The difference between the professional critics' praise of this film and the lukewarm response of customers on, for example, Amazon France is striking. Having just watched Secret Defense, I feel I ought to present a counterweight to the preceding review - not because this a poor film but because I feel it isn't quite that good.
I'm a fan of French films in general and Rivette's in particular. His best films for me are his arty ones, like La Belle Noiseuse, La Bande des Quatre (Gang of Four) L'Amour par Terre (Love on the Ground) and Va Savoir, where he explores the relationship between art or drama and reality. They tend to be over-long, but a leisurely style suits these films and gives him the opportunity to produce some memorable sequences.
Not so with this film. It simply isn't taut enough to excel as a thriller. The best French thrillers I've watched, with plenty of plot twists, are Cluzot's Les Diaboliques and Chabrol's La Rupture. They run to around two hours. Secret Defense is about 50 minutes longer and that's too long to prevent the suspense from flagging. I also have some reservations about the plot; particularly the ending, which left me feeling somewhat let down.
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