16 January 2016 | tomgillespie2002
Engaging but one of the French masters lesser works
The Girl Cut in Two was one of the great Claude Chabrol's final films in an astonishing career that span 58 years before his death in 2010. The former Cahiers du Cinema journalist was famously a huge fan of the work of Alfred Hitchcock, writing about the Master of Suspense at length for the magazine before Chabrol's own work weaved together Hitchcock's sublime blend of melodrama and tension with Chabrol's own French New Wave (his debut Le Beau Serge is widely considered the first). This 2007 effort does much of the same, but the emphasis is more on the melodrama for the main bulk of the film and it lacks the New Wave edge of his early, greater works.
Pretty young weather-girl Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) catches the eye of the rich and famous author Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand) when the latter is interviewed at the TV station she works for. Charles performs a book signing at Gabrielle's mother's book store, where he is confronted by the filthy-rich heir to a pharmaceutical company, Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel), while Charles invites Gabrielle to accompany him to an auction. The clearly unhinged Paul also lusts after Gabrielle, and begins an aggressive pursuit of her while she is off falling in love with the arrogant and pretentious (and married) Charles.
Sagnier is particularly lovely as a character who may have come across as spoiled and selfish if not handled quite so delicately. There are fewer things quite as uncomfortable to watch than a nice girl caught up in a love triangle with two absolute arseholes, and Berleand and Magimel certainly bring a complexity, and even flashes of sympathy, to their loathsome man-children. Gabrielle is pulled back and forth between the two - the metaphor of the title also plays out almost literally in a slightly surreal final scene - and this goes on for quite a while. It gradually builds up to the inevitable and the film begins to feel more juicy, however by the time this happens there aren't quite enough minutes remaining to fully explore its full potential. Certainly engaging but one of the French auteurs lesser works.