The films of Atom Egoyan (Family Viewing, Next of Kin, Speaking Parts, seen at previous MFFs) depict a claustrophobic universe of dysfunctional families wrestling with neurotic sexual drives, individuals simulating their media-generated projections and stifling middle-class lifestyles. The radical form of his films invariably relies on film and video imagery, and refuses to make clear-cut distinctions between dreams, fantasies and imaginings.
With its rich production values and sumptuous Cinemascope photography, this is Egoyan's most visually elegant film to date, and perhaps his most narratively straightforward. Its subject and theme — the control of images and the conspiracy of lifestyles based on these images — make it as typical and challenging as his previous works.
"The question in the movie," Egoyan told one interviewer, "is 'When do lives become pornographic?'" The main character, Hera, is an immigrant who works as a film censor. From the Kafka-esque office she steals the pieces of excised celluloid to satisfy her sister's skewed desires. Noah is an insurance 'adjuster' whose job involves, amongst other things, ingratiating himself to vulnerable clients. Then there's Bubba, who arrives with a film crew fone day at Hera's house, a 'model' house in the middle of a semi-built development. As is often the case in Egoyan's films, storylines and characters do not readily yield to literal, fixed 'explanations'. Subtle visual cues,textual patterns and elaborate flashbacks suggest a multiplicity of meanings, interpretations and moral positions.
• Paul Kalina