Kristin Scott-Thomas, Ludivine Sagnier, Patrick Mille
Alain Corneau, Nathalie Carter
Sundance Selects (US)
The final film from French filmmaker Alain Corneau, Love Crime (Crime d'Amour)
is a classic whodunnit that starts off, or so it seems, as more of a corporate thriller with a central conflict between the up-and-coming Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) and her boss, Christine (Kristin Scott-Thomas), turning into a relentless game of one-upsmanship for the film's first half and then, during the second half, into an all out war that is essentially fully revealed during the film's mid-section.
For a good portion of her cinematic career, Sagnier has been called upon to be not much more than the object of lust for virtually any heterosexual male within her vicinity. Sagnier has a look that weaves together innocence and raw sensuality, and she possesses a voice that complements it all to near perfection. While this has allowed the young woman to build a film career, it has not turned her into an actress. In Love Crime
she takes a step in the right direction as Isabelle, the classic corporate underling who is under-appreciated, manipulated and taunted and yet who has far more going on within her than we possibly imagined. Isabelle is the second in command of the Paris office of an American corporation, but she seems destined to stay that way with a boss who takes credit for her work. When she figures out a way to reverse the cycle, she sets the stage for the film's real story of murder and how it all got that way.
In his last film before his death last year, Corneau was working overtime to make a bold statement about how we create that which is within us. It is true of both Christine and Isabelle and, at least for Isabelle, it becomes a captivating thing to watch unfold as she becomes increasingly in touch with a side of herself that seems surprising.
Kristin Scott-Thomas has had quite the year, first with the wonderful Sarah's Key
and now with Love Crime.
While the material often becomes ludicrous, Scott-Thomas can sell virtually anything and she's never less than mesmerizing here. Sagnier doesn't quite having Scott-Thomas's acting chops, occasionally struggling to portray her character's multiple layers. That said, her performance is far richer than one would expect given her previous work and certainly it's indicative of a far more gifted actress than has previously been revealed. It will be interesting to see where Sagnier goes cinematically after this film.
Fans of Corneau will want to catch this film as it tours the U.S. on the arthouse circuit. While it doesn't measure up to Corneau's best work, it's a reminder of Corneau's status as one of few filmmakers in the world capable of crafting an intelligent and emotionally satisfying thriller.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic