Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Exterminating Angels": Filmmakers, be careful of what you wish for, and about who auditions for your movie

The Exterminating Angels”  (“Les anges exterminateurs”, 2006), by  Jean-Claude Brisseau, did generate some buzz at Cannes a few years ago, and in New York when it played at Lincoln Center (probably the Walter Reade). 

This meta film about porn takes place on several levels.  The “hero”, Francoais (Frederic  van den Driessche) auditions several young women to play in his film.

Two of the young women may be “fallen angels”, sent to tempt the filmmaker.  Is this “real”, or just a metaphor?  The audience can decide.  But in time Francois goes down the toilet.  His marriage collapses, and in time the police are after him, and finally so are organized thugs.  The kneecapping at the end is quite brutal (and recalls recent news).

A lot is made of a restaurant scene near the end, where the angels appear, and then an old women, just before the tragedy. 

Wikipedia notes that the film is somewhat autobiographical for the director, who was arrested and prosecuted for "harassment" in France in 2002. Does that observation make the film an exercise in gratuitous self-incrimination? The film has a required disclaimer that all actresses in explicit scenes are 18 or older.
The DVD has a 40-minute short “Cinema According to Jean-Claude-Brisseau".  The portly director explains the self-reflection in the final scene, where a badly damaged Francois sees himself rather like the voyager at the end of Kubrick’s 2001. The diirector denies that the film is "New Wave". but it seems like it is, particularly toward the end.  

The film is distributed by The Weinstein Company and IFC, and would normally be views as a “legitimate” NC-17 film, with layers of meaning  intended for adults.  Much of the explicit sex is lesbian (Francois usually prefers to watch than participate).
My own screenplay short “The Sub” presents a substitute teacher who is “tempted” in an unusual way by a precocious near-adult student, who could be seen as having supernatural resources.  That screenplay gets embedded as a backstory in my latest feature screenplay (“Do Ask Do Tell: The Manifesto”), in which the subject wakes up in a sort of afterlife world in which he has to decide which of his “captors” are “real” angels who can travel to other planets.  That invites brief but vivid and varied backstories among a variety of characters, flashing by as if in a dream.  

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