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Speaking Parts

Year: 1989
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 92 min
Director: Atom Egoyan
Producer: Atom Egoyan
Executive Producer: Atom Egoyan, Ron Ranvaud
Writer: Atom Egoyan
Cinematographer: Paul Sarossy
Editor: Bruce McDonald, Atom Egoyan
Sound: Daniel Pellerin
Music: Mychael Danna
Cast: Gerard Parkes, Gabrielle Rose, Arsinée Khanjian, Patricia Collins, Michael McManus, Tony Nardi

Lisa (Arsinée Khanjian), a hotel chambermaid, is hopelessly infatuated with Lance (Michael McManus) – or at least with images of Lance. Her desire draws her to late-night video emporiums, where she rents films in which Lance can be fleetingly spotted as an extra; hour after hour, she kneels close to the screen, entranced. An androgynously attractive and completely vapid young actor, Lance works with Lisa in an exclusive hotel where he services rooms and guests alike. While cleaning a room one day, he discovers a script and plots a private audition with its author, Clara (Gabrielle Rose).

Astonished by Lance’s resemblance to her deceased brother, who is the subject of her script, Clara pleads his case to the film’s quietly autocratic producer (David Hemblen), then plunges into an affair with Lance. He gets the part, but confides to Clara that the producer is planning to take unspeakable liberties with her story. She begs Lance to intervene, even if it means risking his career. Lance is torn, but ultimately falls sway to a sense of responsibility and his sympathy for Clara. Through the cold, unyielding surface of this emotionally parched, overmediated world, something resembling a human feeling begins to blossom.

Speaking Parts, Atom Egoyan’s third feature, is a disorienting excursion across the tentative terrain of post-electronic disaffection. A darkly fascinating film, it reflects on the eighties fixation with video as a mausoleum of the past. Though it seems a bit quaint compared to the eternal ‘now’ of the Internet, Speaking Parts features impeccable composition and smoothly somnolent rhythms as Egoyan chronicles human nature with his characteristically eerie detachment. The film was released in Canada and internationally to uniformly positive – though at times perplexed – reviews.

Speaking Parts played in the Director’s Fortnight at the Festival de Cannes, was the opening film of the Perspective Canada series at the Toronto Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival®), and earned Egoyan the Best Screenplay Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It was nominated for six Genie Awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Original Screenplay, Music Score), but won none.