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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Exotica

Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Mia Kirshner
Director: Atom Egoyan
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: March 1995
Genres: Drama, Gay/Lesbian

*Also starring: Don McKellar, Arsinee Khanjian, Elias Koteas, Sarah Polley, Victor Garber, Calvin Green, David Hemblen

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

EXOTICA (not to be confused with EROTIQUE which was released in the US at about the same time) is a Canadian film. It starts with a smuggler of exotic birds and then switches to a totally different cast of characters--this time in a night club full of exotic dancers. The only thing these people have in common is that are all major bizarre. But don't tune out yet because the writer begins to weave a story of extreme complexity.

The smuggler, Thomas (Don McKellar), acts like his mind is in another planet. He manages to run into a series of characters each one of which has the audience wondering if this character is important or not and will he be the link to the exotic nightclub story.

In the exotic nightclub part of the picture we have Eric (Elias Koteas), the barker/DJ, who has some strange attraction to Christina (Mia Kirshner), the main dancer. Christina, on the other hand, has an obsessive (mental?) relationship with Francis (Bruce Greenwood), a middle aged customer who comes in every other night. Moreover, Francis is paying a teenage girl Tracey (Sarah Polley) for something. He takes her home to her Dad (Victor Garber--remember him in the Days and Nights of Molly Dodd?) where they live above a liquor store in a bad area of town. And all of that is just the plot set up. Whew!

This labyrinth gets more convoluted from there. Slowly and eventually, most of it gets solved. The last scene manages to tie up most of the major loose ends, but much remains an enigma when the screen goes to black.

The director/writer (Atom Egoyan) manages to take a lot of risks in his writing, but his directing was too cautious. I loved the mystery, but at the same time found that I did not care about the characters because he had them play their parts too surreal and aloof. Too often it seemed he was more interested in the texture of the images than in the people. The movie was basically sort of a Blue Velvet-lite in feel but without its violence.

The cinematography by Paul Sarossy was great. The effect in the nightclub was bright lights of intense blues and greens with the other parts of the set in clear but less saturated colors. The pet store had an eerie feel due to the camerawork.

The movie runs 1:41 which seemed about right. It is rated R for varying degrees of female nudity in about 1/3 of the scenes. There was no sex or violence. It is not an erotic show no matter what the local was and not matter how many women were in various states of undress. I agree with the rating that the show is for adults. I give it mild thumbs down as I wanted better acting and better directing, and I award it **.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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