Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Film Comment Selects is an annual New York City offering from the Lincoln Center's Film Comment magazine. Here's Manohla Dargis, in her primer on the films that'll be shown this year:

The highbrow meets the lowdown and dirty in Jean-Claude Brisseau’s “Exterminating Angels,” which kicks off the series of 18 films tonight. (It opens commercially in three weeks.) Raunch of the most decorous kind, this blush-inducing Valentine’s Day offering concerns a director, François (the game Frédéric van den Driessche), who’s holding auditions for his next project, a thriller. This being an art-house thriller, or at least a French filmmaker’s conceit, the actresses will, ooh-la-la, have to masturbate on camera. There won’t be any men, François assures the startled women, except for those who will presumably line up around the block to see the final results.

Most of the actresses decline François’s offer, but a few agree to abandon propriety and clothes, which leads to several explicit boudoir — and one under-the-restaurant-table — encounters. The film raises fascinating questions about power and sex both in regard to the director-actress relationship and, more generally, men and women. In Mr. Brisseau’s case those questions turn out to be intensely personal since he was convicted in 2005 of sexually harassing two actresses who claimed, yes, that he had forced them to masturbate during screen tests for another film. It remains unclear how Mr. Brisseau, who was apparently unarmed, forced the women to engage in acts of self-pleasure, but this transgression brought him a suspended jail sentence, a fine and, of course, the inspiration for his next film.

Nothing like life-meets-art. I think I'm going to go see this one...

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