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Secret Things
2002 - R - 115 Mins.
Director: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Written By: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Starring: Coralie Revel Sabrina Seyvecou Roger Mirmont Fabrice Deville Blandine Bury
Review by: Greg Ursic
   
After losing their jobs at a strip club Natalie and Sandrine - stripper and waitress respectively - are in desperate need of a job. After one too many don't-call-us-we'll-call-you interviews, they devise a strategy to get ahead: use their feminine wiles to secure a job, have a couple well placed fake orgasms, and then charge up the corporate ladder. They have only one rule: Love is enemy #1 and to be avoided at all costs. Their mission is progressing flawlessly; both have snagged good positions, senior managers and appear poised for continued success. Ah the best laid plans... The fly in their ointment comes in the form of Christophe, the CEO in waiting, a devilishly handsome uberwomanizer who’s past conquests have a tendency towards self-immolation. Will the manipulators become the manipulated? And in a battle between colossal wills can tragedy be far behind? There’s only one way to find out…

From the opening sequence - a young woman masturbating onstage in a dimly lit club - it is readily apparent that this is no run-of-the-mill stagnant Hollywood attempt at sexual intrigue. Nor is it for the faint-hearted. Directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau, known in France for his exploration of the dynamics between sexuality and power, it provides a study in female sexual actualization. However, unlike progenitors such as Catherine Breillat’s Romance and Baise-Moi - films that were virtually devoid of any semblance of plot and reveled in darkly nihilistic and often-repugnant portrayals of female sexual empowerment - the journey is both intriguing and disturbing.

Coralie Revel and Sabrina Seyvecou are mesmerizing as the cunning protagonists and bring a comfortable ease to their roles (surprising in light of the copious nudity). Their characters are equal parts calculating, tough, naïve and fragile, something they don't realize until it's too late. Roger Mirmont is disarming as Delacroix the overworked soft-spoken piggy in the middle manager who falls to Sandrine's charms (he obviously never learned the rules). Tipping the scales of moral ambiguity is Fabrice Deville (his real last name) who is positively chilling as Christophe the sculpted stoic amoral Machiavellian deviant whose only pleasure comes from conquering and controlling others. He gathers particular delight in destroying the legions of women who flock to him. He is, in short, one of the most disturbing villains to ever grace the screen.

Secret Things is a well-written, multi-layered piece that is intelligent, engaging and serves as social commentary, Passion play and erotic thriller. Brisseau not only challenges the norms, he shatters them, upping the debauchery ante in the process: vanilla sex is replaced with passionate Sapphic duos, ménage a trois, and orgies, with a little domination and incest (between adults), thrown in for good measure. Providing a measure of surrealism is the subdued yet omnipresent Angel of Death. This is the film that Kubrick surely set out to make when he delivered the milquetoast lackluster Cruise/Kidman yawn-fest and a must-see for cinephiles in search of sexually charged edgy entertainment.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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