Speaking Parts

A struggling actor's job as a hotel custodian is a front for his real job: being rented out as a gigolo by his supervisor. A co-worker is obsessed with him, but he ignores and avoids her. He leaves his acting resume in the hotel room of a screenwriter, who is casting for a TV movie based on the true story of her deceased brother. She hires him to play the lead and the two begin an affair. She becomes increasingly distraught as it becomes evident that the movie's producer is changing her story. Egoyan's trademark tangle of bizarre relationships surrounds the protagonists on their way to a mind-blowing conclusion.

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  • ★★★★½ review by ~findlay🔮🔪 on Letterboxd

    an unknowable mood piece

    abstract hypnosis about emotional unavailability, winked-through-tracing-paper incestual heartbreak, lost in industry, and personal obsession through physical media.

    the idea that "i cant have you, but i can have the pieces of you left available on a shelf". the video shop is an archive of human emotions and singular existences to rent. again. and again. and again.

    i just sat for 5 minutes after watching this thinking how much Atom Egoyans films light my brain and eyes and ears on fire. cathode ray blues and white-pink lilies on a table. single tears and ignored loving gestures. erotic distances and deep, voided internal silences.

    Tonally and texturally, no one could ever make these films or replicate them. Real true meditations in art in life in video in love. And all you'll ever get is fingertips just brushing the safety rope, never enough to grab but enough to know its there.

    easily one of my favourite filmmakers of all time now. Also as Director/Composer relationships go, Egoyan/Danna's is as underappreciated as you can get.

  • ★★★½ review by Anny on Letterboxd

    It's one of those movies that I am not sure if it's bad or amazing. Great mood and use of hair, yes, hair.

  • ★★★★½ review by Kurdt on Letterboxd

    Egoyan’s best film; a pretty stunning meditation on relationships in relation to the image, the weird unreality of video interlacing with true life, and the inherent power of the false when rendered physical and tangible. The film exists in this state of wall-to-wall images— from the video store, to the conference calls, to the archived tapes. Every character exists in relation to screens, with their pasts, present and future all depending on them in some way. The disquieting atmosphere is Lynchian before the term became so ubiquitous in film language, as the central characters gradually converge and snippets of subtle clues interlace into dialogue and action. At one point a character states “there is nothing special about words”, which proves to be true once Egoyan pulls off an incredible ending that changes everything solely through images and the relationship he inimitably built between them and us during the previous 90 minutes. A perfect addition to this list I just made about the “analogue anxiety” of videotapes on film.

  • ★★★★½ review by Bill Shannon on Letterboxd

    "Speaking Parts" is a very interesting, very satisfying film about the illusions of television and image, and the ways they can divide and manipulate.

    The plot concerns a TV screenwriter, an aspiring actor, an obsessed video watcher, a video store clerk/wedding videographer, and a powerful film producer. They are all intertwined, both connected and divided equally by pixelated screens.

    The screen itself becomes a symbol for a border that keeps people from connecting: lovers communicate on a long-distance video phone; an obsessed woman watches her target's films (in which he is only an extra); and the big-shot producer amounts to little more than a floating head on a huge monitor. The obsessed girl can only get "deep" when she is videotaping a new bride.

    It's a study of how image can distort reality -- much like the changed script of the fictional film in the story -- and the layers of unreality: the fan watching a film of a made-up talk show; watching a monitor of a fake hospital bed; etc.

    The meaning and symbols are fascinating, and the stilted acting (which could have been annoying) simply adds to the cold, distant mood of the film. An overlooked gem.

  • ★★★★ review by Peter Patnaik on Letterboxd

    I won't be able to use Telepresence again. Interesting exploration in life after Videodrome - romance and art via communication and the how the failure of communication in person leads to people leaving your roses in the the dryer.

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