Let me preface this review by saying that prior to watching this box set, I already felt as if Atom Egoyan was one of our most important filmmakers. "The Sweet Hereafter" is a modern movie masterpiece--so complex, so haunting. "Exotica" is another one of my favorites, among the best of it's year. I haven't loved every other fim of Egoyan's, but I have always admired his point of view, narrative structuring, and willingness to challenge his audience--something all too rare these days.
This set includes four of his earlier works from 1984 through 1993, as well as a few shorts dating back to 1979. I realize that not many people will accidentally stumble upon and then buy these films. They will likely be sought out by people who are discovering the talented Mr. Egoyan or who have long held him in esteem. Either way, the films are a crash course in filmmaking--standing both as entertaining features and showcasing the evolution of a filmmaker's voice.
I will not review each film seperately, just offer a comment or two as succinctly as possible. They are all tied together by similar themes--that reality is what we make of it. And in each, the video/film medium plays an integral part. The camera is a character.
"Next of Kin" is a charming, sweet little film about the nature of families, and the choices we make. An earlier work, it's an entertaining diversion that would rate 3 stars on it's own.
"Calender" seems to be a very personal film. It is a love letter, of sorts, to Armenia and to Egoyan's wife--actress Arsinee Khanjian. It is more experimental in nature and sophisticated, but probably not for everyone's taste. I'd also rate it 3 stars--though it's much more ambitious.
The other two--"Family Viewing" and "Speaking Parts" are both 5 star winners. "Family" is an extremely odd film, unlike anything you've seen. Once again, it challenges the notion of family and redefines it. "Speaking" is a wondrous film that tests the very boundaries of what is real versus what we think is real and how the film medium changes that reality.
Keep in mind that these films are not Hollywood product, they are expressions of art. The transfers are grainy, not slick. All the performances aren't polished. But the writing and ideas are smart, experimental and (I'll say it again) challenging. Do youself a favor. If you like his later films--check this out post haste. KGHarris, 9/06.