Welcome to the return of Intermission, a spin-off podcast from The Film Stage Show. Led by yours truly, Michael Snydel, I invite a guest to discuss an arthouse, foreign, or experimental film of their choice.
For the fourteenth episode, I talked to the editor-in-chief/co-founder of The Film Stage, Jordan Raup, about Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s 1994 erotic melodrama Exotica (available on a new Criterion Collection disc and alongside Calendar, The Sweet Hereafter, and The Adjustor on the Criterion Channel).
At first blush, Egoyan’s film defies easy categorization with its recursive structure, multiple central characters, and the director’s own penchant for throwing viewers into previously defined relationships. Exotica’s dizzying construction only amplifies those sensations with the characters’ winding stream-of-consciousness monologues, DP Paul Sarossy’s furtive camerawork, and Mychael Danna’s Egyptian-influenced score.
The plot isn’t easily described, but it can be distilled down to the intersection of initially undefinable relationships of clientele and employees at the namesake’s strip club. These oddballs range from lovelorn MCs to closeted bird egg collectors and Freudian father figures.
Nearly every one of these characters meshes into a diagrammatic arc to reach the mosaic-esque climax, but those intricacies are a means to an end. Exotica (and arguably, Egoyan’s body of work) traffic in the claustrophobically intimate, introducing dynamics that act as conduits for hard emotional truths. To remove the film from its obtuse contexts, consider instead that Egoyan’s two primary influences for writing Exotica were being audited in real life and learning about the no-touch rule at strip clubs.
Alike, today’s podcast could be seen as an attempt to find a middle ground between these two perceptions of Exotica––one as a psychosexual nesting doll and the other as an emotionally linear inquiry into personal trauma and its ensuing repercussions. Along the way, we discuss the film’s unexpected reception (one of two films to ever win awards at both the AVN Awards and Cannes), the shortcomings of its contemporary parallels, and Elias Koteas.
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