Dir/scr: Jean-Claude Brisseau.Fr. 2006. 100mins.

One audience's erotic fantasy is another's cold shower in Exterminating Angels (Les Anges Exterminateurs), the latest overcooked psychodrama fromveteran writer/director Jean-Claude Brisseau. Theconcept of a fifty-something male filmmaker exploring transgressivefemale behaviour may sound like a venture into Catherine Breillatterritory but here it seems like a fig leaf of intellectual justification forsome painfully pretentious upmarket heavy-breathing that has more in common withTinto Brass than Breillat.

Where there's Brassthere's muck though and the endless scenes of female masturbation andexhibitionist behaviour may lend this a patina of commercial appeal in someeyes. Sadly, the film is so earnest as to become risible and only has a hope ofbeing given the benefit of the doubt in its native territory followits appearance in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes. What's the French for dirty mac'

Frederic Van Den Driessche stars as Francois, a fiftysomethingfilm-maker who may or may not be some alter ego for Brisseau.Auditioning young actresses for a nude scene in his new thriller, he meets onegirl who masturbates in front of him and claims to have experienced her firstorgasm. She explains to him that many women are excited by breaking social andsexual taboos.

Two years later, he hascommitted himself to making a film on that subject and is seeking womenprepared to participate in the project. When he finally finds some willingguinea pigs, he helps them act out their comparatively tame fantasies, purelyin the name of research. This in turn leads to a complex paternalisticrelationship with three woman who believe that he hasfundamentally changed their lives.

Less straightforward thanit appears, the script mixes more fantastical elements into the tale with twofallen angels watching over Francois and dire words of warning issuing from theghostly lips of his grandmother who has been dead for the past ten years.Solemn voice-over narration does little to lift the mood of the piece andattempts at intentional humour are half-hearted and rare. A montage of girlsauditioning for the film provides some amusement especially when one of themperforms a hideously spirited but un-arousing striptease.

But humour seems to fallby the wayside once Francois becomes the master of his cast's erotic fates andwe are faced with elegantly shot but repetitive scenes of women masturbating inhotel bedrooms and one dinner date where a game couple quietly eclipse MegRyan's celebrated fake orgasm routine.

If there was somesatisfying outcome to all of this it might be more tolerable but Francoisremains a naive and almost impassive observer of the dangerous forces he hasunleashed in these women. When the narrative tries to shape events into somekind of morality tale it fails to convince and any deeper meaning to the storyis undermined by dialogue along the lines of Francois' attempts to explain hishonourable intentions as "conveying mystical ecstasy".

The acting throughout isadequate but unexceptional with the female performers almost interchangeableand a little one-note in their performances.

Production company
TS Productions

International sales
Rezo Films International

Milena Poylo
Gilles Sacuto

Wilfrid Sempe

Maria Luisa Garcia

Jean Musy

Main cast
Frederic Van Den Driessche
Maroussia Dubreuil

Lise Bellynck
Marie Allan