Exotica (1994)

file under drama

This film was directed by Atom Egoyan, and featured as a Canadian film in the Cannes film festival. Through some unfortunate timing, Exotica (1994) appeared around the same time as low-brow movies superficially also centered on the striptease. For Exotica, however, the striptease acts as a metaphor for the film, in which the torturous histories of its characters are slowly revealed.

Let's do this sans spoilers. Exotica features Bruce Greenwood, a middle-aged auditor escaping a dark, haunting past in the arms of a young stripper (Mia Kirshner) in a dimly-lit club that takes the film's name. (The film also features the talents of Elias Koteas, Arsinee Khanjian, and Don McKellar.) As the puzzle slowly unravels, you are forced to reevaluate your first impressions on the characters, particularly Greenwood's. In this way, our own reflexive attitudes and how we condemn or praise those strangers on screen becomes intwined with the film's material.

How do we use sex? As Kirshner slowly disrobes, does she become a passive object of desire, or is there more than one person's fears and desires that are exposed? Exotica joins a note-worthy collection of Canadian films in its survey of loneliness created by societal repression, and how those distances are ultimately crossed with obsession and longing.

Exotica is a lot of fun to watch in both sight and sound. The nightclub is amorphous and largely unlit, save the garishly colored lights that create a lush and disorienting setting. In contrast, scenes shot in the auditor's home and outdoors are reserved and simple in their geometry. The music, composed by Atom's younger sister Eve, does a really great job of complementing the picture. It is one of few soundtracks that I would bother purchasing.

You guys neglect Canadian film. And no, Strange Brew doesn't count.

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