SPEAKING PARTS (Atom Egoyan, 1989)

Lance, who’s as pretty as a girl, isn’t what he seems. This hotel janitor is really a prostitute who is being pimped by his supervisor, who counsels him to be non-close so that “guests” don’t get emotionally involved. Although discouraged by Lance, the hotel laundry room girl, Lisa, is obsessed with him, renting videos of films in which he appears as a nonspeaking extra—to which the film’s silent opening movement pays notice. Lance, also an actor, currently seeks to beef up his career by securing speaking parts. Lance and Lisa could be identical twin brother and sister, and one navigates the early part of this film trying to distinguish these two dark, intense young persons.
     One of the hotel guests is consulting on a film that’s based on her life-story; Clara donated her brother her lung to save him, but he died. Clara and her brother, we learn from old video, look like identical twins, and either could be Lance’s identical twin. (Question: When we see Clara videotaping her brother, who is videotaping the two of them? The writer-director of this Canadian film, Speaking Parts?)
     Clara also becomes obsessed with Lance, who gets the part of her brother. Through Lance she discovers that the film’s producer has written her part out of the script, making the film about a brother rather than a sister who donates a lung to a brother. And they all look so terribly alike!
     Atom Egoyan plays with themes, or wisps of themes, among them confused identities, the battle between video and film, and commercial appropriation of human lives. If you have ever wondered what a David Lynch film would be like without the poetry, wit or intuitive understanding of individuals and society, check out this boring, twisted, pretentious film.

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