Tag Archives: Exotica

Where to begin with Atom Egoyan

Why this might not seem so easy

Excluding contributions to anthology films, Canada-based auteur Atom Egoyan has nearly 20 feature credits to his name as a director. But Egoyan’s work also extends to theatre, opera, art installations and music. While footage of some of his installations can be found on YouTube, and a number of his shorts have a home among the extras on disc releases of his features, a full portrait of him as an artist working across multiple fields is nigh on impossible to achieve without access to any archives the man himself might have.

In terms of content, something that may potentially put off newcomers to Egoyan’s work are the hermetic worlds in which many of them, particularly his early string of features, operate. Intense emotions are repressed and human interaction is often communicated through transmitted images. Before Exotica (1994) and the twice Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter (1997) brought him wider recognition and commercial success, Egoyan, alongside fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, was one of North American cinema’s key chroniclers of life in the developing video age, where the nature of human relationships radically altered in the wake of technology’s expanding role in our lives. Bureaucracy and other power structures also tend to isolate characters in his films. They are about alienation and so can be alienating…

Full feature for the BFI

Interview: Atom Egoyan, Director of ‘Guest of Honour’

Behind some of Canadian cinema’s most acclaimed films, Atom Egoyan is best known for a string of breakthrough independent features he made in the 1990s, including The Adjuster (1991), Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), the latter earning him two Oscar nominations. Regularly playing with the conventions of melodrama, his time-jumping narratives are characterised by their gradual teasing of information with the full nature of characters’ relationships never immediately clear.

Egoyan’s latest, Guest of Honour, is another tale about past sins and moral dilemmas of the present. It gives the great David Thewlis a rare leading role as a widowed health inspector, Jim, whose mind dwells on the incarceration of his adult daughter, Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), for a crime she didn’t commit. In a parallel timeline, a now released Veronica discusses her father with a local priest (Luke Wilson) in order to compose a eulogy.

Here, Josh Slater-Williams speaks to the writer-director about his storytelling interests and the genesis of Guest of Honour

Full interview for the Curzon blog

Atom Egoyan: How we made ‘Exotica’ – 25th anniversary

Misleadingly marketed as an erotic thriller by Miramax, Exotica proved a notable box-office success for a Canadian film when it was released a quarter of a century ago. It was a commercial breakthrough for its Cairo-born writer-director Atom Egoyan, following well-regarded arthouse titles such as Speaking Parts (1989) and The Adjuster (1991). Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes and recipient of eight Genie awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Oscars), Egoyan’s film remains one of Canadian cinema’s most enduring and influential titles, and – along with The Sweet Hereafter (1997) – the director’s most highly regarded feature.

Set primarily around the fictional Exotica strip club in Toronto, the non-linear narrative – in which Egoyan withholds many of the specifics of characters’ relationships until the very end – concerns the intertwining lives of Francis (Bruce Greenwood), a tax auditor; Christina (Mia Kirshner), a young dancer; Eric (Elias Koteas), the club’s DJ; Thomas (Don McKellar), a pet shop owner; and Zoe (Arsinée Khanjian), the club’s pregnant owner.

Exotica is largely about loss, mourning and the effects they have on human connections; how people’s attempts to cope with extreme, often concealed grief manifest in outwardly disturbing personal rituals. The final scenes are among the most emotionally cathartic of 1990s cinema, drastically reconfiguring your understanding of previous events, while also opening up many unsettling questions. Far from a shallow puzzle narrative, the film’s power only grows with repeat viewings.

With 2019 marking the film’s 25th anniversary, I spoke to Atom Egoyan about Exotica’s production and legacy while he was at this year’s BFI London Film Festival to give a career talk and support his new film, Guest of Honour. Our conversation spoils one narrative reveal from Exotica’s finale…

Full interview for the BFI

The great Leonard Cohen moments in film

With Nick Broomfield’s documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, an in-depth look at the relationship between Leonard Cohen and muse Marianne Ihlen, playing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this month and on general release in July, we thought it an appropriate time to highlight some of our favourite Cohen needle drops in cinema.

Whether with his own voice or through cover versions, many films and TV shows have made stirring use of Cohen’s music, though there is no instance in which the songs in question were written with the intention of featuring in that movie or episode.

For inclusion in the small selection below, we’ve stuck to the following criteria: feature films only, one entry per song, and Cohen recordings only, not covers of his work…

Full feature for The Skinny