Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994)

Before Exotica, I had only seen the somewhat disappointing Where the Truth Lies from Egoyan before, but knowing much of his reputation and having seen a few impressive interviews with him (This Film is Not Yet Rated the latest example), I was more than willing to give this movie a shot. Am I ever glad that I did. A kind of interweaving-tales movie before those became so ridiculously en vogue (although I am a sucker for them, almost always), Exotica is the story of Christina, a dancer at the Exotica club; Eric, her ex who is still obsessed with her; Francis, Christina's best client who is dealing with a personal tragedy; and Thomas, a neurotic, gay Jew who runs an exotic pet store and a successful egg-smuggling business. The lives of these people, and those with whom they come in contact, weave in and out of one another's.

Egoyan leaves large blanks in the viewer's understanding of these characters, which was admittedly frustrating during the first hour of the film. I wasn't sure how much I liked it, because at times, I had no idea what was going on, or what events people were referring to. This is, obviously, Egoyan's plan, and as pieces of the puzzle fall into place in the film's second half, it becomes a masterpiece of the kinds of lives we lead, versus the kinds of lives we'd like to lead. Every character in this film is in pieces, in one way or another having lost something very important, and it makes you wonder who is "normal," and whether these people have very dark secrets hidden behind their own curtains, as well.

Along with the beautifully flawed nature of human existence, Egoyan brings to the center a topic I love discussing (having been a Women's Studies concentrator in college), but haven't had much to think about lately: sexuality and the flesh, and how they can be used in multiple ways, even all at once. The Exotica club is a home and a jail for these characters, and Christina, the main (although not only) source of sexuality in the film, is botha therapist and "jailbait," a sinner and a saint all at once through the same actions. Zoe, the club's owner, is pregnant (and, through IMDB research, Arsinne Khanjian, the actress who plays Zoe, is Egoyan's wife and was actually very pregnant at the time), and seeing a pregnant woman in her underwear or walking through a strip club in extravagant costumes is a beautiful visual paradox.

The performances, while great (especially Bruce Greenwood as the tragic Francis), especially in the beautiful and devastating final scene, where it all comes together, cannot possibly stand up to Egoyan's brilliant script and directing. If any film other than Pulp Fiction had won the Palme d'Or in 1994, I would cry unfair! This made me an instant Egoyan acolyte, and I will be watching all his films asap (in fact, The Sweet Hereafter is on the agenda for the holiday weekend).


RIYL: Amores Perros (similar structure, same themes of obsession/love and family)

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