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TSPDT 2013: Exotica

Posted by martinteller on May 21, 2013

The stories of four people in the Toronto area.  Christina (Mia Kirshner) is a very young dancer at the strip club “Exotica”.  Eric (Elias Koteas) is the club’s DJ and announcer.  Francis (Bruce Greenwood) is a frequent patron, an internal revenue auditor with a troubled past.  Thomas (Don McKellar) owns a pet store and has been smuggling rare bird eggs into the country.  As the film progresses, we learn how their stories are entwined, and how much more entwined they will become.

I’ve seen only one other film by Atom Egoyan, his follow-up feature The Sweet Hereafter, adapted from the Russell Banks novel.  Whereas that film starts with a tragedy and follows the individual character threads from that point, this one starts with the threads and gradually weaves them together to reveal the underlying tragedy.  It’s clever storytelling as Egoyan provides information in a way that never feels like klutzy exposition, and never leaves you scrambling to catch up.  It all unfolds very naturally, and as the relationships develop you find yourself wanting to know more.

Despite the sexually charged atmosphere (and Thomas’s cruising at the ballet), it’s not a film about sexuality.  Nor is it about the commerce of sex, or the financial dealings of Thomas or Francis.  Egoyan is primarily concerned with the comfort and security we need from other people, the vulnerability of leaving yourself exposed, and the complex processing of grief.

It’s an eloquent film with masterful construction, sharp visuals, and flashes of intriguing symbolism (to wit, the parrots).  My only criticism is that the lead performances, with the exception of Kirshner, feel too mannered.  Koteas especially comes off more like a fictional construction than a relatable human being.  I’m not of the opinion that all actors should be naturalistic at all times (I wouldn’t be a noir fan if I was) but there was an artifice to the three male leads that seemed at odds with the humanistic themes of the film.

It’s not a major impediment, the emotional tones of the movie still get through.  People find healing and comfort and companionship in unlikely places, and emotional support can be exchanged like any other transaction.  A thoughtful piece of work.  Rating: Very Good (82)


I’ve now seen 997 of the 1000 films in the latest edition of the “They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?” list.  The exceptions are: Doomed Love (can’t find with English subtitles), The Art of Vision (can’t find at all) and Out 1: noli me tangere (have seen the shortened Spectre version and I’m annoyed that both are on the list, but I will watch if a good transfer becomes available).  I had a notion to revisit all the ones I’ve never reviewed.  However, that amounts to 87 films and I really would prefer to stay focused on my personal watchlist for now.  I may do some of them, but for the time being it’s low priority.

4 Responses to “TSPDT 2013: Exotica”

  1. JC said

    997/1000 ?? That’s pretty impressive. Congrats!

  2. Damn, you’re ahead of me. However, I have access to every film except The Art of Vision. You can only see it at the MOMA in New York or the University of Colorado, Boulder. I am hoping it will fall of the list in a month or so.

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