Thursday, March 30th, 2023

Discovering her dead husband’s alternative life

SecretLifeHis Secret Life
(Le Fate Ignoranti)

Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek

Written by Gianni Romoli and Ferzan Ozpetek

Released February 8, 2001 at the Berlin Film Festival
Drama (foreign)
106 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

June 29, 2005.

Le Fate Ignoranti (which means “the ignorant fairies”; retitled in English as His Secret Life, directed by Ferzan Ozpetek [director of the 1997 Steam/Hamam]) has outstanding performance by Margherita Buy (The Station) and Stefano Accorsi (The Last Kiss) as Antonia and Michele, the two widows of a man living in two worlds (straight and gay), and by Gabriel Garko as an AIDS patient, plus many other entertaining characters.

SecretLifeFIThe official widow finds out that her dead husband had not only a male mistress but that the two of them were part of a gay world (at least a motley family). I am not convinced that any gay “family of choice” is as diverse as this one, although Buy and Accorsi convince me that their characters just might bond (and snipe) as they do. Many widows bloom, but there is something too schematic about Antonia’s embrace of everyone in Michele’s circle, and the heart-warming strikes me as too didactic.

I liked the opening shot of a bust of Antinous and eventually understand the opening scene but was perplexed by the end. There is some gratuitous full-frontal male nudity near the start, but none thereafter. The pace is slow and the genial movie is not very cinematic.

There are enough underdeveloped side plots to fill a soap opera miniseries or series. The inept story telling makes me unable to give it more than 3 stars, but there are many effective scenes of complex relationships, including the mother-daughter one.

First published on AssociatedContent 29 June 2005
©2005, 2016, Stephen O. Murray


About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.