The first story, "The Blue Dog" "Il cane blu" was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore of "Cinema Paradiso" fame and, like that film, features French actor Philippe Noiret. He is a barber/cobbler who is literally hounded by a dog with a mysterious blue spot on his head. Our hero does not like dogs and spends a great deal of energy shaking it off, including when it follows him into a church service and disrupts the liturgy. The man almost shoots the critter, but someone beats him to it. The injured dog limps away, and with increasing remorse, the man tries to find his lost devoted friend. The sequence is a poignant one, I must confess, and is the one I like best. It is a nod to that other gentle man/dog film, Vittorio De Sica's "Umberto D."
The second episode (third in the U.S. release) is called "Snow on Fire" "Il fuoco sulla neve," by Marco Tullio Giordana, and is a tale of sexual voyeurism in which Maddalena Fellini observes her son and daughter-in-law having sex. She watches though a hole in the floor above the couple's room.
The experience stirs long lost longings in her in a way that is, incredibly, quite moving and tender. And the young wife's awareness that she is being seen, adds fervor and intensity to her conjugal coitus.
The third piece (second in the U.S. release) is called "Especially on Sunday" "La domenica specialmente." It was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci and has Ornella Muti attracted to this stranger (Bruno Ganz) in a Mercedes, but her weird companion hinders any sexual intimacy between the two. The segment is a minor-key dissertation on the demands of libido, and I found it to be tiresome.
The final episode is called "Wooden Churches" "Le chiese di legno" and was directed by Francesco Barilli . It is about 12 minutes long and has an aimless Sergio Bini gawking at all the flesh at a city carnival before rushing off to a beach where three floating wooden churches are lit up with candles. It is a Fellini-esque exercise with some appealing visual flourishes and not much characterization. It was cut from the U.S. release.
Framing the entire film is a story "The Man of the Birds "L'uomo degli uccelli" in which a man on a motorcycle shows a little boy some birds. It too was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci. It doesn't add up to a plate of fagioli but is cute and lyrical.