“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
― Emily Jane Brontë , Wuthering Heights
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
—-Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows
This weekend I had time to sit down and pick a movie from The Criterion Collection. I decided on a film I had seen before – but many years ago and one that I didn’t remember… really… at all. It was Exotica, directed by Atom Egoyan.
I always viewed this film as sort of a bookend to Egoyan’s masterpiece – the fantastic and shattering (and very hard to watch) The Sweet Hereafter. Exotica was made three years before The Sweet Hereafter and contains many of the same themes of survival, guilt, and disaster – but in a different and less focused form.
I don’t think I paid close enough attention the first time I watched it – the movie was very, very good (a notch below The Sweet Hereafter, though the comparison isn’t really fair). Exotica is the name of a strip club where much of the action takes place – though the term and idea of Exotic is one of many themes that soak and permeate the film.
The structure is circular and there are many things that keep reappearing in different ways. Watch for:
- Handing money to someone (often in a long envelope)
- One way mirrors (also the murky green glass in the pet store)
- The brittle nature of exotic beauty
- People watching other people, with more than a little bit of threat and danger
- Contracts, where each person gets a little bit of what they need/want
Be sure and watch until the end. The movie misleads you about what is going on – it plays on your fears and expectations. In the end, it is all explained and the final third of the movie is a fantastic payoff and worth waiting for.
I did a little research about the film – and found an amazingly misleading publicity campaign. It came out roughly at the same time as Showgirls and Striptease… and as it is set in a strip club the movie was billed as another erotic thriller. Look at this trailer:
This trailer is so bad. So bad and misleading I suspect it isn’t a real trailer – someone’s satire.The movie is not exciting or overly sexual, it is a carefully tuned meditation on loss and what it takes to get through disaster and people trying to help each other in any way they can.
Of course, there is the strip club, and the unique and memorable dance by Mia Kershner to a Leonard Cohen song. It actually appears in the film twice (with subtle differences).
So, if you have some time and a decent streaming service – sit down and take a look at Exotica. It may take an open mind and some patience, but it pays off in the end.
Orchids are erotic. You have to consider the honest look of them: the labial petals ballet-slipper pink and eggshell white splayed delicately open, the blood-brown leopard spots on ridged tongues; you’re always compelled to stroke them with your finger. When the children ask why orchids, their mother says, “Because they’re handsome,” as if she is describing a square-faced Irish washerwoman, and when they press her further she says, “Because growing things is good for people.”
—- Jen Julian, I Have Entered My Garden, My Sweetheart, My Bride
Though I would have liked to been one… I haven’t been much of a gardener – it’s tough when you come home from work exhausted every day. Now, though, I’m working on a shade garden in front of my house. The problem is, shade plants grow slowly and it won’t really look good for years. I might not live that long. To compensate I look up places I lived decades ago on Google Street View and see if the plants and trees I did plant back then are still there. It’s surprising how many are. Some have grown to immense size.
Read it here:
And I said that when I said I want to keep things light I meant not-heavy, not not-dark. I don’t want not-dark but I also don’t want dark, I tell her. I want an intense grey.
—- Jennifer Wortman, A Person’s Essence Feels the Smallest
There’s overthinking and there’s overtalking and there are people that don’t know what is in front of them. Born in the USA was great, but I think it was also the tipping point where Springsteen began to believe his own hype. By the way, I thought Darkness on the Edge of Town was brilliant the first time I heard it. I remember buying a copy of the vinyl album in a KMart in Kansas when it first dropped. I guess none of those things have quite stood up to the test of time, but what does, really?
Read it here: