At first glance, Claude Chabrol's latest seems yet another in his long line of slow-boiling thrillers, set mostly amongst the upper classes, in which the sinister bobs up above a seemingly placid surface—compulsively watchable and strangely unsettling, sure, but par for the course for the erstwhile New Waver. Yet while A Girl Cut in Two treads in waters made murky with mysterious allusions to disreputable pasts and intimations of impending murder, the filmmaker intriguingly muddies the generic proceedings by probing his characters' ingrained sexism; it's an approach that deepens what could have been just another true crime story.
The title is instructional, and not just in its obvious nod to the love triangle that structures the story: Even before meeting the starring girl, we begin to sense a split in the film's conception of the feminine via the two leading women in heralded novelist Charles Saint-Denis's (Francois Berleand) life—his publisher, Capucine (Mathilda May), and wife, Dona (Valeria Cavalli). The former fairly seethes with hearty sexuality, as the casual physical intimacy and arch repartee she shares with her client demonstrates, while the latter, frequently referred to as a "saint" by her husband, conveys a far more modest aspect as she lounges by the pool in a simple white swimsuit (Capucine's is black and suggestive). So from the moment fresh-faced Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) enters, her character vacillates between both ends of the spectrum represented by the two older females in that most traditional of binary oppositions: virgin and whore.
Click here to read the rest of Kristi Mitsuda's review of A Girl Cut in Two.
Claude Chabrol again goes about dissecting the vanities and hypocrisies of the rich and/or famous with A Girl Cut in Two, the latest of his nearly annual socially satiric potboilers. The outline, naturally, is familiar: a suspiciously de-eroticized love triangle in which fresh-faced young TV weathergirl Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) finds herself cleaved, as the title would suggest, between the poisonous twin affections of famed aged novelist Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand) and the arrogant, childish heir to a pharmaceutical fortune, Paul Gaudens (Benoît Magimel), she meets, not fortuitously, at a Saint-Denis book signing. Chabrol keeps the proceedings lively, if not fresh, with his usually effortlessly cynical take, a detached bemusement that precludes true emotional involvement yet engenders a certain self-conscious affection. Not unlike Chabrol’s recent works, Merci pour le chocolat and The Flower of Evil, A Girl Cut in Two takes a pragmatic, almost laidback approach to its sensational narrative, situating scandal as something of a given within such privileged settings. Though superficially similar to that in his 1994 film L’Enfer, which depicted the unraveling of a untrusting husband’s psyche as a headfirst plunge into fiery, sweaty derangement, the jealousy on display here is naturally dispassionate, a fact of life for those who never felt the need to learn to trust. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's review of A Girl Cut in Two.