In the cinematic imagination, what is the ideal product of the creative spirit? In “The Hours,” it was Virginia Woolf’s literary masterwork – though her suicide, realized by a heavily made-up Nicole Kidman, came in tandem. Or it could be an unfinished masterpiece, as Tom Hulce showed playing Amadeus, composing himself to death. (Ed Harris’ recent depiction of the creative struggle in “Copying Beethoven” wasn’t too far off.) Even a descent into madness plays well, if you consider the tragedy in Bergman’s “The Hour of the Wolf.”
Writer-Director Jean-Claude Brisseau’s “Exterminating Angels,” now in select cities and available through On Demand, presents a struggling artist, though art and ideas have been cast aside for, er, naked chicks. The artist in question is officially out to capture the sublime realms of “female pleasure,” but in the end creates a handful of soft-core trysts. Read female, and you’ll know the sex focuses on girly masturbation and, eventually, straight chicks gone lesbo.
The struggling artist is François (Frédéric van den Driessche), a seemingly sensitive filmmaker auditioning young women. This middle-aged man has the preoccupied look of a “tortured” artist with a goal always in sight. But at the same time, his real preoccupation is searching for eye-candy, either in the form of a young woman answering his ad or a ravishing passerby. He attempts to make himself into a paternal figure for the women he finds, though his brooding persona lacks ethos and charm.
François directs young ladies to drop their threads and heave themselves into self-gratification – a titillating early audition turns his potential project into an obsession. After many solo sessions, he moves on to girl-on-girl auditions, with two who have just met and thus can charge his voyeuristic pleasure. As he realizes such tempting fantasies for his camera, François can’t help but consider “casting couch” benefits. After two thirds of “Exterminating Angels,” the filmmaker-within-the-film has become so rapt with his auditions that his moving on to the actual project seems highly unlikely.
The other director, one Jean-Claude Brisseau, tries to create an analytic perspective on the passion in the form of François. This character becomes a voyeur whom the audience identifies with and, therefore, feels embarrassed for relating to. Brisseau’s female performers work damn hard to be titillating, but are trapped in a script unable to develop them from soft-core props into characters. The “angels” of the title are muses who whisper in François’s ear during his auditions.or perhaps they’re figments of his imagination which show that his pervy fantasies have come to life. As ambitious as this alleged art film may appear – the Bunuelian title proves to be more of a starting point than a true allusion – it lacks any introspection to illuminate the erotic subject matter. (Think Michael Bay attempting to remake “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”)