Review: ‘Secrets Shared with a Stranger’

Natalia Sananine Bonnaire The Stranger William Hurt Modeste Jerzy Radziwilowiez Volodia Denis Siniavski Kriouchkoff Alexandre Kaidanovsky The Mother Marie Duboi

Natalia Sananine Bonnaire The Stranger William Hurt Modeste Jerzy Radziwilowiez Volodia Denis Siniavski Kriouchkoff Alexandre Kaidanovsky The Mother Marie Duboi

With: Marina Golovine, Olga Volkova, Serguei Yoursky, Svetlana Krioutchkova, Grigori Khaoustov.

(French dialogue)

“Secrets Shared With a Stranger” is a curious, offbeat drama set in prerevolutionary Russia that isn’t likely to generate much interest with anyone other than die-hard fans of co-stars William Hurt and Sandrine Bonnaire. Shot in French in St. Petersburg, this French-Italian co-production uses a mainly Russian supporting cast, and the cross-cultural confusion is heightened by Hurt’s dialogue, which is dubbed into French.

The 1907-set yarn opens with Natalia (Bonnaire) strolling through the park, where she meets an elegant stranger (Hurt), who begins to play an important role in her life.

That night, her husband, a well-to-do dentist, is brutally murdered in their home, and the local police suspect Natalia had something to do with the killing. Their suspicions are heightened when Natalia makes a big show of being unaffected emotionally by her husband’s death.

She has been maintaining two lovers on the side, one a right-wing sculptor and the other a handsome young revolutionary, but this icy bourgeois widow is just as cold with her extracurricular loves. She then meets the stranger from the park again when he rescues her from a revolutionary altercation on the street. Back at his swank apartment, she opens up her heart, telling him all about her busy love life and about how everyone figures she bumped off her hubby.

Ending involves a red herring that will stretch even the most patient viewer’s suspension of disbelief.

Bonnaire is reasonably effective as the frosty upper-cruster, but Hurt, looking bemused, simply glides through on automatic pilot. First-time feature helmer Georges Bardawil, a French novelist and journalist, has a clumsy style that is far from captivating, and Bardawil and Gilles Laurent’s script isn’t able to pull off its attempted mix of Russian politics and personal drama.

Costumes and sets re-creating early-20th-century St. petersburg are convincing even though pic’s budget was modest.

Secrets Shared with a Stranger

(FRENCH-ITALIAN

Production

A Flach Film production, in association with Les Films du Bouloi, Gloub, Bardawil, Cecchi Gori Group, Alhena Films, STW. (International sales: Pyramide Ventes Mondiales, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Francois Lepetit. Directed by Georges Bardawil, Screenplay, Bardawil, Gilles Laurent.

Crew

Camera (color), Youri Klimenko; editor, Martine Lebon; music, Enri Lolashvili; art direction, Serguei Chemiakine, Natalia Ivanova; sound, Laurent Barbey, Phillippe Heisler, Eric Tisserand. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal, (competing) , Sept. 1, 1995. Running time: 92 MIN.
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