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THE EXTERMINATING ANGELS
2007
Written and directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau
97 Minutes
Unrated

I suppose I should be grateful I finally have the opportunity to dig my nails into a French film for this project. Granted, this film was rented for prurient interests, but it's given me the great pleasure of being profoundly reviewable.

So, first of all, right off the bat, if you like lesbians, and you like them naked, and you like seeing them have sex with each other and/or by themselves, you're going to love parts of this movie. The French seem to be leading the way in seeing just how much explicit sex and nudity can actually be crammed into a film before it becomes pornographic, and Brisseau's The Exterminating Angels certainly isn't one to buck a trend. While the women in this film almost universally suffer chronic butterface, most of them have good bodies, and it's not like you're watching this for the plot, right?

Oh you are? Well, that's okay, too, because the vast majority of the running time is spent in that plot, and it's a stupid one. While I wouldn't deign to argue that the female of the species isn't deadlier than the male, the plot of The Exterminating Angels is, quite frankly, in parts retarded, and on the whole extraordinarily self-indulgent. I think it's appropriate that there's so much masturbation in the film, because that's really what the director is doing with his screenplay: fapping away like an evil genie.

Continuing with my tradition of not employing plot synposes, I will nonetheless point out that this film, no matter how much the writer/director argues against it, is pretty much autobiographical. It just is, and if you read up on him at all, it will be painfully obvious to you as well. Of course, the point he argues is that even though he was arrested and fined for exploiting an actress by having her pleasure herself in front of him for a role, she was really victimizing him by pressing charges, because he was just an auteur studying female sexuality. I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that men all over the world are studying female sexuality, it's just that not all of them are able to hide behind a camera, masking their intentions with artistic pretense.

And what pretense. Brisseau's avatar in this film is physically everything he isn't: well-built while Brisseau is fat, good-looking while Brisseau looks like Jabba the Hutt exists somewhere in his family tree, and charismatic where Brisseau is merely stuffy. The actor who plays the director within the film, Francois, is able to sell us on the idea that he really is just a nice guy, genuinely interested in capturing female pleasure on film, and I think that's the actor's greatest feat, because Brisseau's screenplay undermines him every step of the way.

Now, I'm just a film student. I've written some scripts, directed some shorts, but I'm not playing in the same ballpark as Brisseau. That said, I'd be hard-pressed to believe any woman who watches this film would actually believe that women would talk like this. I've known a lot of crazies, a lot of sluts, and a lot of crazy sluts, but the women in this film just aren't realistic in any universe I've been in. Their motives are constantly questionable, and their willingness to go along with whatever the fuck Francois tells them ties into the deeply rooted fatal flaw of the film: the overstatement of the artistic value of a director.

Let me be clear: the director is no mythical being. He's not the powerful Oz behind the curtain, he's not some mystic figure, he's a fucking guy (or gal) that knows how to tell people what to do in order to produce a piece of art. He (or she) may possess a vision, true, but anyone who's seen a Brett Ratner or Jim Wynorski film should have a pretty clear understanding of just how much of an artist a director can be. A director has precious little more insight in humanity than anyone else because a director is not in the business of peddling real humanity, they're in the business of peddling filmic humanity and filmic ideas of art; frankly, the vast majority of them aren't even that pretentious, they're mostly just normal folks. So when a film so grossly overstates the artistic power and integrity of a filmmaker to the point where every character inhabiting his space seems to live in perpetual awe of him as some kind of obscene visionary capable of incredible depth and complexity and you know what?

It's fucking irritating, and just about any working actor knows that a director isn't some kind of wild visionary with incredible depth of character and boundless insight into humanity. It's a bunch of bullshit, and the film builds up Francois as this unspeakably tragic hero at the same time that it paints his actresses as these psychotic nymphomaniacs with daddy issues and demon possession. Either that, or they're all madly in love with him, and wanting to perform not for the film, but for him. And then some of them are also duplicitous cunts. About the only one with integrity is his wife, who leaves him (oh no, did I spoil it?), but even her goodbye letter is misguided and firing the wrong way.

Let me be clear: I ask of the women I date that they be okay with the fact that, as a filmmaker, I will inevitably have to spend time with naked women. Hot ones. And that I may have to direct them engaging in simulated sex acts. Because films have those. I don't think these are unreasonable requests, because I'm not sitting behind the camera masturbating frenetically to it. But any wife, no matter how confident or trusting she is, is probably going to be at least a little miffed when her husband is taking attractive women to a hotel room to watch them play with themselves and each other, oftentimes without even bringing the single pretense of an artist - a camera - and all under the guise of "screen tests." Are you fucking kidding me? Even a porn director would be skating on thin ice with that shit, yet the wife leaves him because she thinks he's actually been fucking these girls, not because he's an amoral douche bag.

The actor playing Francois may be able to convince us that his motives aren't necessarily prurient, but the filmmaker does not, and as a result, the film has an air of unintentional hilarity that pulsates, grinds, and tribs its way through it. Make no mistake: once you see through the film's cloud of bullshit, you'll find it at least as funny as Showgirls.

And the filmmaker himself? Let's just say that after watching him cry and piss and moan about how he was victimized through this hour and forty, I'm pretty sure he's guilty as sin.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.