Saturday, March 22, 2014

In Secret (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

In Secret

Charlie Stratton's "In Secret" puts us squarely, if not completely enthusiastically, within Emile Zola's  Therese Raquin with some dense fog and soot as thick as Dickens.

We feel the claustrophobia straightaway and we are drawn in, despite the somewhat predictable narrative and conventional casting.

The steady Elizabeth Olsen stars as the pale and closeted maiden Therese, while Jessica Lange is at her best here as the witchy and ultra-religious schoolmarmish aunt, keeping her charge under lock and key. Lange's Madame Raquin is a raven of restriction. Nothing gets in her way.

Therese is a pale anemic weed, shackled to be betrothed to the bony and obsequious mama's boy, and first cousin Camille (Tom Felton) who has all the dashing charms of an Ichabod Crane.

All is gray and colorless until the entrance of the Byronic and dashing painter Laurent (Oscar Isaac) who brings out Therese's hidden palate with some libertine quips.

It is fun to see Therese blossom in color from a battleship gray twig into a florid jasmine hibiscus with rich oranges and pearly pinks that echo the Pre-Raphaelite works of John Everett Millais and Waterhouse.

Therese and Laurent begin some colorful congress as a blast of sun pours into the dun-colored room and turns all objects peachy with sin.

These two carnal sneaks are engaging and their fleshy hijinks contain some provocative positioning and titillating camera movement.  

As the two can't bear to conduct themselves within the shade any longer, they begin to talk.

Laurent gets an idea.

And during one fateful, leaf-dappled morning on the lake there is a thud, a kerplunk and a great thrashing about.

Oh dear.

"In Secret" does best when it reveals its 'Aha' black humored moments, particularly when the limp and needy Camille is overcome with joy in seeing his grotesque and bloated blue visage on canvas. This scene is a wonderfully singular tribute to "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and to the famed artist Ivan Albright.

And while we can sense the karmic, oppressively dark Guilt a mile away before it blights upon these reckless Romeos like a pestilence, the vortex of viciousness holds us in. A big knife and a glass vial become predatory and serpentine creatures of danger, circumstance and criminal release.

True, this is traditional Masterpiece Theater melodrama with a crab-handed Madame writing out a black ink of deeds done ala Poe (complete with some flowing sable canemanship, no less) but it is well done. Tom Felton in particular, does a show stealing job with his gallows-grim and skeletal antics in regarding his  portrait, perversely falling in love with his blue meanie.

"In Secret" is a well rendered tale within the orbit of Shakespeare and Highsmith, of two libertines overripe with paranoia. It has a whirlpool effect that certainly builds and while it may not make you leap with surprise, it will definitely produce a satisfactory pause.

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