the pathetic caverns - movies by title - Secret Things
eclectic reviews and opinions
Secret Things (Choses Secrètes)
2002, D & S: Jean Claude Brisseau
There's a strange double-standard in the world of film. Critics use words like "hot," "sizzling," and "erotic," and studios plaster them across display ads in bold fonts. But films that give the audience too much of what they presumably want run the risk of being labeled pornographic, and thereby beneath serious consideration.
While explicitly erotic movies outside the intensely formulaic limitations of the porn industry are theoretically possible, in practice it's difficult to get such films made. It's easier if you have something that appeals to more than just prurient interest, and can safely be labeled an "art film."
I'm convinced that buried within Secret Things is a pornographic film of rare intelligence, originality, and emotional delicacy, and I wonder if the filmmakers might have been afraid of making it. It's almost as if Peter Greenaway were called up as a script consultant to add the requisite quantities of ugliness and guilt.
It starts as a mildly satirical fable of two amoral women -- worldly Nathalie and naive quick-study Sandrine, adroitly portrayed by Coralie Revel and Sabrina Seyvecou -- who pursue gratification with cheerful ruthlessness. It gradually becomes a much darker and more unpleasant story of three sociopaths deadlocked in a struggle for supremacy. The third corner of this triangle weighs the film down and threatens to sink it. His name is Christophe, which has inspired some critics to label him a Christ figure. I think Caligula is a far more apt comparison -- he's very powerful in the secular world, but he's not a god: he only thinks he is. Fabrice Deville is convincingly repugnant in the role, but hardly as compelling as the script requires.
Trite and symbolically murky touches of magical realism don't help matters much, and the pacing could stand improvement.
But still, the "good parts" are pretty darned good.
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