Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sandrine Bonnaire, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Grégoire Colin, Laure Marsac, Françoise Fabian, Christine Vouilloz, Mark Saporta, Sara Louis, Hermine Karagheuz, Bernadette Giraud, Micheline Herzog
Written by: Pascal Bonitzer, Emmanuelle Cuau, Jacques Rivette
Directed by: Jacques Rivette
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 170
Date: 03/19/2013

Secret Defense (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In a tip of the hat to Lang, as well as Hitchcock, Secret Defense (1998, Image Entertainment, $24.99) is an unusual look at a murder story. Sandrine Bonnaire (also in Rivette's great Joan the Maid) stars as a cancer researcher who learns after five years that her father may have been murdered. She sets out to kill the man who did it, but ends up shooting the wrong person. Typically, Rivette is not interested in suspense, but in how our characters think and feel about the act of murder -- the act of taking a human life. The film spends a good deal of time following Bonnaire as she prepares for the deed, buying a train ticket to travel to the target's house, and then on the train for long moments, stuck with her thoughts. We also spend long moments with her in the aftermath -- pale, and wandering around the house trying to get a handle on what she's done and what it all means. Rivette stretches the proceedings out to 2 hours and 45 minutes, gradually revealing little bits of the puzzle to us and ending on a perfect, sublime note.

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