The Exterminating Angels

"Good"

The Exterminating Angels Review


In Jean-Claude Brisseau's 2002 film Secret Things, two women use their bodies and manipulative theatrics to get ahead at a sterile French bank, only to be flipped by a shark in a cornflake-crisp suit and a sharp tie. Ostensibly, Brisseau was being coy: Secret Things was an exercise in taboo that had the visage of breaking taboo. Following the film, Brisseau was brought up on charges of harassment by actresses that tried out for the roles in his film. Actresses accused him of pushing them to masturbate in front of him (and on camera) as a prerequisite for auditioning for the roles. He was later released with a warning and a term of probation.

Now, he attempts again to find what he calls "a relation to reality" in The Exterminating Angels, a believe-it-or-not dramatization of what occurred during the casting sessions for Secret Things and the emotional backlash felt after. Blended thoughtfully with radio transmissions of free-form poetry, the story uses Frédéric van den Driessche as a stand-in for Brisseau, here named François.

Often followed by two angels in black aerobics suits (Margaret Zenou and Raphaële Godin), François begins to cast his latest exploration of sexual taboos, being completely upfront about the fact that any girl interested will have to masturbate on camera for him. Dozens say no but one girl named Julie (Lise Bellynck), coaxed by one of the angels, agrees to the process. Two more follow, the last being intrigued after watching a public display of the audition process. They audition, tease, and attempt to seduce François and, finally, turn on him for betraying a supposed trust and bond they had with him.

Nothing if not audacious and borderline ludicrous, The Exterminating Angels finds Brisseau in decidedly more dangerous territory than Secret Things, picking at the stitches that held his previous film in such uncertain grounds. Danger never comes clean: Brisseau's purposeful clash in tone can drift from abstract to absurd without hesitation, creating an awkward, over-the top mood in the film's more erotic spots. This does not detract from the film's brute complexity, as one might assume. The Lynchian grandmother scenes forgiven, Brisseau engages directly with the director and his three beauties, giving the film a bewildering focus.

The level of the filmmaker's pomposity seemed a point of heavy arbitration at the screening I attended. Three seductive girls fall for an elderly director and sue him when he starts to back away from them? Hey, it's France. Self-aggrandizing aside, Angels has an imprudent fascination to its askew narrative and is, hands-down, the most blazingly erotic film to come along in some time. Whether or not Brisseau has successfully flipped his wig or not could be debated for months, but the extent of his success as a provocateur seems undeniable. The only question remaining: Can the modern man handle Brisseau's cup of tea? The answer: Dude! All-girl threesome!

Aka Les Anges exterminateurs.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 13th September 2006

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Production compaines: TS Productions, La Sorcière Rouge

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 5.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Gilles Sacuto, Milena Poylo

Starring: Frédéric van den Driessche as François, Maroussia Dubreuil as Charlotte, Lise Bellynck as Julie, Marie Allan as Stéphanie

Also starring:

Contactmusic


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