A GIRL CUT IN TWO (La fille coupée en deux)

(director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriter: Cécile Maistre; cinematographer: Eduardo Serra; editor: Monique Fardoulis; music: Matthieu Chabrol; cast: Ludivine Sagnier (Gabrielle Aurore Deneige), Francois Berleand (Charles Saint-Denis), Benoit Magimel (Paul André Claude Gaudens), Mathilda May (Capucine Jamet), Caroline Sihol (Geneviève Gaudens), Etienne Chicot (Denis Deneige), Marie Bunel (Marie Deneige), Valeria Cavalli (Dona Saint-Denis), Thomas Chabrol (Stéphane Lorbach), Jean-Marie Winling (Gérard Briançon), Didier Benureau (Philippe Le Riou), Edouard Baer (Edouard, l’acteur interviewé), Clémence Bretécher (Joséphine Gaudens), Charley Fouquet (Eléonore Gaudens), Emanuel Booz (Alban), Jeremie Chaplain (Franck); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Patrick Godeau; IFC Films; 2007-France/Germany-in French with English subtitles)

“It’s not fresh material, but in the hands of a master like Chabrol it appears like a fresh breeze.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An enticing adult psychological thriller inspired by the New York murder of womanizing architect Stanford White in 1906. Referred to by many as the French Hitchcock, New Wave director Claude Chabrol (“The Cousins”/”The Butcher”/The Does”), in his 69th feature film (like whose counting, already), cowrote the thriller with his stepdaughter Cecile Maistre. The same story was filmed by Richard Fleischer in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955), but far less effectively. It’s impeccably crafted, superbly acted, acerbically funny, filled with a delightfully twisted dialogue and stunningly photographed, but this moral tale is glacial in tone and offers the usual Chabrol embittered sparring with the bourgeois as the upper-crusts get the put downs they seemingly deserve.

Successful egotistical novelist Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand), a leading light in French literary circles, leads a reclusive but carnal adulterous life on his luxurious estate in contemporary Lyons, France, where he lives with his easy going wife of 25 years Dona (Valeria Cavalli) and takes pleasure being a decadent swinger. His voluptuous publisher Capucine (Mathilda May), also a swinger, gets him a TV interview. At the TV station he runs into the attractive perky local weather girl Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier), an innocent but shallow twentysomething, who lives with her single 40-year-old mother, Marie (Marie Bunel), a clerk at the local bookstore where Charles will be at for his book signing and will again meet Gabrielle. Soon some hot sex takes place between Gabrielle and the twice her age Charles, and she convinces herself that she loves the rascal even though he brings her into his swinger’s circle brothel hangout so she can screw his other sophisticated friends while he watches. Meanwhile, the spoiled, crass, foppish and unstable wealthy twentysomething Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel), a pharmaceutical heir, who also met her at the bookstore, tries to win her over with his money and his aggressive advances but is thwarted when she tells him she loves someone else. To add to Paul’s rage over his rejection, something he never takes lightly, he has known Charles for a long time and detests him as a poseur and as a nouveau riche.

Things change when Charles acts like a bastard and leaves Gabrielle hanging, and she goes into a funk; but Paul, with her mom’s approval, comes around and the two marry, as he catches her on the rebound. Paul’s heartless mother, the well-born haughty pharmaceutical heiress Genevieve (Caroline Silhol), shows a dislike toward the lower-class weather girl promoted to talk-show host, and offers her chilly stares. Mom is devoted to her pervert son and has much practice covering up his crimes and deviant behavior, and after the marriage will get even more practice.

Chabrol uses Gabrielle’s pure emotional responses to emphatically show how she becomes a victim of both the heart and class warfare, as both her unchecked passion and the privileged classes’ money and status act to bring the upstart weather girl a chilly forecast. It’s not fresh material, but in the hands of a master like Chabrol it appears like fresh breeze.

REVIEWED ON 7/28/2009 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”