(Les Anges exterminateurs)
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Frédéric Van Den Driessche  as François and
Maroussia Dubreuil as Charlotte in
© Rezo Films/IFC First Take

sensation with SECRET THINGS, a film about
two women who basically use sex to achieve
their goals. While the film had a certain erotic
allure for heterosexual audiences, Brisseau's
abilities as a movie maker were decidedly a
mixed bag. I saw the film on DVD at the
recommendation of someone whose opinions I
value but came away wondering what all the
fuss was.
Of course, there was a back story and that
proved far more salacious. It seems that
Brisseau had spent more than three years in
pre-production on
SECRET THINGS and in that
time he worked closely with the two relatively
unknown actresses he had hired. In fact, the
women eventually felt the director got a bit too
close: they sued him for sexual harassment. Of
course, they were replaced by other actresses
when it came time to actually film the movie but
the pair eventually triumphed in a French court.
Brisseau received a one-year suspended
sentence, was fined 15,000 euros and was
ordered to pay reparations to the women as well.

Why do I bring all this up? Well, that story
informs the filmmaker's latest release
the movie as a sort of mea culpa, but Brisseau
claims that he had completed work on the
screenplay before the police arrested him. In an
interview in the press notes, he claims that
everyone involved with the film was aware of his
upcoming trial and that it "had no effect
whatsoever." Perhaps that is a bit disingenuous.
I'm not entirely certain that the movie is not in
some way a payback for his legal troubles.

To wit: the movie centers on an attractive,
middle-aged film director named François
(Frédéric Van Den Driessche) who is obsessed
with creating a film about female arousal and
fulfillment. The movie opens with a dream
sequence in which François believes he has to
go visit his grandmother -- a woman who has
been dead some ten years. Her apparition then
appears and issues a stern warning that goes
unheeded. There are also a pair of attractive
young women in little black dresses who appear
to have some influence over the director's life.

In his spartan office, François holds auditions
for his upcoming opus. When he explains that
he wants the women to explore sexual taboos,
some predictably walk out, some are just
appalled and some decide they are more than
just interested. He settles on two, the
somewhat unreliable Charlotte (Marouissa
Dubreuil) and Julie (Lise Bellynck), a submissive
blonde. While he adopts a hands-off policy -- he
is nothing more than a voyeur -- François directs
the women to explore their intimate ideals. One
such moment occurs while the trio is dining out
-- and it soon becomes clear that their female
server Stéphanie (Marie Allan) knows exactly
what is going on -- and that she is perhaps even
aroused by it. Indeed, she follows them and
offers to participate in the venture as well.

For the first hour or so, the movie provides
some pleasures (although I felt the need for a
shower afterwards). As Brisseau moves more
into the realm of the theoretical, though, things
begin to become dull. There are fractured radio
transmissions that seem to come from beyond
(perhaps a nod to Cocteau) and there are those
unexplained two women who may or may not be
the titular characters.

When the film begins to mirror real life and
Brisseau's troubles, that's when things get
really dicey. He posits that one of the actresses
is perhaps insane (undoubtedly if the events
had occurred in the United States, he would
have faced yet another trial for libel or worse).
François, like his alter ego, is forced to replace
the actresses with other women and the end
result is perhaps not entirely to his liking.

It's impossible to separate the events of
Brisseau's trial from this film. Despite his
statements to the contrary, there are too many
parallels. As such
both an apology and an explanation for his
transgressions. Unfortunately, neither comes
across as being particularly well thought out or
even sincere.

Judged on its own merits, the film is passably
entertaining but dramatically inert.

Rating:                C-
MPAA Rating:        NONE
Running time:      104 mins.