Ironically, The Exterminating Angels seems to be a critique on making sexually explicit and arousing films, but at the same time it certainly is one. It just so happens to be the highest quality of its ilk that I’ve seen since perhaps The Dreamers. Looking briefly at other recent movies that The Exterminating Angels may be compared to (i.e. 9 Songs, Shortbus) it isn’t as graphic and it strictly involves female sexuality and nudity. There is a massive amount of nudity in The Exterminating Angels, but only a few shots go over the line in terms of acceptable content in mainstream American films. Some angles in The Exterminating Angels show absolutely every part of the actresses’ bodies. I felt it was justified given the fundamentally sexual subject matter and there were actually many opportunities in this movie to show even more nudity but it didn’t, so I’m not sure we can definitely call it gratuitous. It definitely would’ve been a lesser film without it, and I mean that as both a stern critic and as a libidinous male.
The Exterminating Angels is about François, a filmmaker who needs to find several uninhibited actresses who are not afraid to appear in his explicit semi-improvisational film. He wants actresses and not porn stars because porn stars have been there and will not transfer effectively to his vision of taboos and unexplored female sexuality. In other words, the actresses have not been exploited yet and that is what he wants to show. We get the feeling that Francois is a very serious filmmaker.
François is visited by his dead Grandmother in the middle of the night and she warns him of the future. As François begins his search for the right actresses, he comes across a girl who willingly experiences a real climax at her audition, and it is her first time ever. François requested she fake it but she went right ahead anyway and explained that she did it because the idea of doing so in this setting is what turned her on. François, fascinated by this exchange, decides to explore why this happens. But he never chose that girl for a part in his film, so he essentially and unwittingly used her. He does eventually get the appropriate actresses and relationships with them develop and trust issues surface in no time. One of them even falls in love with François but he doesn’t know anything about this, as to him he’s just making a movie. Being behind the camera is a loveless experience to him but being in front of it is an incredibly intense sexual exploration to his actresses, and they are not stable people to begin with.
There were also two apparitional girls that indicate no longer being angels, but not quite witches yet either, who follow François around. One of them even helps to originally persuade one of the three actresses to approach François about a role in the film. In the end they seem to both be conflicted about what François has done to these girls. That element coupled with the extra random and surreal dialogue that accompanies some of the more unnatural scenes perplexed me a bit. There are certainly some aspects that were artier than I think they needed to be but perhaps I need to see the film again. Also, I can’t help but think this is a self-indulgent effort from director Jean-Claude Brisseau. Taking that into account it does come off as a bit pompous, and the near accusations I have that Brisseau is guilty of some pretentious elements is certainly consistent with that. All of that aside, this is still a fiercely determined and erotic film that is well done, brave, and provoking on many levels.
My rating is 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.