Atom Egoyan Criticism - Essay

Suzanne Moore (review date 7 October 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Unhappy Families,” in New Statesman and Society, October 7, 1988, p. 46–47.

[In the following review, Moore praises Egoyan's exploration of the nature of family in Family Viewing, but finds fault with his use of prostitution to suggest alienation.]

All is not well in the heart of that most sacred bastion of society—the family. If you believe what you read you will know that this most fundamental institution is under attack from a multitude of directions. Promiscuous single parents, campaigning homosexuals, morally-irresponsible television programmes and, of course, feminists who claim that the family is the site of woman's oppression par...

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Amy Taubin (essay date November–December 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Memories of Overdevelopment: Up and Atom,” in Film Comment, Vol. 25, No. 6, November–December, 1989, pp. 27–29.

[In the following essay, Taubin explores Egoyan's use of technology as a metaphor in Speaking Parts and Family Viewing.]

The very voluble Atom Egoyan is hesitant to say how small the budget was for Speaking Parts, his third feature. He has a theory about recent independent films—that by conforming to Hollywood production standards, they've begun to attract a broader audience. Broader, that is, than the audience for grimy, grainy 16mm. With its gracefully arcing camera movement, spookily luminous interiors, and arresting,...

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Jonathan Romney (review date June 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Adjuster, in Sight & Sound, Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 1992, p. 38.

[In the following review, Romney praises Egoyan's work in The Adjuster, particularly his skillful use of repetition.]

[In The Adjuster,] Noah Render, an insurance loss adjuster, lives in the only occupied house on an uncompleted estate with Hera, her sister Seta and their son Simon. Called out to the scenes of fires, he arranges for clients to be lodged in a motel while they wait for their claims to be sorted. On the subway, Hera witnesses an incident involving Bubba and Mimi, a rich couple who stage elaborate sex charades for Mimi to star in. Hera works as a...

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Amy Taubin (review date June 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Burning Down the House,” in Sight & Sound, Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 1992, pp. 18–19.

[In the following review, Taubin explores the recurring themes common in The Adjuster and Egoyan's earlier films.]

The protagonist of The Adjuster, Atom Egoyan's discomforting fourth feature, is named Noah Render. “The allusions are so obvious, they're hysterical,” says Egoyan during an interview. “What satisfaction could there be in analysing such a name?,” he scoffs. “So what if you realise that the motel where Noah boards his clients is like his ark?” Without pausing for breath, he does an about face and gleefully runs through dictionary...

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James M. Wall (review date 3 March 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Calendar, in Christian Century, Vol. 110, No. 7, March 3, 1993, pp. 227–28.

[In the following review, Wall discusses the central plot and thematic material in Calendar.]

Canadian director Atom Egoyan is a quiet man who avoided a press conference after the initial screening of his sixth feature film, Calendar. A few of us caught up with him just outside the theater where he willingly chatted about his picture, which deals with a photographer, played by Egoyan, who like the director is from an Armenian family but doesn't speak the language. His wife plays the role of Egoyan's movie wife, but she does speak the language—which sets up...

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Chris Chang (review date November–December 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ruined,” in Film Comment, Vol. 29, No. 6, November–December, 1993, p. 73.

[In the following review, Chang describes the history behind Egoyan's Calendar and explores the film's major plot elements.]

Atom Egoyan won the Moscow Prize for The Adjuster in 1991. The award took the form of one million rubles in production funding and came with the stipulation that the work be done in the (then) Soviet Union. As location, Egoyan chose Armenia, his ancestral home—then saw his budget devalued, by secession and independence, to some $4,000 U.S. Last-minute assistance from German television allowed him to get on the plane with a limited budget,...

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Bart Testa (review date Winter 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Speaking Parts, in University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1, Winter, 1994, pp. 238–41.

[In the following review, Testa argues that the published script of Speaking Parts fails to support Egoyan's reputation as a leading postmodern director.]

The publication of scripts of English-Canadian films is regrettably a rarity. Coach House's Speaking Parts, the script of Canadian film director Atom Egoyan's 1989 film, is a model of how a script should be presented. In addition to the script, there is an introductory essay by Professor Ron Burnett of McGill University, an interview with the director conducted by film critic Marc...

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Brian D. Johnson (essay date 3 October 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Exotic Atom: With Exotica, Atom Egoyan Has Become the Most Celebrated Canadian Filmmaker of His Generation,” in Maclean's, Vol. 107, No. 40, October 3, 1994, pp. 44–47.

[In the following essay, Johnson explores Egoyan's career, influences, and the filmmaker's concerns about his future.]

Rolling up to a movie premiere in a limousine is a familiar ritual. But at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian director Atom Egoyan elected to walk to the North American premiere of his new movie, Exotica. Egoyan knew that refusing a limo could seem as pretentious as accepting one—but he had taken the luxury route two nights earlier...

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Kristine McKenna (review date 12 March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “This Director's Got a Brand Noir Bag,” in Los Angeles Times, March 12, 1995, pp. 21–23.

[In the following review, McKenna explores the differences between Exotica and Egoyan's earlier films.]

“People often describe my work as cold and clinical, but I just can't see it that way—to me it's about nothing but emotion,” says Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan.

“True, the people in my films often try to deny their emotions and usually have a hard time understanding what they're feeling. Nonetheless, the emotions are always bubbling away in there at an almost operatic level.”

The reason critics often...

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Peter Harcourt (essay date Spring 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Imaginary Images: An Examination of Atom Egoyan's Films,” in Film Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 3, Spring, 1995, pp. 2–14.

[In the following essay, Harcourt, who teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa, traces the themes and cinematographic techniques characteristic of Egoyan's films and places the director's work in a Canadian context.]

I'm attracted to people who are lost in a world that I can navigate.1

—Atom Egoyan

There is a sequence in Exotica, the latest film by 35-year-old Canadian film-maker Atom Egoyan, that makes me think of Andrew Wyeth. There is a long...

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Jonathan Romney (review date May 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Exploitations,” in Sight & Sound, Vol. 5, No. 5, May, 1995, pp. 6–8.

[In the following review, Romney offers a negative assessment of Exotica, criticizing Egoyan's style of filmmaking as unfulfilling.]

Atom Egoyan makes bitterly disappointing films. They begin by stirring our curiosity—our desire to play detective or analyst, or simply our prurient longing for a glimpse of the louche, the exotic. And when finally they deliver what we're looking for, they invariably frustrate us—all we discover is that revelation can never be satisfactory. We learn that there are always more layers to the onion, or that it was never really an onion in the...

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Atom Egoyan with Richard Porton (interview date Spring 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Family Romances: An Interview with Atom Egoyan,” in Cineaste, Vol. 23, No. 2, Spring, 1997, pp. 8–16.

[In the following interview, Egoyan discusses the nature of the film industry, his approach to filmmaking, and the influence of Canadian identity.]

Widely regarded as Canada's leading independent filmmaker, Atom Egoyan is frequently hailed as brilliantly innovative and occasionally damned as a purveyor of arid cinematic parables. Egoyan's wry self-deprecation, however, allows him to view both acclaim and derision with a jaundiced eye. In fact, the critical response to Egoyan's films often seems several steps behind the director's unsparing assessments of...

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Brian Johnson (review date 8 September 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “How Sweet It Is: His New Film Signals a Change of Direction for Egoyan,” in Maclean's, Vol. 110, No. 36, September 8, 1997, pp. 60–61.

[In the following review, Johnson compares The Sweet Hereafter with Egoyan's previous works, stating that Hereafter features more natural and fully developed characters.]

Inevitably, directors get tired of their own movies. And after finishing The Sweet Hereafter, Atom Egoyan watched it so many times that by the time it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, he no longer knew what to make of it. But last month—rested after vacationing in Italy with his wife, actress Arsinee Khanjian, and...

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Tony Rayns (review date October 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Sweet Hereafter, in Sight & Sound, Vol. 7, No. 10, October, 1997, pp. 60–61.

[In the following review, Rayns argues that Egoyan's failure to sustain a sense of community in The Sweet Hereafter detracts from the film's overall impact.]

In The Sweet Hereafter, Lawyer Mitchell Stephens arrives in Sam Dent, a small town in British Columbia, where the community is paralysed by a recent accident: the school bus, driven by Dolores Driscoll and carrying 22 children, went off an icy road and plunged into a lake, causing 14 deaths. Stephens hopes to mobilise the bereaved parents into a class-action lawsuit against the bus...

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Craig Turner (review date 23 November 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Great White (North) Hope,” in Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1997, pp. 8, 94–95.

[In the following review, Turner argues that Egoyan's past works inform The Sweet Hereafter and notes ways in which the film deviates from his earlier works.]

The taxi pulls into a narrow lane in downtown Toronto's western fringes, where artists' lofts share the neighborhood with storefront restaurants and converted warehouses.

On the north side of the street, a red-brick, Victorian-era duplex unmarked by any sign houses the headquarters of Atom Egoyan, at 37 an icon of the Canadian cinema and a writer-director edging toward the center of the...

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Sharon Waxman (essay date 14 December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Atom Egoyan's Particles of Faith: Director of The Sweet Hereafter Believes in Smart Audiences for His Complex Films,” in Washington Post, December 14, 1997, p. G10.

[In the following essay, Waxman notes that viewers must work to unravel the plot elements in The Sweet Hereafter.]

Watching Atom Egoyan's new film The Sweet Hereafter can be rather like living through the turbulent events it depicts.

The film tells the story of a school bus accident in a small rural Canadian town and the big-city lawyer—himself a tormented soul—who arrives looking for a lawsuit.

As the film wends its way through the town's...

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Stephen Hunter (review date 25 December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Sweet Hereafter: A Cry of Hope,” in Washington Post, December 25, 1997, p. C01.

[In the following review, Hunter suggests that The Sweet Hereafter's ambiguity and unusual chronology are among its strengths, but notes that these elements may bother some viewers.]

Here's one way to look at it: Man is a meaning-seeking creature.

Pitiful being, he cannot accept the random cruelty of the universe. That is his biggest failing, the source of his unhappiness and possibly of his nobility as well. He paws through disasters with but one question for God: Why? And God never answers.

He certainly doesn't answer in...

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James M. Wall (review date 18 February 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Sweet Hereafter, in Christian Century, Vol. 115, No. 5, February 18, 1998, p. 163.

[In the following review, Wall describes The Sweet Hereafter as emotionally demanding and calls Hereafter one of the best films of 1997.]

Over the past few months I have led discussions of three films that I count among the top pictures released in 1997. Two of the discussions were in religious settings, the other in a secular setting, but I found the same range of responses: some participants picked up on the religious dimensions of the films while others wondered what had happened to just plain fun at the movies.


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Patricia Pearson (essay date April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Sweet Here and Now,” in Saturday Night, Vol. 113, No. 3, April, 1998, pp. 67–72.

[In the following essay, Pearson compares the commercial and critical success of The Sweet Hereafter to Egoyan's background as an independent screenwriter and director.]

Atom Egoyan always said he was deeply suspicious of the Oscars. Then he got nominated.

The first time I spied Atom Egoyan, at a Christmas party for Toronto's arts and letters set, the handsome thirty-seven-year-old director was engrossed in conversation with Greg Gatenby, head of the International Festival of Authors. Slightly hunched, with one hand grasping his chin, he seemed...

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Atom Egoyan with Richard Porton (interview date Winter 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Politics of Denial: An Interview with Atom Egoyan,” in Cineaste, Vol. 25, No. 1, Winter, 1999, p. 39.

[In the following interview, Egoyan describes his development of the Hilditch character in Felicia's Journey, his relationship with author William Trevor, and the influence of Alfred Hitchcock.]

Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter (1997) was the Canadian director's breakthrough film. While Egoyan had enjoyed a cult following during the 1980s, The Sweet Hereafter appeared on more than 200 ‘Ten Best’ Lists in 1998 and won him a much larger audience. The initial reception for his latest film, Felicia's Journey, while...

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Richard Porton (review date Winter 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Felicia's Journey, in Cineaste, Vol. 25, No. 1, Winter, 1999, p. 42.

[In the following review, Porton offers a positive assessment of Felicia's Journey, noting Egoyan's skill in creating relationships between characters.]

Neither a straightforward genre film nor a simple portrait of mental aberration, Atom Egoyan's Felicia's Journey brilliantly subverts the conventions of the standard Hollywood thriller as well as the cliches of the by-now hackneyed serial killer subgenre. While Egoyan's adaptation of William Trevor's novel possesses superficial affinities to the work of Hitchcock and Chabrol, the Canadian director's more...

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Brian D. Johnson (essay date 13 September 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Atom's Journey: Canada's Celebrated Director Reveals the Rite of Passage behind His Cinematic Obsessions,” in Maclean's, September 13, 1999, p. 54.

[In the following essay, Johnson considers the unique voice in Egoyan's films and explores the sources of his recurring cinematic themes.]

Lunch with Atom Egoyan. He arrives late, on the run in a day of interviews. This is Toronto, his home town, but he might as well be on tour. His personal publicist hovers close by; a driver waits at the curb outside the restaurant. Affable and full of energy, Egoyan takes a seat in the corner booth, a dark wood enclosure with a thick curtain that can be drawn for privacy....

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Patricia Hluchy (review date 15 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Starvation of the Soul: Atom Egoyan's Latest Is a Troubling Minor Masterpiece,” in Maclean's, November 15, 1999, p. 148.

[In the following review, Hluchy offers a positive assessment of Felicia's Journey, arguing that it is less contrived than Egoyan's earlier work.]

William Trevor's 1994 novel Felicia's Journey is a small masterpiece of literary creepiness, a tale of deception told with exhilarating insight. Atom Egoyan's adaptation of the Irish author's book is a small masterpiece of cinematic creepiness, in which the perversion comes with a large measure of humanity. The tale of a guileless 17-year-old Irish girl who leaves home and falls...

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Stephen Hunter (review date 19 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Felicia's Journey: Soup to Nut,” in Washington Post, November 19, 1999, p. C05.

[In the following review, Hunter focuses on Egoyan's treatment of the serial killer Mr. Hilditch in Felicia's Journey.]

Felicia's Journey offers something new, at least: the figure of the sociopathic killer as lovelorn lonely guy who only needs a nice hug to set him free.

This creepy but compelling image is at the center of the film that director Atom Egoyan chose to make after the sublime The Sweet Hereafter. Like Hereafter, it is derived from a distinguished text, a prize-winning novel by the highly regarded Irish novelist William...

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