and some obscenity. At the Loews Georgetown, Loews Shirlington and Landmark's Bethesda Row.

-- Desson Thomson

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EROS (Unrated, 104 minutes)

The three-part anthology film thing rarely works because, almost inevitably, one, two or all of the individual works suffer by comparison. This collection of "erotic" works by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni must have sounded like a great idea; after all, these are fine filmmakers. But the result is far less interesting. The best one comes from Wong, whose "The Hand" is about an apprentice tailor Xiao Zhang (Chang Chen), who becomes erotically obsessed with courtesan Hua Yibao (God's gift to silkiness, Gong Li), who demands gorgeous costumes for her high-paying clients, but on very loose credit. Zhang's repressed love for her (which begins with an erotic first meeting) continues over the years despite Hua's career decline. Soderbergh's "Equilibrium," in which the eccentric Nick Penrose (Robert Downey Jr.) talks to his highly distracted psychiatrist (Alan Arkin) about a disturbing, recurring dream, is visually intriguing, for its black-and-white cinematography. But it's a little too odd to follow or care about. Still, it's slightly better than Antonioni's "The Dangerous Thread of Things," a surprisingly uninvolving affair about the dead marriage of a middle-age couple (Christopher Buchholz and Regina Nemni) and the other woman (Luisa Ranieri) who comes between them. It doesn't seem like overstating things to say that "Eros" becomes steadily worse as it goes along. Contains nudity and obscenity. "The Hand" is in Cantonese with subtitles; and "The Dangerous Thread of Things" is in Italian with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Desson Thomson


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