Tag: jean-claude brisseau

Secret Things

Secret Things (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★

Nathalie (Coralie Revel) and Sandrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) work in a strip joint, the former being one of the performers and the latter a bartender. After they get fired for having the courage to stand up to their boss, Nathalie invites Sandrine to stay at her apartment. Sandrine expresses her gratitude and, after a couple of drinks, confesses to Nathalie how much she is fascinated by her—not necessarily in a romantic way but in terms of how much power she has over men. Soon, Nathalie strives to teach what she knows to her new friend.

“Choses secrètes” has a comfortable attitude about sex. Specifically, how it can be used to manipulate men into getting what women want. In order to connect with it, we must be comfortable with its daring ideas on some level. And yet it is meant to be an empty experience, I think, because everyone is or learns to be a manipulator. What Nathalie and Sandrine have with men are amusing and cruel but dangerous and exciting at times. One even gets the feeling that what the two women share is tenuous even when they seem to share so much with one another.

The scenes involving explicit sex—two women, a man and a woman, threesomes, masturbation—are impressively acted. Seyvecou is especially magnetic because her character undergoes a believable change from a naive and shy little thing to someone who really knows how to play the game. It is interesting in that she allows us to get to know her character but only up to a point. Over time, it is increasingly more difficult to read what is going on in Sandrine’s head. There is a scene in the beginning in which she pleasures herself in front of Nathalie. After she has reached a climax, she asks her friend is she thinks the orgasm is faked. That is the foundation of the story.

The camera commands an eerie stillness that at times it is almost uncomfortable. It seems to stare at one person touching herself or couples sharing something that is supposed to be intimate. I do not consider it pornographic for two reasons: the nudity and sex are integrated to the story’s sexual politics and I was not titillated by it. On the contrary, it tends to highlight the beauty of a woman’s body, how people can be drawn to it and want to be with it. I was more curious in trying to figure out the repercussions of a character sleeping with another or how someone discovering a conspiracy changes the game. It is cerebral rather than sensual.

The three men in Sandrine’s education in power play work in the same firm. There is Cadene (Olivier Soler), one of her bosses in headquarters, Delacroix (Roger Miremont), one of the two men who founded the firm, and Christophe (Fabrice Deville), the CEO’s son. Though Sandrine is able to climb the corporate ladder through seduction, it is only a matter of time until she meets her match. Sandrine jumps into the game out of curiosity, thinking that she has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Written and directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau, “Secret Things” is beautifully made and it works in bits and pieces. It is consistently interesting and believable until the ending touches upon surrealism which feels atonal. Also, the men could have been written more fully, as real people rather than objects with only one thing on their minds: sex, love, or power. In reality, whether it be men or women, a combination of such things are desired—which is no secret.

Exterminating Angels

Exterminating Angels (2006)
★★ / ★★★★

“Les anges exterminateurs” or “Exterminating Angels,” written and directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau, tells the story of a filmmaker (Frédéric van den Driessche) who wants to create a movie which documents what it takes for women to reach intense carnal pleasure. Two fallen angels (Margaret Zenou and Raphaële Godin) helps him on his project by whispering to other women (Lise Bellynck, Maroussia Dubreuil, Marie Allan) that they should audition and engage in sexual acts with each other. Even though the premise of the film was unconventional (to say the least), I thought it was interesting all the way through. It didn’t quite explore its emotional core but I appreciated the many ideas it had. I have no problem when it comes to full frontal nudity and even very realistic sexual acts but I thought that this film had way too many of those scenes. I thought the movie had a certain special glow whenever the characters were just talking to each other. Just like real people, each of the characters had a mask that sometimes wavered and the audiences got a peek of the characters’ true motivations and what they were really thinking and feeling instead of what they wanted the world to see. I also thought it was interesting how Driessche’ character failed to use a camera time and time again to record his supposed project about female sexuality. It then begs the question on whether he really did just use the girls for his own pleasure or if he really did care about them in some way. I admired this picture’s daring nature to tackle certain taboos head-on and that’s probably why I forgave its inconsistencies. It’s better than watching a mainstream project that puts a veil on sexuality because this one is not afraid to show the dark side of humanity and how passion sometimes blinds us and eventually might destroy us. But I should note that “Exterminating Angels” will be difficult to sit through, especially for those who are not used to foreign cinema and art-house pictures. Some may label this film as pretentious or even pointless. But what couldn’t be denied is the fact that it was raw, had some sort of brain behind it, and it transgressed may lines that most movies dare not cross.