(Think that you can't rent movies at Netflix that contain legitimately explicit sexuality? Think again, my frustrated friend! In this special essay series, I look at a total of thirty mainstream films made over the last forty years, all of which contain scenes of such actual graphic sex acts as fellatio and penetration, reviewing them not in only in terms of the movie's quality itself but also the amount of sex it portrays, and whether this sex is any fun or not to actually watch. For more about how these movies were chosen, as well as the full list of all thirty titles, you can click here; and don't forget, these reviews are also mixed into the master list of all movies reviewed here, over at CCLaP's main movie page.)
The story in a nutshell: The classic definition of a postmodern "metafilm," this erotic thriller from middle-aged French director Jean-Claude Brisseau is about a middle-aged French director who's decided to make an erotic thriller; and in order to make it as legitimate a reflection as possible of the actual dark erotic fantasies dreamt up by the hot 25-year-old girls who will be playing the main parts (as opposed to what a lecherous middle-aged man might guess would be the dark erotic fantasies of hot 25-year-old girls), our antihero Francois decides to create the script through a Mike-Leigh-style improvisational process with the women trying out for the film, getting them to admit their own unspeakable fantasies on camera during the audition process and even convincing some of them to act these fantasies out for possible inclusion in the finished movie. As such, then, the first half of Exterminating Angels reads almost as a comedy, as Brisseau goes out of his way to show just how creeped out the vast majority of the hot 25-year-old girls trying out for this movie are by this prospect, fleeing their tryouts in haste as if Francois were a lollipop-offering raincoater, even as he is indeed able to find a handful of emotionally unstable trainwrecks perfectly happy to participate in the process. (And note that the married Francois doesn't sleep with any of the women himself, considering himself a professional who is above such things, an attitude which will ironically come to bite him in the ass once everything starts going wrong.)
And go wrong everything indeed does; because let's face it, if a hot 25-year-old emotional trainwreck is crazy enough to have lesbian sex on camera with a stranger for the benefit of a movie which she hasn't actually been hired for yet, she's crazy enough to make that director's life a living hell once she grows tired of the entire thing, turning the second half into the legitimate erotic thriller promised all along, as Francois deals with fake charges of sexual abuse, stalkeresque behavior from all his leads, and a smear campaign that almost drums him out of the entire industry in general. Is he the unfair victim of a Fatal Attraction type situation? Or does he deserve the nightmare that his life eventually becomes, for being the one person in the entire situation supposedly old and smart enough to know better, yet blithely going along with the car crash anyway and convinced that there will be no price to pay for it all? That's the central question driving this entire movie, one that Brisseau wisely doesn't answer but rather allows us audience members to decide on our own.
What I thought: Surprisingly funny and definitely thrilling. Because that's the main thing to emphasize here today, that the makers of Exterminating Angels are completely in on the joke, and intimately understand just how creepy and ridiculous Francois is being with this little mid-life-crisis improvisational film project of his, just how much such paternalistic middle-aged white guys deserve to be punished for their subtle manipulation of hot 25-year-old trainwrecks in such situations. In this, then, you can see Exterminating Angels as much as a wry comment on European erotic thrillers concocted by lecherous middle-aged white dudes as it is an actual European erotic thriller concocted by a lecherous middle-aged white dude, which is what makes it so funny and brilliant; because it contains not only heaps of white-male wish-fulfillment sex scenes but also a sobering look at what the actual repercussions of such fulfilled wishes would be in the real world, not just a cheesy unrated direct-to-DVD thriller full of T&A but a complex character study of the various people who get involved with such cheesy T&A productions. Brisseau essentially admits here that his alter-ego Francois is both a hero and villain for bringing about this situation in the first place, not to mention for being so completely clueless as to what kind of mental toll such a process would take on the emotionally confused young women going through it; and that's what makes the finished film a legitimately taut thriller by the end, instead of the cheesy boobfest such low-budget unrated European DV-shot erotic thrillers usually are.
What makes it an explicit movie? Befitting its subject matter, the sex seen in Exterminating Angels is the same kind of purely mainstream male-fantasy stuff seen in most erotic thrillers on late-night cable, just that there's a lot more of it than in a typical theatrical film; there is female nudity galore, including lots of explicit close-ups of genitalia, a fair amount of female masturbation, and a few scenes of surprisingly graphic lesbian sex, all of it occurring in a series of impossibly gorgeous and tastefully decorated Paris apartments. Or in other words, they're scenes designed to give 16-year-old boys woodies, not put them in therapy.
Is the sex actually fun to watch? Well, are you a 16-year-old boy with a woody? (Or a 40-year-old smartass that such boys grow up to be?) If so, you will not be disappointed whatsoever by the sex seen in Exterminating Angels, a veritable informercial for the kind of safe yet darkly titillating fantasies that horny men suspect lurk deep in the hearts of most good-looking young women; but if you're not a 16-year-old boy with a woody, your erotic enjoyment of this film is much more in question. Let's put it this way -- if you're a fan of the kind of explicit yet ultimately tame sex seen on Cinemax at two in the morning, you will definitely be a fan of this movie as well.
Strangest piece of trivia: After writing this review, I learned that this entire film is autobiographical as well, and that Brisseau actually was convicted of sexual assault in 2002 in connection with a traditional erotic thriller he was making at the time, and for which he convinced several emotionally unstable young women to perform actual sex acts on camera during their auditions. Wow, a meta-metafilm!
Worth your time? Yes