Notes on “Secret Friends”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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A middle-aged man has a breakdown while riding on a train, and his memories, fantasies, and perceptions blur, like the scenery glimpsed through the train’s windows. The late Dennis Potter had a gift for making movies that feel like paroxysms of consciousness. Images, sounds, and bits of staging repeat, rhyme, and play off one another. Popular songs trigger personal associations, thereby throwing our own mental processes into the mix. Without these elements we’d have little to orient ourselves; they’re like lifelines thrown to us from the shore of comprehension. Yet as quickly as Potter tosses one out he pulls it back, teasing us forward. His method relies on that teasing quality, on the goading of our desire for understanding; the more we try to keep up with him, the more we’re pulled in. When he’s on, his movies are frustrating in a way that’s engrossing. Here he’s only intermittently on, and the movie is frustrating in a more banal way — I walked away from it feeling a little annoyed. Potter seems to be trying to make a virtue out of irresolution. He introduces thriller elements and then doesn’t build on them, and his hero’s backstory becomes more rather than less muddled as the picture progresses. It’s likely that he intends to suggest the ingrownness of erotic identity: to demonstrate how our most personal desires, in being fulfilled, can become alienating. The suggestion is made and we register it; but the movie has a narrative dimension, and Potter’s technique doesn’t support it. 

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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