Exotica, Erotica, Etc.
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Greek native Evangelia Kranioti’s maiden voyage, “Exotica, Erotica, Etc.,” announces a new voice in the small world of essay filmmaking, with a muscular slice of psycho-geography that parses the romance of the seven seas without sinking in sloppy sentiment. It’s primarily the doc’s lensing, also by Kranioti, that helps prevent a reminiscence-driven character study from getting stuck in the doldrums: The heart-stopping seascapes and mesmeric machinery of ocean-going cargo ships transfix, even during narrative lulls. A prosperous circumnavigation of the global festival circuit seems assured, though a prominent theatrical berth will prove an overly daunting prospect for distribs focused primarily on landing risk-free bounty.
Festival billings of this fine visual essay as a “modern-day retelling of ‘The Odyssey’” perhaps overstate the case: The relationship between the two works reps the very lightest of allegories. Kranioti’s anthropological study follows men who spend huge stretches of time at sea, traversing the ocean, and the women who live near seaports who look forward to their return.
The film’s most vivid contributor is Sandy, an old woman who talks with a natural and earthy eloquence about her lost loves. Auds who hold a conventional view of female sexuality will find their preconceptions challenged by her simultaneously romantic and highly sexual perspective on her many lovers, whom we gather were a mixture of paid clients and transaction-free flings. While she doesn’t regret never marrying, her infertility is another matter. She would have liked a baby from each of her favorite regulars, and recites a litany of names — “Nico, Torgos, Babis … ” — as if hoping to conjure the past. The less spiritual qualities of these ghostly memories are praised: “Their hairy chests, their hand, their smell.”
This essay film tells of the ocean as a place of yearning, of the world of giant container ships and their crews, and the women that wait for them in ports and drinking holes. The protagonists’ thoughts are rendered as inner monologues in voiceover, all set to striking documentary images. Sandy represents all the women willing to give themselves to strange men, the perfect complement for the desire of all those roaming restlessly from port to port. The film has an affectionate eye for this eccentric former prostitute, for her body marked by life, lust, and the men she’s met, as well as for her free, yet romantic idea of love. She is a siren and Penelope in equal measure.
Greek native Evangelia Kranioti’s maiden voyage, “Exotica, Erotica, Etc.,” announces a new voice in the small world of essay filmmaking, with a muscular slice of psycho-geography that parses … December 8, 2015 6:09PM. Exotica, Erotica, Etc. is a grand visual achievement, but I just wish it was a bit more structurally coherent.