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Exterminating Angels

a film by Jean-Claude Brisseau

Once upon a time - 2005 to be a bit more accurate - filmmaker (and self-proclaimed sexual liberator) Jean-Claude Brisseau was arrested and tried for sexually harassing a pair of young actresses who had been persuaded to masturbate while auditioning for parts in his film Secret Things. Cut to barely a year and a half later, and Brisseau has made The Exterminating Angels a film about a director who persuades several young actresses to masturbate for him during auditions for a film. Later he is arrested for harassment of these same said actresses. Call it Brisseau's answer to Catherine Breillat's Sex For Comedy if you will, but it would not be a fair comparison at all. While Breillat's films show eroticism as something much more than skin deep, no matter how hard he tries, Brisseau just cannot.

Perhaps Brisseau's audacity at filming this very subject this closely after his trial (and eventual - and probably rightly so - slap on the proverbial wrist) makes one see this film for more than it really is. After all, it is nothing more than a lurid male-fed lesbian fantasy (Skinamax for the intellectual set if you will) with arbitrary sconces of European art cinema tossed in between all the rubbing and licking and more rubbing. Now don't get me wrong, I, being a red-blooded American boy, certainly have no qualms over girl-on-girl action (let the labias fly I say) but the way Brisseau has structured his film - or not structured it - makes even the cheapest of erotic cinema seem, dare I say, dull. Leave it to the French to intellectualize sex so much that it becomes boring.

In the end though, no matter how Lynchian in both its misogynistic overshadows and its extra-terrestial feel (the buzzing of otherwordly chatter, the recurring ghosts and demons and what have you) or Breillatian in its depiction of unbothered sexual libidinality (albeit it in a much less mature, and much more masculine way ala Maxim takes over at Ms. Magazine), or even hinting at surrealism with its very title (Bu´┐Żuel too would be bored here), Brisseau pushes his movie along at such a hurried pace as to make us believe he may actually harbour some sort of secret embarrassment at his subject matter - or perhaps even at himself. [06/12/07]

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