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[1994. Directed byAtom Egoyan. Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Mia Klrshner. Miramax RlmsMiramax Home Video. 104 mins.] H W üto The subterranean emotional shoals Atom Egoyan traversos in Exótica are played along afinely etched psychologica) fault line. Rather than merely grapple with the trite truism that we're all games-players in our most intímate encounters, Egoyan explores the similar notion that we're all game-playing in our social postures. Fot Egoyan, like another master film psychologist, Ingmar Bergman, believes all our social postures are ultimately intímate encounters. The difference between the two psychological stances may seem less than subtle in the off ing. But then again, how does one teil the difference? Egoyan's point seems to be that one can't always teil the difference. And rt's in this conditional uncertainty that the hurt lies. The various personas in the film are often on the verge of collapse. Their tensions are as ntricately bound together as the minor chords of a self-defensive plea sounding its affected lament It's these subtle quirks that make Exótica a painfully fruitfui study of the most delicate kind. The film ranks comparably with Bergman 's The Silence as an example of how love's intensity can take the energy out of living even as the necessity of caring for others inexorably continúes. Francis (Bruce Greenwood), an auditor by day, visits an exotic dancer, Christina (Mia Kirshner), in the club Exótica where she ritualistically disrobes her schoolgirl garb forhim in a private ceremony . Ene (Elias Koteas), a disc jockey at the nightclub, fumes nightly jealously observing this charade and he conspires to rid the club of Francis' presence. His pregnant girifriend, and Madame of the club, Zoe (Arsinée Khanjian), has meanwhile foimed a relationship with Christina and she must decide whom she will ultimately side with: Her lover or the father of her child. Elsewhere, Thomas (Don McKellar), the owner of a local pet shop, is being audited by Francis as part of an investigaron intosomerare birdeggshe's been smuggling into the country. After Francis is thrown out of the club for violating its policy , he and Thomas agreetoswap favors so that he can get back into the Exótica. In return, Thomas' business will not be investigated. So much for Act One. This unrelenting complexity vies for the viewer' s attention and intellect. Granted it's a bit of work, but then Exótica isn't meant to be a middling fare. For just to stress the point, Egoyan's screenplay dictates that ultimately none of these plot lines is what the film is about. The moral trials of Francis, Thomas, Mia, and Eric are merely a handful of beads in a mosaic that engulfs all in a crest of chance occurrence. Their intricately wrought fates are equally melded together by the brightest light of the night club and the lightest daub of psychic torture. Each convoluted relationship constantly lashes at the other. Yet with a miniaturists' unhurried sense of precisión, Egoyan examines each of his characters with an understated clarity that supports his examination. He slowly reveáis layer upon layer of interpersonal flotsam and jetsam in these lives until the film begins to resemble the first deck of a slowly sinking night-life heartbreak hotel. The psychological fissures hidden slightly beneath the personalices of Exotica's Francis, Thomas, Mia, and Eric have the depth of any of the screen's prior great cinematic psychologists. Like the before-mentioned Bergman, Egoyan's patience in allowing his screenplay to develop allows the work to develop in a unhurried fashion. In doing so, his caref ully measured emotional exploration in Exótica eventually reaches its unerring accurate and deadly fault. I RATING KEY ft Acting H Cinematography Direction 1 Editing 0 Narrative Sound Special Effects Mftwi a symíxV appears following a 6'íe. ( implies that the corresponding category s a strengtb of the movie.


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