As horny as it is corny, Jean-Claude Brisseau's Secret Things is most enjoyable if not taken at all seriously. Displaying all the subtlety and restraint of Ken Russell at full boil, it begins with a shot of a shadowy figure with a bird on its shoulder (which will return at portentous moments throughout the film) watching over Nathalie (Coralie Revel) as she performs a nude dance while operatic music soars on the soundtrack. At the end of her performance, the strip club patrons, driven made by lust, are held back from storming the stage by security guards while Sandrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) gazes longingly at Nathalie from behind the bar. Naturally, it's only a matter of time before these two beauties are shedding their clothes for one another and making a pact to turn male lust to their advantage in the corporate world. Unlike other recent French films, such as Baise-Moi and Irreversible, that use explicit sex to explore power relationships, Brisseau is not at all interested in brutality. He may be sincerely trying to make some points about social inequality, but he's much more fascinated by the charms of his two protagonists. The plot itself is so rife with melodrama that it verges on camp. It becomes harder and harder to believe that even Brisseau is taking it seriously. And when the boss' son Christophe (Fabrice Deville) shows up, things become very silly indeed. Christophe is so cruel that more than one of the many women he's spurned have literally set themselves on fire. Whenever he's not pawing his ostensibly lesbian sister, he's spouting bits of his diabolical philosophy of pain, death, and pleasure; during an orgy he hosts that would make the libertines of Eyes Wide Shut blush, he even manages to do both at the same time. A far more worthy opponent than the humble Delacroix (Roger Mirmont), who's content just to make time on the office floor with Sandrine and Nathalie, he takes the movie completely over the top. Intentionally or not, Secret Things is more apt to produce giggles than anything else. The question is whether or not Brisseau is aware of it.
by Tom Vick review