LOVE CRIME (Crime d’amour). Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Patrick Mille. Directed by Alain Corneau. Rated M (Violence, sex scene, drug use and infrequent coarse language). 102 min.
This French, sub-titled psychological thriller focuses on two women, Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier), an ambitious business executive, and Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), the woman Isabelle works for in a powerful multinational corporation. At first the two women like each other, because they are both highly competitive, and they admire each other for who they are, and what they do. Christine is confident of her authority over Isabelle, and she lures her into a sinister game of domination and seduction. She exploits Isabelle and claims ownership of her ideas, using them to her own advantage. The game Christine has started goes too far, and Isabelle is deeply humiliated by Christine in front of her fellow workers. Eroticism, murder, mystery and suspense are introduced as the film develops, and these elements are woven intricately together to complicate the relationship between the two women. Their relationship is quickly characterised by stark hostility. They become bitter enemies, and Isabelle plans to take murderous revenge.
Kristin Scott-Thomas is a classy actress and any film she appears in is worth the attention. She recently gave a stunning performance as the imprisoned sister in “I’ve Loved You So Long” (2008). As Christine in this movie, she is wonderfully nasty, in a perfectly controlled way. She very effectively takes the part of a ruthless company head, who manipulates Isabelle (and other employees) under a cloak of barely hidden sadism. Isabelle cannot cope, and she starts to lose her control and dignity, and wants to rid herself of her torment.
Alain Corneau, the director of the film, handles the interaction between the two women with measured pace, and the film builds up strong suspense about what Isabelle will do to stop Christine. The impact of the stress on Isabelle is heightened by the cut and thrust of the corporate world in which they both work, and by the change of Isabelle from a fashionable executive to a vulnerable human being. No French thriller is worth a second look unless it contains multiple twists and turns, and this film is no exception. The title of the movie gives a clue to the nature of the sentiment underlying the murder that was committed. Half-way through the movie, the film takes a decidedly different turn, and much of the early tension dissipates as Christine throws herself into the role of the careless killer, so that she can ultimately throw suspicion onto somebody else.
The director uses some heavy black-and-white flashbacks to give authenticity to the film’s events, and his cool detachment creates a moderate look to a movie, where the display of passion at times might have worked better. With the nuances of eroticism and mystery that the film arouses, the film ultimately depicts a crime of passion that is kept too tightly under wraps, but the dramatic implications of the motivations depicted in the film are absorbing.
This is a very watchable French thriller that is well-acted, and well-directed. There are two kinds of thriller wrapped up in the one film, and most of the people in it behave quite immorally, but true to its type, it keeps you guessing until the final scene.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out August 4th 2011.