Secret Things

The best Zalman King film ever made by a French intellectual, Jean-Claude Briusseau's sexually charged fable chronicles a modern-day courtesan's sentimental education in contemporary Paris. Naive, sexually inexperienced and unfulfilled Sandrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) tends bar at a strip club whose star attraction is Nathalie (Coralie Revel), whose bold sensuality...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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The best Zalman King film ever made by a French intellectual, Jean-Claude Briusseau's sexually charged fable chronicles a modern-day courtesan's sentimental education in contemporary Paris. Naive, sexually inexperienced and unfulfilled Sandrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) tends bar at a strip club whose star attraction is Nathalie (Coralie Revel), whose bold sensuality Sandrine secretly admires. Nathalie intervenes when the club's sleazy owner tries to bully Sandrine into having sex with a customer, and both are unceremoniously fired. But Nathalie — a frosty philosopher who preaches that once a woman frees her libido from the slavery of love, nothing can stand in her way — has a plan. She and Sandrine, whom she's been instructing in the ways of exhibitionism and self-love, will get office jobs and use their strategically deployed wiles to escape second-class citizenship and economic servitude. Both are hired by a Champs-Elysees financial firm, Sandrine in statistics and manipulative Nathalie in personnel; together they plot Sandrine's ascent from office manager Cadene (Olivier Soler) to happily married CEO Delacroix (Roger Mirmont), right-hand man to the firm's dying founder, Monsieur Barnay. The only prize greater than Delacroix is General Director Christophe Barnay (Fabrice Deville), who will inherit the company when his father dies. But the handsome Christophe is dangerous game, a Nietzchean hedonist who's driven more than one ex-girlfriend to self-immolation; Nathalie advises that Sandrine stick with the easily manipulated Delacroix, but the wheels of disaster begin turning when she deviates from her own steely principles. Though the film's plot recalls nothing more than an extended episode of Red Shoe Diaries, Brisseau's casting is distinctly European: Neither actress has the pneumatic assets that characterize American soft-core starlets and both can genuinely act. Prepare to be amazed as the gorgeously dark-haired, blue-eyed Revel makes her way through a series of monologues detailing the social iniquities visited on the working class that would defeat many a lesser thespian. The pale, coltish Seyvecou, ordinary to the point of plainness, makes Sandrine's transformation from timid mouse to confident femme fatale vividly arresting. Brisseau's lesson in economics and eros ends in a frenzy of incest, murder, blasphemy and orgiastic excess that the Marquis de Sade would applaud. It would be hard to mount a straight-faced defense of Brisseau's feverish moral tale, complete with a lurking angel of death, but the carnal machinations are hugely entertaining — particularly if you like your skin with a bracing sermon chaser.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The best Zalman King film ever made by a French intellectual, Jean-Claude Briusseau's sexually charged fable chronicles a modern-day courtesan's sentimental education in contemporary Paris. Naive, sexually inexperienced and unfulfilled Sandrine (Sabrina Se… (more)

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