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
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