Loss is a lonely hunter. Like Charlotte Rampling's self-deceiving widow in François Ozon's Under the Sand, Margherita Buy's Antonia, the mid-life babe of Ferzan Ozpetek's His Secret Life (Fate Ignoranti) is jolted out of her warmly routinized marriage by the sudden death of her husband. But unlike Rampling's Marie, whose circumstances allow her to live in denial of loss, Antonia must confront in short order the fact that not only is her Massimo gone, but that she is not the only intimate he's left behinda favorite painting's inscription reveals a longtime lover, one pseudonymous "Ignorant Fairy."
When, in a state of shell-shocked patrician grace, Antonia resolutely returns the painting, she finds that Massimo's innamoratois actually a man. In the course of the mourners' initial tango, the equally bereaved Michele (Stefano Accorsi) introduces Antonia to her late husband's roiling sub-rosa sensual universe, which has at its epicenter a bustling flat full of working-class misfits who live and love as a makeshift family.
At points, Ozpetek's tale of socio-sexual epiphany suffers from the same walk-on-the-wild-side primitivism of his erotically questing 1997 debut, Steam: The Turkish Bath. But more important than the tame Almodóvarian omnisexuality and bittersweet lessons in day-seizing we learn from stock marginalized typesthe transsexual, the hard-luck dame, the manic-panic'd mother figure, and Michele's seeming charge, an AIDS-riven shut-inis the sense of the post-traumatic duo as stringless kites. It's this memory-as-identity obviation that gives Secret Life its intermittent unease, reaffirming that long-held illusions are indeed reality, and that erasing them recasts the self. And it's this existential gerrymandering that's most compelling. In this sense, Michele and Antonia hold the keys to each other's recovery.
Don't Ask Don't Tell
Directed by Doug Miles
Written by Tex Hauser
Opens September 20, at Cinema Village
The would-be cult classic Don't Ask Don't Tell may be a "refried film," but that's no excuse for stale jokes. This weak overdub of the 1954 shlocker Killers From Space re-imagines the flick as involving a government plot to prevent gay aliens from converting the world. Laboring under the misconception that simply mentioning anything contemporary (John Ashcroft or Bob Jones University) in the context of a recut relic is inexhaustibly hilarious, our well-intentioned crew never gets within light-years of MST3K's wit. What welcome lefty sass there is gets swept up in a deluge of gynophobic slag that could win Eminem to the fold.
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