Secret Defense

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Drama, Mystery

A long and slow-paced anti-thriller from veteran French director Jacques Rivette, in which a woman sets out to avenge her father's death but winds up murdering an innocent bystander. Convinced by her brother that their father's fall from a speeding train was no accident, Sylvie (Sandrine Bonnaire) packs up a pistol and pays a visit to the country estate...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A long and slow-paced anti-thriller from veteran French director Jacques Rivette, in which a woman sets out to avenge her father's death but winds up murdering an innocent bystander. Convinced by her brother that their father's fall from a speeding train

was no accident, Sylvie (Sandrine Bonnaire) packs up a pistol and pays a visit to the country estate of the chief suspect: M. Walser (Jerzy Radziwilocz), her father's business partner and her mother's erstwhile lover. But when she arrives, Sylvie is interrupted by Walser's current mistress,

Veronique (Laure Marsac). A struggle ensues, the gun goes off and Veronique is suddenly dead; Walser neatly disposes of the body and convinces a shocked Sylvie to recover at the estate. Tormented by the woman's death, suspicious of Walser's motives and haunted by the suicide of her older sister 15

years earlier, Sylvie begins to unravel as the conspiracy around her deepens. Clocking in at just under three hours, this is about as brief as Rivette gets; his virtually unseen OUT ONE (1970) ran some 13 hours the one time it was publicly screened. Rivette has never been particularly interested

in film as an end product -- his movies have an improvised and decidedly unfinished quality to them -- he's fascinated instead by the way in which the fiction happens, and likes to take his own sweet time. He also likes a good mystery; what better way to examine fiction in action that to watch a

"plot" unfold? That's just what's happening here, and unfold it eventually does. For anyone up to the challenge, there is a solution to the mystery of Sylvie's father's death. Getting to it, however, will entirely depend on your own personal taste: The film will either draw you in (as Rivette's

best films can), or simply wear you out.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: A long and slow-paced anti-thriller from veteran French director Jacques Rivette, in which a woman sets out to avenge her father's death but winds up murdering an innocent bystander. Convinced by her brother that their father's fall from a speeding train… (more)

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