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The Early Films of Atom Egoyan

Critical recognition for Atom Egoyan’s earliest films exceeded by far their acceptance among a broader movie-going public. These edgy, determined works that explored dysfunctional families and the alienating impact of the electronic media—made in Canada by an Egyptian-born filmmaker of Armenian ancestry—found support among festival audiences and juries and elicited high praise from reviewers and fellow filmmakers. In a memorable gesture at the Montreal Festival of New Cinema, the esteemed German director Wim Wenders even handed over his own festival prize to his younger, relatively unknown colleague. Several years later Egoyan would find public acknowledgment for his vision with the success of Exotica and an Oscar nomination for The Sweet Hereafter, his wrenching adaptation of the novel by Russell Banks. On the heels of the release of his latest film, Felicia’s Journey, Egoyan joins us for two of the three evenings of screenings of his films at the Archive to discuss the early works of his twenty-year career.

Atom Egoyan Double Feature - $8
February 18 (Friday) 7pm: Next of Kin
February 18 (Friday) 9pm: Family Viewing

Next of Kin

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1984, 16mm, color, 72 min.
With Aidan Tierney, Berge Fazlian, Arsinée Khanjian

Filled with haunting images of travel and displacement, Next of Kin chronicles the travails of one Peter Foster, who undergoes "video therapy" with his parents in an attempt to repair his unhappy family life. After viewing the tapes of an Armenian family who had surrendered their own infant son years before, Foster decides to take on a new familial identity by presenting himself as the long-lost child. Egoyan’s debut feature was marked by a brave commitment—unusual for those "experimental" times—to character-driven narrative, at once both conceptually complex and emotionally riveting.

Family Viewing

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1987, 35mm, color, 86 min.
With David Hemblen, Aidan Tierney, Gabrielle Rose

A complex journey into a world of brutality and sentiment, Family Viewing, set in a nursing home, a condominium, and a telephone-sex establishment, is the story of mixed and found identities. Using a collection of video images—from the realms of television, pornography, home movies, and surveillance—the film observes the breakdown and restoration of a dislocated family.

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Short Films by Atom Egoyan
February 19 (Saturday) 7 pm
Atom Egoyan in Person (all seats $8)

Egoyan’s short films have served as the breeding ground for his formal and narrative experiments. Themes that recur in his feature works—pornography and the dehumanizing uses of media (Peep Show), restless families (Open House), and ethnic identity (A Portrait of Arshile)—are explored here, along with technical innovations in color, camera work, and visual design. Egoyan will be present to discuss the arc of his filmmaking career, as seen through these small, but evocative cinematic gestures. Screening includes the following shorts:

Howard in Particular

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1979, 16mm, b/w, 14 min.

Peep Show

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1981, 16mm, b/w and color, 7 min.
With John Ball, Clarke Letemendia, David Littlejohn

Open House

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1982, 16mm, color, 25 min.
With Ross Fraser, Michael Marshall, Sharon Cavanaugh

En Passant

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1991, 35mm, color, 20 min.

A Portrait of Arshile

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1995, 35mm, color, 5 min.


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February 20 (Sunday) 6 pm

Speaking Part

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1989, 35mm, color, 92 min.
With Michael McManus, Arsinée Khanjian, Gabrielle Rose

By way of explaining this complex, visually rich reflection on image-making, Atom Egoyan provided the following statement at the time of its release: "I have worked in a hotel for five years. I have worked in film for ten. Both of these professions involve the creation of illusion. In one, the territory of illusion is a room. In the other, it is a screen. People move in and out of rooms. Actors move in and out of screens. Speaking Parts explores a terrain which moves between rooms and screens; a terrain of memory and desire. Somewhere in the passage from a room to a screen, a person is transformed into an image. I am fascinated by this crucial moment, and by the contradiction involved in making images of people."

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February 20 (Sunday) 8 pm

The Adjuster

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Canada 1991, 35mm, color, 102 min.
With Elias Koteas, Arsinée Khanjian, Maury Chaykin

An insurance adjuster, some film censors, an ex-football player, an aspiring cheerleader, a podiatrist, an actress, a lamp merchant, a butterfly collector, and the devoted staff of a large motel are the characters who propel the action of The Adjuster. Egoyan has said of its genesis: "I wanted to make a film about believable people doing believable things in unbelievable ways." Beneath the veneer of this absurdist comedy lies a deadly serious intent: to articulate the psychopathology of social and commercial networks. Egoyan has woven a story that succeeds in evoking a host of complex emotions and ideas and, at the same time, impresses with its sheer wit and technical panache.

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