Cinemalphabet: E is for Exotica
Exotica is a mid 90s film written and directed Atom Egoyan, which stars Mia Kirshner (The L-Word), Bruce Greenwald (Star Trek 09), Elias Koteas (Gattaca) and Arsinée Khanjian (The Sweet Hereafter, married to Egoyan).
In 1994 review of Exotica, Roger Ebert said:
“Exotica” is a movie labyrinth, winding seductively into the darkest secrets of a group of people who should have no connection with one another, but do. At the beginning, the film seems to be about randomly selected strangers. By the end, it is revealed that these people are so tightly wound up together that if you took one away, their world would collapse.
If you enjoy being enveloped by a film’s mysteries without needing to have each layer resolved for you quickly, Exotica is a tasty morsel. I agree with Ebert’s assessment regarding the characters’ interconnectedness, which requires nearly the entire running time (nearly two hours) to unravel. It’s hard to describe this film, so I urge you to watch it and judge for yourself.
It centers around a handful of characters and seemingly random events, but as the story unfolds – in nonlinear fashion – the connections are made apparent and often with complicated and tragic results. While most of the action takes place in the Toronto strip club called EXOTICA, it’s not a movie about exotic dancing industry anymore than say – Flashdance. EXOTICA is a character study and if that sort of film frustrates you, this is not going to be your bag of candy. That said, I still say give it a chance. I walked into the Sunset 5 thinking I was about to see EROTIQUE – an entirely different film – and came away from the film a HUGE Egoyan fan.
Mia Kirshner’s performance as Christina is some of the best she’s ever done, striking the right balance between innocence and sultriness. There were a lot bad places her performances could have gone, but Egoyan is so skillful in his direction that the characters are all restrained, fully realized and engaging. This is especially helpful, since you spend most of the viewing time trying to sort out the relationships. So while the events of the film might be infused with ambiguity, the characters themselves are not. Their motivations are clear and driven by specific desires that unfold in a satisfying manner by the end of the film.
I’ll be the first to admit, Egoyan, director of such films as The Sweet Hereafter (based on the Russell Bank novel) and Where the Truth Lies (written by
Mr. Pina Coloda himself!) is an acquired taste. His films move slowly with painstaking precision and often with uncomfortable resolutions. Nevertheless, EXOTICA is one of his most accessible films.
The soundtrack was composed by Mycheal Danna whose credits include: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and THE SWEET HEREAFTER – all stellar works! The music here is fantastic and also includes “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen.