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A Secret
A Secret
Actors: Patrick Bruel, Yves Jacques, Ludivine Sagnier, Yves Verhoeven, Nathalie Boutefeu
Director: Claude Miller
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2009     1hr 50min

A SECRET follows the saga of a Jewish family in post-World War II Paris. Francois, a solitary, imaginative child, invents for himself a brother as well as the story of his parents past. But on his fifteenth birthday, he di...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Patrick Bruel, Yves Jacques, Ludivine Sagnier, Yves Verhoeven, Nathalie Boutefeu
Director: Claude Miller
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Strand Releasing
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/10/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 50min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Caught in the Web of War
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 02/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

""A Secret"

Caught in the Web of War

Amos Lassen

Repression and family tragedy are the themes of Claude Miller's new film "A Secret" ("un Secret"). Secrets are hidden from view and are excluded from any discussion and this causes them to grow and multiply. Claude Miller, the director, sets out to unearth these secrets.
The film is an adaptation of Philippe Grimbert's autobiography which tells the sage of a Jewish family in post World War II Paris. Francois is an imaginative yet solitary child who invents a brother for himself and he also invents the story of his parents' past. However, on his fifteenth birthday, he discovers a family secret that ties his family to the Holocaust and shatters all of his illusions forever.
Before the war, Maxime, his father was married to Hannah but he fell madly in love with François's mother, Tania. He left his wife for her and as a young Jewish couple living in a France that was occupied by Nazis they had difficult choices to make in order to survive. Meanwhile Hannah would make a choice that would not only change her life but the life of the family as well.
The film is intensely complex and Miller has done an admirable job of bringing the story to the screen. He carefully looks at the themes of guilt, loss, love and rejection. We see that the guilt of one man and the rejection that one woman felt mirror the nation of France in the way she rejected and abandoned her Jewish citizens.
The family is the real setting of the film as well as its subject. The fate of the family members is tangled in issues of jealousy, betrayal and desire and this mixes with the fate that the Nazis planned for them.
The most impressive thing about "A Secret" is the way the director manages to touch many themes and never really spells them out. There is a calm precision to the film which both intensifies and delays the disclosures of the secrets of the family. I love the passion and the struggle of the love triangle and how that love so affects the fate of the characters. There is a humanity to the characters which is deep and intense but the difficult decisions they had to make and the bevy of emotions that they carry are put out there for all to see and as the secrets parallel aspects of human existence, we are privy to a heart-breaking story.
The acting and the direction are outstanding. The cast led by Cecile de France, Patrick Bruel and Julie Depardieu as well as the three actors who play Francois are brilliant. The cinematography is beautiful and lush. Another plus for the film is that the story is told directly and we in the audience watch and then we draw our own conclusions.
The script is completely believable. The way some Jews accepted Nazi laws without question or argument also rang true---not all of the Jews at that time were ready to stand up and proclaim their religion. They did so because they felt that if they did then everything would be alright.
Miller brought the story to life and it is not easy not to be preoccupied with what is seen on the screen.
There is a profound sadness that permeates the film and it is felt from the very first frame but we know why as Miller tackles the darkest period in the history of the world and the Holocaust which becomes more and more difficult to understand. Francois, however, begins to understand when he learns the sercret. All it took was one little act of disobedience changed the lives of everyone involved forever.
The tragic aftermath of a love triangle set against the back
z hayes | TX | 04/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"'A Secret' is a multi-layered movie that deals with myriad themes. The central character is Francois Grimbert who has always had a rather distant relationship with his father Maxime [Patrick Bruel]. As a young boy, Francois is not keen on sports and appears rather frail [he was a four lb baby] and very unlike his athletic father and swim champion mother Tania [Cecile de france]. His young mind conjures a phantom brother that is very athletic and strong, driving his parents to distraction. When Francois discovers a toy in the family attic, secrets long hidden begin to unravel, thanks mostly to a long-time family friend, Louise [Julie Depardieu] who reveals all that she knows.

Told via a series of flashbacks, the story unfolds. Ironically, the flashbacks to the past are portrayed in color, and the present [where the now mature Francois goes to meet his old dad] is in black and white. This is ideal as in this story, the past is of the most significance. As the 15-year-old Francois learns, his 'imaginary' brother of childhood was very much real, and was called Simon, much beloved by his father Maxime, and his mother Hannah [Maxime's first wife]. As the story progresses, we learn of a complex love triangle, involving Maxime, Hannah, and Tania. Maxime first sets eyes on the gorgeous, blonde Tania at his wedding to Hannah. At the time, Tania is married to Hannah's brother, but when the Nazis begin expanding their power across Europe, Tania's husband becomes a prisoner of war and this brings Tania closer to Maxime and his family, which now includes the young Simon. As the Nazis occupy France, Maxime refuses to wear the yellow star, turning his back on his Jewish identity, much to the chagrin of Hannah, who is proud of her heritage. Hannah also slowly realizes to her horror that Maxime desires Tania, and this realization later plays a tragic role in shaping the ultimate destiny of Hannah and Simon.

The plot here may come across as incredibly convoluted, yet despite the many layerings to the story, conveyed by the frequent flashbacks, the plot flows well, almost seamless, and I could easily follow the stories of the main characters.

This is a riveting human drama that not only portrays the complexities of love and relationships, but also shows how the French Jews, as portrayed by Maxime, his family and close friends were affected by the Nazi occupation of France, and how the French government basically turned its back on its Jewish citizens. Final verdict: a well-made Holocaust-themed human drama.

A Frail, Imaginative Boy Finds Discovers Himself in a Sad Fa
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 03/20/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

""A Secret" (Un Secret) is a World War II drama based on the novel of the same name by Phillipe Grimbert, which has also been published under the title "Memory". It has a complex time structure, shifting between 4 different time periods in the life of Francois Grimbert and the earlier lives of his parents during the War. Seven-year-old Francois (Valentin Vigourt) is frail, reclusive boy living in the shadow of his athletic father Maxime (Patrick Bruel) and beautiful mother Tania (Cecile De France) in 1955 Paris. He finds a stuffed animal in the attic one day that elicits strong and inexplicable reactions from his parents. Seven years later, his neighbor and longtime family friend Louise (Julie Depardieu) tells him the long-suppressed story of his parents' past that puts his life in a new context.

A lot of films have been made about the struggles of French Jews during World War II. Every time I see one, I think it's going to be like all the others. But I'm usually wrong. For some reason, this subject has produced great cinema in France. There is always a restraint in how these stories are told, and the characters are strong enough to engage the audience's interest, yet ordinary enough to represent whole communities. "A Secret" is no exception. Maxime, Tania, Louise, and, later, Hannah (Ludivine Sagnier) are vibrant, sympathetic people no matter what they do. Sometimes I wondered if the complex structure of this film was necessary or beneficial (it was borrowed from the book). And I would liked to have known more about Francois as an adult. But these characters are captivating and their story is affecting.

The DVD (Strand Releasing 2009): The film is in French with English subtitles that cannot be turned off. The only bonus feature is a theatrical trailer."
Longing and Loving and the Precipice of War
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Claude Miller has created one of the more challenging and intensely human dramas about World War II in his film UN SECRET (A SECRET). Though one of many stories about the plight of Jews during the events that led up to and exploded into WW II, Miller's story is less about the cruel destiny of the Jews in Hitler's plundering of Europe than it is a study of a few individuals who struggled with their identity in the face of probable extermination.

Based on a true story in Phillippe Grimbert's novel by the same name, UN SECRET gracefully and artistically draws the viewer into the psyche of the narrator François Grimbert (played at ages 7, 14 and 37 by Valentin Vigourt, Quentin Dubuis, and Matthew Almaric) whose relationship to his father Maxime (Patrick Bruel) has always been strained. The story winds from contemporary time, to the period in France before WW II, through the horrors of the Holocaust, and the years of rebuilding following the war.

Maxime `Grinberg' (Patrick Bruel) marries Hannah (Ludvine Sagnier) in a beautiful Jewish wedding. Hannah's brother is married to a brilliant athlete Tania (Cecile De France) and even at the wedding the equally athletic Maxime has eyes for Tania. All possible conflicts seem to diminish when Maxime and Hannah have a son, Simon (Orlando Nicoletti) who develops into a naturally gifted athlete - the joy of Maxime's life. As WW II approaches the Jews of Paris are instructed to wear their yellow Star of David patches, and while Hannah feels pride in her ancestry, Maxime refuses to be `labeled' and defies the ruling. When the SS come to transport Jews out of Paris, Hannah and Simon are removed to a camp while Maxime manages to stay in Paris with a new French name. Popular as a fashion model and designer, Tania is able to stay unnoticed as a Jew also, but her husband is off to war and extermination. Maxime and Tania learn of their families' demise and bond, eventually marrying using French names (Grimberg becomes Grimbert), join the Catholic Church and have a son - François - who is nothing like Simon nor does he know of his father's rejection of him as a poor comparison to the perfect Simon But as the years pass François discovers his family's past and a reconciliation with his Jewish heritage confronts him. How the maturing François ultimately relates to his distant father brings closure to the story.

The cast is excellent, gifted actors all, especially in some of the lesser roles (eg. the ever-present Louise (Julie Depardieu). Claude Miller's recreation of time lapses is successfully highlighted by interchanging black and white with color photography (by cinematographer Gérard de Battista) and the changing moods of the story are greatly enhanced by the musical score by Zibigniew Preisner. UN SECRET, then, is a stunning work that explains many aspects of the varying responses of Jews to that horrid period of history designed by Hitler. It is a deeply satisfying and profoundly moving film. In French with English subtitles. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, March 09"