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With: Coralie Revel, Sabrina Seyvecou, Roger Mirmont, Fabrice Deville, Blandine Bury, Olivier Soler, Viviane Théophildès
Written by: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Directed by: Jean-Claude Brisseau
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 115
Date: 10/16/2002

Secret Things (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sexual Deviations

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jean-Claude Brisseau's Secret Things (a.k.a. Choses secretes) topped the prestigious Cahiers du Cinema top ten list for 2002, an honor shared with such films as Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

It took two years to reach San Francisco, but it's finally here. And after all the hype, Secret Things turns out to be a head-scratcher, a twisted, pessimistic view of sex and sexual politics. It's not without some exploitation value, I suppose, but I suspect that the French critics may have spent more time defending it than actually praising it.

Sandrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) works in a bar and enjoys watching performance artist Nathalie (Coralie Revel) dance naked for the customers. They're both fired on the same night, and -- as Sandrine is behind on her rent -- Nathalie invites her to stay at her place.

This leads to a kind of sexual awakening for Sandrine. Nathalie teaches her to masturbate in public and to experience an orgasm. The women decide to use their newfound sexual power to advance in the world. They get jobs in office buildings where they can influence the kind of men "who have never lived."

Sandrine has a successful affair with a nice older man, Delacroix (Roger Mirmont) and finds herself advanced through the ranks, but Nathalie becomes involved with a dangerous supervillian, Christophe (Fabrice Deville) -- a man with no morals who hopes to take over the company, a bank.

Brisseau ramps up the odds by showing us a mysterious cloaked, hooded figure lurking around from time to time, which I guess explains just why Christophe is so supernaturally evil and why the story takes such a dramatic turn. Christophe keeps his beautiful sister Charlotte (Blandine Bury) at his side and doesn't have any qualms about stripping her clothes off and fondling her. He also throws orgy-like parties and struts around in a red silk bathrobe.

Secret Things is a fascinating film, but I'm not sure it's entirely successful. It begins trying to locate the source of power within sex and nearly finds it, but then turns into this almost ridiculous thriller. Some reviews have compared the film to Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men or Kubrick's still-misunderstood Eyes Wide Shut, both of which suggested reasonable conclusions to their sexual experiments. But Secret Things seems to forget about its original intentions as it grows increasingly bizarre.

It still may well-deserve consideration as a first-class exploitation flick, loaded with sex, nudity, murder and shocking visuals. It could be a superior film by Jesus Franco or Alejandro Jodorowsky. If viewers can attend and forget all about that highbrow Cahiers endorsement, they might find a deliriously sexy new cult item somewhere along the lines of Showgirls or Bound.

Best Buy Co, Inc.