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SECRET THINGS (2002)

First Run Features

Official Site

Director: Jean-Claude Brisseau

Producer: Jean Claude Brisseau

Screenplay: Jean-Claude Brisseau

Cast: Sabrina Seyvecou, Coralie Revel, Roger Mirmont, Fabrice Deville, Blandine Bury, Olivier Soler, Viviane Théophildès, Dorothée Picard

Rating:

Ever wonder what happened to the sex in “sex and violence”? Didn’t Bob Dole promise massive quantities of both in Hollywood movies if he weren’t elected in ’96? So what gives? It seems to me like Hollywood has decided to double down on the violence, while completely ceding sex to the Internet. I also blame this on frigid American actresses who seem to have decided that artistic creditability is gained through not showing areola on screen.

Well at least the French, bless their smutty little hearts, haven’t given up on cinematic sex. This latest import, Secret Things, (certified as best film of 2002 by none other than Cahiers du Cinéma), contains among other things, lesbianism, incest, plenty of female masturbation, and one of the finest orgy scenes this side of Caligula. And even still I felt empty… until the end. That’s because most of the film looks no different than the innumerable soft core flicks you’ll find on Cinemax in the wee hours of the morning.

Secret Things starts off with a classic sex film set-up, two beautiful women—Natalie, girlish and exuberant (though incapable of achieving an orgasm, of course) and Sandrine, a more experienced femme fatale—meet and quickly become lovers, then hatch a plan to seduce their way to the top of the corporate firm where they’ve both taken menial jobs. Naturally, this is justified on the premise that it’s a man’s world and a girl’s got to use what she’s got.

From there we follow Natalie as she engages in some coy flirtations with her co-workers before entrapping her married, middle-aged boss, while setting her sights on Chistophe, the owner of the firm’s son and heir apparent. And as I said it’s all rather routine until this point. The sex is graphic, though mechanistic in execution, and really the film is far too contrived to seduce us as good erotica should. The primitive plot is complimented by a paucity of visual imagination; in fact I’ve rarely seen such crude mise en scene combined with such dull draggy camerawork outside of a Kevin Smith film. But as soon as Christophe enters the picture, things begin to reshape and take flight.

Christophe is a villainous smoothie, so much is evident from the first encounter. But while he initially seems another cardboard cutout of a character, like everyone else, he turns out to be a wild and hilarious caricature. He burns euros on his first date with Natalie to show his contempt for money. He has that Gallic tendency toward philosophizing whenever he speaks, though his deliciously hammy pronouncements seem as much inspired by a James Bond villain as by Sartre. He brazenly takes Natalie as fiancée while dumping Sandrine as his mistress. And for the wedding night, he drags Natalie into a full-borne pagan orgy… and from there things only get stranger as the film finally reaches an unforgettable crescendo of delirium.

I’ll be honest. I don’t know quite what to make of Secret Things. It’s a pseudo-feminist male fantasy, and it turns into a weird parody that nonetheless affirms the male fantasy. Bizarre, but what would you expect from the French?

—Edward Rholes

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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