Director: Atom Egoyan
Screenplay: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Don McKellar, Mia Kirshner, Elias Koteas, Arsinee Khanjian, Sarah Polley
Running Time: 103 minutes
This dark, multi-layered drama focuses on the staff and clients of a Toronto strip-club called Exotica: Lonely accountant Francis (Greenwood) is obsessed with a young exotic dancer, Christina (Kirshner), which arouses the jealousy of the club's resident DJ, Eric (Koteas), who is also in love with Christina. Meanwhile Francis becomes involved with pet-store owner Thomas (McKellar), who runs a smuggling operation based around trading rare animals.
Back in the mid to late 1990s, Atom Egoyan was one of the leading lights of Canadian cinema, and this was the film that really made him a star director. As with many of his films, various initially apparently unrelated stories, set in the past and present, interweave and coalesce into a whole towards the end. The film conjures up a distinct feel right from the opening shot, as the credits play over a long tracking shot of a variety of hothouse plants and flowers while Mychael Danna's memorable, sinuous, Indian-influenced score plays and the opening line: "You must ask yourself, what brought them to this point?" The decor in the Exotica club is full of images of jungle plants. The film was marketed initially in some places as an erotic thriller, which conjures up images of the kind of cheap movies that come on late-night cable with dull plots and a couple of soft-focus sex scenes, and Exotica really isn't that at all. Given the fact that it is set in a strip club obviously there is a fair amount of nudity, mostly in the background, and there is a powerfully sensuous atmosphere in the film, but it is not a sex movies, nor is it really a thriller, although there are thriller elements in it. It's a well-constructed film, with some great performances, and a fantastic soundtrack (including the best use on film of the late, great Leonard Cohen's song "Everybody Knows"). Not all the various storylines are resolved in the end, but it remains a haunting, powerful and deeply rewarding exploration of grief and desire.
Mia Kirshner and Don McKellar in Exotica