Tokyo! is another one of those new versions of old-fashioned anthology films that exists for no reason other than to show of a handful of short films connected by only the loosest commonality: in this case, three segments about Tokyo, although the precise definition of "about" is different for each director involved.

First up is Michel Gondry, with "Interior Design". Of all three shorts, probably the one that best fulfills the titular of exploring what the city of Tokyo is like, the story here concerns a young woman and her filmmaker boyfriend who have come to the big city to find work and success, only to learn that even the simple act of finding a clean apartment is nearly impossible. Their brief stay with one of her friends in a tiny studio turns into an uncomfortably indefinite stretch, made even more awkward when the friend's boyfriend returns.

For 20 minutes, this is the best work Gondry has done since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, an amazingly mature study of a whole bunch of little crises can test a relationship much more than one giant thing, and the way he contrasts the central couple - the girl especially - with the vast sprawl of Tokyo gives the film a surprisingly un-Gondry sense of desperation. But then, in the end, it almost seems like he realised, "shit, this isn't quirky!" and so goes galloping for the shores of Magical Realism with a metaphorically laden climax that is much more irritating that enlightening.

Next up Leos Carax (a French filmmaker who hasn't made anything in nine years, but whose work is best described as "hard" and "not beloved") directs "Merde", starring Denis Lavant as a sewer-dwelling crazy with a twist red beard named Monsieur Merde, or "Mister Shit" to us Yanks. Like some silent supervillain, he terrorises the city of Tokyo from his underground lair and inspires many panicked newspaper headlines and calls for protection, even though no-one has anything but a fleeting notion of what he looks like.

Eventually he comes to light, and is put on trial for his crimes, with a French scholar (Jean-Franรงois Balmer) on-hand to help translate his strange pseudo-language. This in turn means that we get a lot of endless scenes of a Japanese question translated into French translated into Merde's tongue, with his answer translated back into French and then into Japanese. The whole film could have shaved literally seven or eight minutes off its running time without this charming language trickery, but as it is, the second half of the film grinds to a painful halt after a fairly intriguing and amusing opening. That's to say nothing of the content of the trial half of the film, in which Merde rails against politics and religion in what's best described as an incoherent manner. "Shit" is just about the right word to hold onto as the film drags to a close, the worst kind of French pretentiousness.

The finale: Bong Joon-Ho (best known in the US for The Host) with "Shaking Tokyo". Neither as good as the best parts of the others nor as bad as their lows, Bong's film is about a recluse whose only contact with the world is the pizza delivery girl whom he slowly falls in love with, and what happens when an earthquake strikes, forcing the hermit to finally act. It's stylistically pleasing, with many beautifully-composed shots, but by this point in the program formal beauty isn't enough to keep one's attention from wandering, and the fact that the story is so conventional hurts the film. Even so, I might be inclined to give it the only passing grade of the three; it's the only one that didn't do something to actively piss me off.

This is one of the weaker omnibus films to come out in this strange new wave of the things; poorly structured (although none of the three is strong enough to go last, I'd have personally mirrored the order) and with a lower hit-to-miss ratio than the best of the form, like Paris, je t'aime. It might be worth it for Bong's film, but there's a lot of dross to get through before you get there, and the whole experience is a little too joyless to justify the brief flashes of imagination scattered through the hour-and-a-half.