Fascinating and suspenseful from start to finish, Secret défense got bad press when it commercially opened in the U.S. in 2002. Needless to say, antirivettes—those morons, charlatans and imbeciles hopefully none of us know—need not apply. Others: what a treat’s in store for you!
Everyone says that Jacques Rivette’s Secret Defense is inspired by Vertigo, but I at least detect only faint traces of the Hitchcock in it. When I describe the film’s narrative method, however, you will see the relationship between the two films. Here goes: watching the Rivette film is like eyeing bits of colored glass inside an Italian kaleidoscope if, with different turns, different pieces of glass somehow fall into the exact same pattern again and again.
It’s a marvelous movie, and the final shot—a double-entendre!—is close to devastating. Anyone who has committed a murder in his or her past and gotten away with it, even prospered as a result of it, will go nuts watching this film! That poor devil in the film is made to pay over and over again, but secretly, in ways worthy of the imagination of Mary Shelley.
For some of you, all I have to say to recommend this mesmerizing film is this: it stars Sandrine Bonnaire. But some of us who are a bit older will also want to know who plays the mother of the scientist that Bonnaire plays: Françoise Fabian (Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s, some thirty years earlier).
Tags: Jacques Rivette