Speaking Parts Review

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Lance (McManus), a porter-cum-actor-cum-gigolo becomes the object of Clara's (Khanjian) affection as she obsessively watches videos containg the bit-parts he has played. Soon the two are in a limbo between reality and recorded images, their eclectic sex lives spanning the two.


The camera can capture reality but can also fabricate it. Desire is also a fabrication. Put these two notions together and you have the modern media-clamped personality and you have this film. Speaking parts: everyone is playing a role, everyone is isolated, everyone is trapped.

Clara repeatedly watches a videotape of her dead brother in the white mausoleum where his body lies. Lisa works as a maid in a hotel and has an unrequited passion for her fellow employee, Lance. He moonlights as a film extra while she obsessively rents his bit-part movies from a video store run by Eddie. Eddie has a sideline recording various "unusual and not so usual" events with his video camera, and Lisa ends up helping out. Meanwhile Clara checks into the hotel and confers about the brother-orientated autobiographical script she's written over a video link with her boss, the Producer. Clara and Lance develop a relationship — which at one point involves them watching each other jerk off over the video link — but she becomes increasingly agitated when he's cast for the movie and her script is changed. . .An intellectual's movie-puzzle which constantly expands and then collapses between "image" and "reality", Speaking Parts plays a very smart and effective game with both its characters and its audience. Egoyan is clearly interested in the twin fascinations of watching and being recorded, rather than dramatic probability or the idea of a story pure and simple. By cutting between Lisa and Clara's obsessions, he constantly reinforces the sense of them both being trapped not only by their desires but also by the representation of those desires on the film's numerous video screens. One question the movie doesn't answer, though, is why it should be the female characters who seem so out of focus with the world. Eddie, the Producer and the vacuously ambitious Lance all seem perfectly happy with things as they stand.

The whole stylish exercise doesn't say anything new or original, but it does manage to express all its ideas visually rather than verbally, which for this kind of thing is some achievement. Speaking Parts, edited with clinical precision and played with a sullen dedication by all concerned, is a heavyweight brain-teaser which is also surprisingly watchable.

An effectively hypnotic experience, squeezing reactions to deeply buried issues from us without necessarily answering any questions.