Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Secret Things: Grade D

Secret Things (2003)
Coralie Revel, Sabrina Seyvecou; Writer and director Jean-Claude Brisseau. French (subtitled).

Two out-of-work young women in contemporary Paris decide to use their sexuality to get good office jobs. But before they do that, they have to practice being sexy (of course!), so they make out with each other and do some public flashing. Then they charm their way into the same office, although it is not shown how they manage that. Once in, they plot to seduce the manager and the boss’s son. The younger woman (Seyvecou) arranges to have the manager walk into her office while she happens to be masturbating and that starts a romance, as of course it would. But the plan is to make him crazy jealous because men stick better when they are jealous, so the girls arrange to have this hapless manager walk in on them while they are having sex with each other (in the office again -- who knows what goes on after hours?) The manager naturally joins in the fun, but then the boss’s son walks in on the ménage a trois, feigns horror and fires the manager. But he also takes the two women for his own, to join him at his mansion with his beautiful sister for an incestuous orgy. In the end, the movie orgies-out and some metaphysical nonsense about the meaning of life is introduced, out of lack of ideas and perhaps to insert nominal redeeming social value.

Plenty of fine young breasts are on display, but the movie doesn’t succeed as pornography because the sex is unconvincing. Shiny women writhe and moan as if they were having orgasms, in a guy’s fantasy. There is no actual sexual detail shown, so the sexual tension, such as it is, is achieved only by suggestion. In the beginning, I thought the film would try to manage that fine interface between imagination and reality the way Catherine Breillat does (e.g., Anatomy of Hell), but I was disappointed there. Then I thought the story would be a delicious, bitter revenge story of women against male sexual and economic exploitation. But again I was disappointed. Could it be a sociological commentary about group nudity? Not that either. Nothing is going on here but prurient voyeurism, a terrible waste of opportunity. Acting is pretty bad all around. On the plus side (for a hetero guy), the women are beautiful, and the movie is well-photographed and directed. But as a movie, it has nothing to say and is misogynist the way the women evolve from determined individuals to brainless, passive vessels in the hands of men.

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