Exterminating Angels

Beyond France, Brisseau is less known for his movies than the scandal they provoked: In 2005, he was tried for sexual harassment after actresses not cast in his Secret Things (2002)—an unforgettable whatsit about two women who use sex to get ahead in banking—said Brisseau pressured them to masturbate in auditions. By the time he got to court, Brisseau (who ultimately received a fine and a suspended sentence) had already shot Exterminating Angels, about a director who auditions actresses by asking them to masturbate on camera. He claims the “quasitotality” of the screenplay was written before the charges were brought.

From our incomplete perspective, Brisseau has progressed from a boring social realist (1988’s Sound and Fury) to a genre-bending provocateur. He knows how to shoot a compelling scene—and that’s true even of the parts of Exterminating Angels that don’t involve naked women pleasuring each other while anthropologist-auteur François (van den Dreissche) impassively watches. “I can only film what I know!” François snaps when his wife (Bonnet) complains. Given the film’s self-pitying autobiographical elements, all signs suggest that Brisseau agrees.

The movie has nothing to do with Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962), and derives its title from two actual angels who control François’s actions, denying him culpability. One of them also wants to sleep with him—par for the course. Still, Brisseau’s Brechtian lighting, use of classical music and unique comic tone suggest his artistry has grown in proportion to his skeeviness.

Release details

Rated: NR
Duration: 104 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Screenwriter: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Cast: Frédéric Van Den Driessche
Maroussia Dubreuil
Lise Bellynck
Marie Allan
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