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  Girl Cut in Two, The The Greater Of Two Evils
Year: 2007
Director: Claude Chabrol
Stars: Ludivine Sagnier, Benoît Magimel, François Berléand, Mathilda May, Caroline Sihol, Marie Bunel, Valeria Cavalli, Etienne Chicot, Edouard Baer, Jean-Marie Winling, Didier Bénureau, Thomas Chabrol, Charley Fouquet, Hubert Saint-Macary
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier) is a weathergirl on television, appearing before the headlines just about every day of the week and with an image that is pure as the driven snow, as her name suggests. However, two men are about to enter her life who will have a tragic influence; the first is writer Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand), who shows up in the studio to plug his latest book. He doesn't watch TV, but on seeing Gabrielle he may well be persuaded to start, as he is captivated by her, in spite of already being married and over thirty years her senior. The other is spoiled rich kid Paul Gaudens (Benoît Magimel), and he too will grow obsessed with her...

One of legendary French director Claude Chabrol's final movies, this was based on a true story that happened in New York near the beginning of the twentieth century, but he took the curious decision to update it to France pretty much one hundred years later, and there was more than one viewer left thinking this might have been more successful as a period piece or one that stuck closer to the facts. Or both. In this day and age when a sex scandal can raise a celebrity's profile - depending on the nature of the scandal, naturally - and many women are no longer so dependent on sustaining a virginal image, this work could look somewhat behind the times.

Here the weathergirl in question is often described as an angel, suggesting that the public as well as the individuals in her life place her on a pedestal, but Chabrol sees to it that she is toppled from that position to come crashing back down to earth. She does indeed begin an affair with Charles, and you may have trouble believing that Gabrielle would ever find him so entrancing what with his pretentious dropping of quotes into conversation and apparently nothing in common with his new mistress, not class, not money, not lifestyle. All the while, she is being wooed by Paul, who is plainly not quite in his right mind, and it's hard for us to see the appeal of him either.

In fact, neither of these two men are suitable for a young woman who turns out to be naive at best, foolhardy at worst, but Chabrol miscalculates the mood and goes for icy cool and dispassionate observation rather than turning up the heat. The film is practically over by the time the thriller element is introduced, leaving the rest of it a study of two unlikeable blokes pursuing a silly girl, though Sagnier brings her usual charm to the role, which goes some way to making us feel for her when it all goes horribly wrong. Gabrielle is corrupted by both Paul and Charles, yet it is Paul who feels this most personally, as for the writer he's able to reduce her to another notch on his bedpost, if not to entirely get her out of his mind.

It's a slow, deliberate crawl to the inevitable in retrospect finale, and this could have been a lot more sprightly, perhaps with the injection of more humour; it's as if Chabrol didn't want to move too fast in case we in the audience missed any of the details that lead up to the eventual crime of passion. Yet a half hour could have easily been lost from this without is missing it too much, which may leave you shifting in your seat as you wait for things to happen, and you may feel that all the more if you know of the case this was based on, or even of basically what it involved. Another problem is that we never get the sense that Gabrielle had truly been debased by Charles, and we're meant to, but all we find out is that he taught her how to perform excellent oral sex which is not really worth killing over, no matter how sensitive you are. If anything, Gabrielle is debased by the way people treat her afterwards - maybe that was the point, as usual with Chabrol it was the bourgeoisie's fault. Music by Matthieu Chabrol.

Aka: La fille coupée en deux
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Claude Chabrol  (1930 - 2010)

A renowned director of French thrillers, he was one of the originators of the French New Wave of the fifties and sixties, often concentrating on middle class characters going through crises that led to murder, and made around fifty of these films in his long career. Starting with Le Beau Serge in 1958, he went on to direct such respected efforts as Les Cousins, The Champagne Murders, Les Biches, This Man Must Die, Le Boucher, Blood Relatives, Poulet au Vinaigre, a version of Madame Bovary with frequent star Isabelle Huppert, L'enfer, La Ceremonie, The Girl Cut in Two with Ludivine Sagnier, and his final work for the cinema, Bellamy with Gerard Depardieu.

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