His Secret Life (Le Fate Ignoranti)
Do not miss this movie. Itís everything that Confusion of Genders pretended to be but wasnít. This is the intelligent exploration of love, gender and life that could only have been made in a European productionóin this case Italian.
Massimo, the beautiful, intelligent husband of Antonia is killed in an accident, leaving her grieving and alone. Whist going through his possessions, she discovers that during their 15 year marriage he had an affair for 7 years. On tracking down the sender of a painting with an intimate message, Antonia discovers that the lover was a young man. What seems to be even harder for her to accept, however, is that Michael is part of a close-knit, loving ďfamilyĒ: a group of disparte gay and straight people that congragate their lives around him and his apartment. This place, this life, is in total contrast to the life Massimo wanted with Antonia. He kept her sterileóin more senses than one: not wanting her to have children and keeping her in a house that resembles more an art gallery than it does a home.
Clearly, the meeting between Antonia and Michael is not going to be easy, but the mark of truly great film is that it persuades you to believe that what you are watching is real and each ebb and flow of the emotion is perfectly balanced.
The cast of characters is perfect. Iím not a great fan of the women in most gay moviesóthey have a very delicate line to tread and most of the ones Iíve seen have failed. Antonia is perfect. She is every one of us, and her story is incredibly moving. Michael is excellent, too, a complex blend of bitter ex-lover and beautiful, confused man.
Do get this movie. I think this might be one youíll want to own.
Things are not always as they seem.† We make assumptions and turn people we love into who WE want them to be.
Antonia has the perfect life with handsome, sexy and successful husband Massimo and a beautiful home.† Then Massimo is killed in an accident and she discovers she never really knew him at all: her childhood sweetheart had for years been having a secret affair with another man.
In some ways this film reminded me of Second Skin, but this one worked for me in a way the other did not.† Like director Ferzan Ozpetekís earlier Hammam, the focus isnít the gay characters but Antonia:† her liberation, a beautifully executed piece of work, that totally captivated me, perhaps because I could identify with the character.
The gay characters live together the way they choose and on their own terms.† Itís Antonia who is repressed, closed off, all her passion locked inside.
Antoniaís journey begins when she traces Massimoís lover, the gorgeous Michele, through an inscription on a painting.† Michele lives a casual Bohemian existence in a vibrant working class district, the kind of place where everyone really is a good neighbour.
Initially and understandably hostile, each jealous of the otherís role in Massimoís double life, Antonia & Michele slowly realise they share an unbreakable bond in their love for the man who needed them both to be happy.
This might sound sappy, but believe me itís completely believable, pure joy to watch.† Antoniaís total shock when FINALLY she realises who Michele is breaks the heart, like her whole world has collapsed and sheís lost her husband again.† Though I did wonder why, as a worker with HIV/AIDS patients her first concern wasnít to get tested.
Antonia is amazing, as is Michele, a hooded-eyed hunk of Italian manhood.† Though their relationship isnít romantic thereís real chemistry between the two.† After years as the other man, Michele just canít help turning the knife, but natural compassion overcomes angry resentment of a former rival.† The supporting characters too are well developed with their own stories to reveal, gay and straight.
Itís not easy, wouldnít be believable if it was.† Michele is no plaster saint either, but a real man with needs.† Antonia watches with incomprehension at a party as he cops off for a life-affirming three-way.† Life goes on, as Antonia comes to accept.
Though she visibly flounders when initially confronted with gay lifestyle & culture, it shows how much Antonia gets it when she admits Massimo didnít just have a lover but a whole other world.† A world that has much to teach Antonia, and to her credit she proves an apt pupil.
The film would be worth watching for the eye candy alone, but offers so much more.
Antonia is hurt that Massimo lied to her and questions his love.† Itís only when she sees the way Michele and his friends must cope with rejection and prejudice that she understands how dangerous truth can be, how gay people suffer for what they are.
Through Micheleís friend Ernesto, a beautiful man dying of AIDS, Antonia finally sees beyond doubt that love between men is equal to heterosexual, that itís not Ďusí and Ďthemí, just people with feelings, hopes & fears and weaknesses.† An immense capacity for love, and a need to be loved, unconditionally.† Michele goes searching for condoms in perfectly judged scene:† he loved Massimo, but you canít hug a ghost- though it doesnít mean you forget a loved one; a part of them stays with us forever, in memories.
Micheleís realisation too that he didnít have all of Massimo is beautifully handled in a scene almost without words, when Antonia shows him the home she shared with her husband.
The ending is open to interpretation though pay attention because there are clues to point in a certain direction, as Antonia continues her journey of self-discovery. This wonderful film is up there with Just a Question of Love and Burnt Money.† Iíve watched it several times now and it gets to me every time.† Moving, thought provoking, multi-layered, funny, passionate and sexy, with a fantastic soundtrack.† Do not miss it!† (Be sure and watch through the end credits to see scenes of the cast and production).