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Exotica (1994)

In a world of temptation, obsession is the deadliest desire.

Original Title : Exotica
Director : Atom Egoyan
Writer : Atom Egoyan
Genre : Drama
Country : Canada
Language : English
Producer : Atom Egoyan , Camelia Frieberg , Robert Lantos , Robert Lantos , David J. Webb
Music : Mychael Danna
Photography : Paul Sarossy
MPAA Rating : Rated R for some sexuality and language.
IMDB ID : 0109759
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poster for "Exotica" by Atom Egoyan (1994)
Exotica (1994) - Atom Egoyan
 

Starring

David Hemblen Customs inspector
Mia Kirshner Christina
Calvin Green Customs officer
Elias Koteas Eric
Bruce Greenwood Francis Brown
Peter Krantz Man in taxi
Don McKellar Thomas Pinto
Arsinée Khanjian Zoe
Sarah Polley Tracey Brown
Victor Garber Harold Brown
Damon D'Oliveira Man at opera
Jack Blum Scalper
Billy Merasty Man at opera
Ken McDougall Doorman rest of cast listed alphabetically
Maury Chaykin Exotica Club client (uncredited
C.J. Fidler Exotica Club dancer (uncredited
 

Plot

The 'Exotica' is a nightclub on the outskirts of Toronto, where Eric, DJ and MC, watches nightly as his ex-girlfriend Christina performs. Watches jealously, especially as far as the extra attentions regular customer Francis garners are concerned. Thomas, meanwhile and erstwhile, goes through a series of, um, interesting situations involving his pet shop, a gruff taxi-sharing stranger, unexpected tickets to the opera and smuggled eggs of a rare bird. Multiple story lines unfold in a splendid tangle of cutbacks, forward and backward references and recurring themes, all woven around the Exotica, its customers and employees. A calm roller-coaster ride of a movie, visually and intriguingly and emotionally moving. O, and the sound track is notable, too.
 

Comments

The Taboo of Human Contact 'Exotica' is clearly Egoyan's best film and his most successful presentation of the motifs that have characterized his films throughout his career, these include the presentation of the narrative out of chronological order, the interaction of characters by means of videotape and hidden surveillance, the relationship between parent and child, and the repetition of situation and dialogue.The film's theme involves the superficial barriers-both physical and psychological-that prevent people from making a genuine emotional connection with others, as we watch the film we witness how various people react to these barriers and struggle to break them down. The film's strong emphasis on structure and focus on Thomas' and Francis' parallel 'hunts' for human contact can't help but remind of that masterpiece of medieval literature 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' (this is a work that Egoyan was born to adapt to the screen). In my opinion each of the film's six major characters parallels another to compile three pairs.The first pair of characters is composed of Thomas and Zoe.The most obvious similarity between these two is that each owns one of the film's two principle locations.Thomas' pet store and Zoë's strip-club are comparable in that both are businesses whose principle merchandise is living creatures that are excessively displayed so as to persuade the customer to make a purchase.Moreover, while the pet store is lined with glass cages and fish-tanks, the walls of the strip-club are composed of two-way mirrors through which employees can secretly observe the customers. In addition to the life that each openly sells, both also possess hidden life.We see this in Zoë by the fact that she is very pregnant, but must disguise her appearance so as not to remind customers of the possible consequences of the lecherous behavior that her club encourages. Likewise, in the film's first scenes we see that Thomas is pregnant in a different way.Here, he is smuggling exotic bird eggs into the country by strapping the eggs to his stomach in order to hide them from Canadian customs officials.This hidden life also extends to their introverted personalities.To combat their inability to communicate verbally, both try to make interpersonal connections by means of physical contact.In a sense, then, Thomas and Zoë (as the Greek origin of her name might suggest) are givers of life both openly in their businesses and privately in their interaction with others. Next, Francis and Eric are parallel characters because of their mutual obsessions with Christina.Although Christina is intended to be seen as a sex object, neither Francis nor Eric has any interest in her in this regard. Instead, she symbolizes an emotional relationship that both once had, but now have lost.When they eventually discover their real relationship, Francis and Eric find that they do not need Christina and make an emotional bond with each other, which is symbolized by a physical embrace. Lastly, Christina and Tracey can be associated because Francis considers both as symbols of his dead daughter.However, Francis' relationships with Christina and Tracey both fail because he is unable to develop bonds that go beyond their assigned roles as a stripper and babysitter.Therefore, while Zoë and Thomas can be seen as givers of life, Christina and Tracey clearly receive life by taking on the roles that Francis and Eric impose on them. There are also many reoccuring images and symbols that reinforce the emotional isolation of the characters.The use of secret surveillance by two-way mirrors serves both as an invisible yet uncrossable boundary between people who would otherwise be very close to one another and as a way for the characters to make private judgments of those who are being unwittingly observed.In fact, while Eric secretly observes and judges Francis during his nights at Exotica, Francis, because of this job as an auditor, does the same to Thomas during the day.Egoyan reminds us that this relationship can ultimately be extended to include the audience members, who also make private judgments of the film's characters (we've this before in films like Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' and Powell's 'Peeping Tom').As we watch the film, we too are in a sense reaching out to forge an emotional connection that transcends the barrier of the medium itself. The film's overriding presence of money suggests to the characters that the only legitimate grounds for a relationship is financial, and any time an emotional connection is made the characters feel guilty if they are not paying for it. Finally, the frequent appearance of parrots and their uncharacteristic silence reflects the characters' inability to communicate and overcome the losses of their past.I've really grown to admire this film and Egoyan's work in general.In 'Exotica' he creates a work of complex symmetry and interconnecting symbols while also conveying an atmosphere of lyrical intensity.
 
poster for "Exotica"
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Exotica (1994) - Atom Egoyan
poster for "Exotica"
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Exotica (1994) - Atom Egoyan
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