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3 reviews, 7 user ratings

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by Elaine Perrone

"Unlocking the mysteries within the chambers of the human heart."
5 stars

Despite its setting – a seedy strip club called Exotica, located in an industrial section of Toronto – Exotica is neither a porn film nor an arthouse variation of Showgirls. What it is, is a masterwork from writer-director Atom Egoyan – a harrowing look at one man's loss, betrayal, and obsession, and an absorbing study of human nature in the responses of a number of people whose lives are touched by his.

By day, Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood) is a tax auditor for Revenue Canada. By night, he is an habitué of Exotica – a despondent man seeking comfort in the company of one of the club's dancers, Christina (Mia Kirschner), with whom he seems to have formed a bond.

Exotica’s owner Zoe (Arsinée Kahnjian, Egoyan's real-life wife), an alluring – and very pregnant – Middle Eastern woman, has fashioned a gentlemen’s club in a tropical rainforest-like setting, where her patrons can revel in the beauty of all the women who perform for them, or arrange for the individual attention of a dancer at a private table. Zoe's only hard-and-fast rule, on the threat of permanent expulsion from the club, is that the men never touch the women while they are performing, either onstage or at the tables.

All the while that Christina, clad demurely in a schoolgirl's uniform, silently does her act for him, Francis tearfully implores, "How could anyone hurt you?" Still, he is respectful of Zoe's rule that he never initiate physical contact, until Eric (Elias Koteas), the club's sleazy disc jockey, who becomes agitated by Christina's attentions to Francis, provokes him.

During the daytime hours, when he is not with Christina at Exotica, Francis spends his time auditing the books of a pet store owner, Thomas Pinto (Don McKellar), who has come under the scrutiny of the customs authorities and Revenue Canada for his brisk sideline business of smuggling rare tropical birds into the country. After being ousted from Exotica, Francis bribes Thomas into helping him get revenge on Eric, in exchange for hiding the evidence of the store's cooked books.

Led by Greenwood's brilliant, and heartbreaking, performance, and filling out the excellent supporting cast, are Sarah Polley as Tracey, a teenager with whom Francis has a puzzling financial arrangement born of denial, and Victor Garber as Howard, Tracey's father, a man who for good reason can't quite look Francis in the eye.

Beautifully photographed by DP Paul Sarossy, Exotica is a mesmerizing filmgoing experience made all the more riveting by the unsettling musical score of Mychael Danna and the amazingly apt use of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows."

Egoyan is a master storyteller who has crafted his tale intricately. Secrets are revealed slowly, through a series of increasingly shattering flashbacks, and no mystery is resolved until Egoyan fully intends it to be. It isn't until the film's end that the last enigma falls away, and even then, the final frame leaves the viewer with a picture destined to stop the heart and linger in memory long after the last credit has rolled.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2274&reviewer=376
originally posted: 01/04/05 17:13:17
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User Comments

10/31/08 Shaun Wallner My kind of film. 5 stars
6/24/03 Josh Brilliant, intimate, haunting film 5 stars
6/18/03 Francisco Lombo good movie, a bit too ambitious but with a lot behind the surface 4 stars
7/07/01 AK Emotionally true. You will think about this movie after seeing it & appreciate it more. 5 stars
2/24/01 Elsa get to see don mckellar all hairy and gay and naked!! worth a look just for that 4 stars
2/20/01 Rocket Boy Voyeuristic, gorgeous film...one of the best Canadian films..and of the decade. 5 stars
9/05/00 D Somewhat confusing, but well done 4 stars
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  03-Mar-1995 (R)

  28-Apr-1995 (18)


Directed by
  Atom Egoyan

Written by
  Atom Egoyan

  Bruce Greenwood
  Elias Koteas
  Mia Kirshner
  Don McKellar
  Sarah Polley
  Arsinée Khanjian

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