Rather than "fade in," the screenplay for French filmmaker Jean-Claude Brisseau's symbol-laden erotic drama, "Exterminating Angels," could very well have begun with, "Dear Penthouse ... "
Though the film expresses a kinship to Luis Bunuel, Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard and carries a certain degree of high-mindedness, its scenario of an artsy filmmaker obsessed with the subject of female arousal provides plenty of opportunity for male fantasy fulfillment. Frederic Van Den Driessche plays Francois, a handsome, middle-aged director, preparing an experimental film in which he will explore the ways women achieve orgasm.
Brisseau's film opens with Francois awakening from a dream thinking that he needs to visit his grandmother, until his wife, Nathalie (Sophie Bonnet), reminds him that she's been dead for 10 years. The old woman's ghost then appears, warning Francois that he is about to enter dangerous territory. Two other apparitions, unseen by Francois and looking like they stepped out of a Robert Palmer music video, circa 1985, sans lip gloss, hover nearby, apparently holding the director's fate in their hands.
In his office, Francois interviews young, nubile actresses, assessing their willingness to engage in various sexual acts on-camera. Those that are up to the challenge then go with him to a hotel where he videotapes them pleasuring themselves. Francois' gaze, which is more professorial detachment than unabashed leer, is crucial to the process because it is the women's relationship to him -- their desire to please and/or manipulate -- that propels the film.