wed 12/08/2020

DVD: The Atom Egoyan Collection | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Atom Egoyan Collection

DVD: The Atom Egoyan Collection

Enigmatic Armenian-Canadian director's best work boxed

Ian Holm and Sarah Polley in 'The Sweet Hereafter'

Atom Egoyan’s stock has dropped a bit in the 21st century. This box-set of his first seven films remains – along with his response to the Turkish genocide of Armenians, Ararat (2002) – the essence of his work to date.

These early films have as much personal character as his compatriot and mentor Cronenberg’s. His feature debut Next of Kin (1984), in which a teenager escapes his loveless home by pretending to be a Toronto Armenian family’s long-lost son, introduces several themes: carefully faked identities, and the erasable memories enabled by video-tape. Family Viewing (1988), Speaking Parts (1989) and The Adjuster (1991) elaborate these ideas with a deadpan comic edge, and a growing repertory company including his wife Arsinee Khanjian and Elias Koteas. Calendar (1993) stars Egoyan as a “nightmare” version of himself, filming in Armenia’s hilltop churches and crumbling post-Soviet cities, bringing the autobiography scattered through his films to the fore.

In Exotica (1994), the characters’ cool suppressions disintegrate in the hothouse of a tropically themed strip-club. The nature of the relationship between a schoolgirl-dressed stripper (Mia Kirshner, pictured right), an obsessed customer (Bruce Greenwood) and a child’s murder is unpicked in a film of interwoven secrets, two-way mirrors and voyeuristic alcoves. Sarah Polley, these days a fine director herself, joined Egoyan’s regulars here. She then made her name in The Sweet Hereafter (1997), an adaptation of Russell Banks’s novel about the aftermath of a small-town school-bus’s fatal crash. Polley’s piercing intelligence as a surviving, abused child matches Ian Holm as a fearsome, ambulance-chasing lawyer with a drug-addict daughter and devastated heart. Gratefully helped by Banks’s command of character, Egoyan’s structuring of time achieves a potent grace. His rhythmic revealing of satisfying, deep mysteries peaks with these two films.

Extras include a thorough 1999 Egoyan interview, Formulas for Seduction, and three early shorts, Howard In Particular, Peepshow and Open House.

Sarah Polley’s piercing intelligence as a surviving, abused child matches Ian Holm as a fearsome, ambulance-chasing lawyer

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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