Exotica | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This may be the best of writer-director Atom Egoyan's slick, Canadian carriage-trade productions (the other two are Speaking Parts and The Adjuster), though it's also a regression, both formally and thematically, compared to his previous film, Calendar. The central location--a triumph of lush, imaginative set design--is a sort of strip club where young female dancers sit at male customers' tables and verbally cater to their psychic needs; at the center of this faux-tropical establishment is an odd little house where the club's pregnant owner hangs out with the jaundiced announcer (Egoyan regulars Arsinee Khanjian and Elias Koteas), voyeuristically overseeing the voyeuristic clientele. The main customer is still mourning the death of his young daughter, and other significant characters include a dancer who sits at his table, a baby-sitter, and an eccentric smuggler whose path briefly crosses that of the bereaved father. As a narrative this is something of a tease, building toward a denouement straight out of Freud; its structure both benefits and suffers from Egoyan's customary splintered focus and repetition compulsion, and there's an unmistakable sadness in its pornographic luster. But as mise en scene it's rich and accomplished--for better and for worse, a place to get lost in. Fine Arts.

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