Sunday, June 8, 2008

Un Secret (2007)

My second 2008 SIFF movie can't be ranked as a disappointment, but it also wasn't completely successful. The film takes on too much in less than two hours; so much so that when it was over, I felt like I'd been sitting in the cinema much longer.

We are led through three major storylines with corresponding flashbacks. Flashbacks can be difficult to track but these were exceptionally crafted and interwoven. Black and white film is used to portray the present, while the past is in color.

We are initially guided through the stories (from the 1940s, 1955, 1962 and 1985) by a young, sickly François. Feeble François is a constant disappointment to his athletic father, Maxime, who never misses a chance to communicate this to the stoic boy. His mother, Tania, also athletic, is upset by her husband's treatment of the boy, but never says a word. The frail boy receives frequent vitamin D shots and massages from his aunt, Louise, who seems to have a strong liking for her brother's wife, Tania, François' mother. Then, Louise divulges a secret that is layered, multi-faceted and includes: lust and infidelity, Jewish identity and trauma during WWII, concentration camps and unknown family. Miller ties it up on-screen. The acting is extraordinary, including that from the very young actors.

The problems occur toward the end, once the secrets have been uncovered, when it's hurry-up-and-don't-resolve-how-friends-and-family (who have been integral to all storylines throughout)-deal-with-end-results, but rather, just accept this is what happened. Thus, a few details are left unresolved.

Internet research uncovered that the movie is based on the 2004 biographical French novel Secret by Philippe Grimbert. The book won several French literary awards and has a more tragic ending than in the movie.

Themes: Coming of age, Holocaust, Jewish traditions, infidelity

Director: Claude Miller

Country: France

Scale: 4...the cinematography has brilliant elements but the ending was abrupt after such a detailed piece

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