A Girl Cut in Two (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 114 minutes.
There are at least two
words that will get me to go to a movie, and actually pay my way in.
Those words are Ludivine Sangier. She is not only uncommonly beautiful
and doffs her shirt a lot, but is an accomplished actress, having
appeared in 30 films since her debut at the age of 10.
filmmaker Claude Charbrol, who was a charter member of the French New
Wave, along with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Éric Rohmer,
is no dummy. He grabbed lovely Ludivine for this, his latest offering.
Chabrol, who directed and co-wrote the script with Cécile Maistre, took
the sensational events of the tawdry early 20th-Century love
triangle among elderly New York architect Sanford White, wealthy Harry
K. Thaw, and Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit, a beautiful young actress, as
the basis for his story.
But that’s just the basis. He moved the location to
Lyon, France, changed White’s profession from architect to famous
writer, Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand), moved the era to the
present, and changed Nesbit from an actress to a comely TV personality,
Gabrielle Aurore Deneige (Sangier).
The result is a compelling
portrait of a young woman who is emotionally torn asunder by a man she
loves, Saint-Denis, and the rich playboy, Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel),
who covets her. Sangier presents a touching portrait of a woman caught
hopelessly in the middle, thrown into events that burst out of control.
The premise, that a
beautiful, talented young woman in her 20s could become so infatuated
with a grey-haired old man like Charles, is dubious, at best. The story
goes to great pains to emphasize that Gabrielle is not after his money.
But Charles must have something unseen to the naked eye because he lives
openly in another triangle with his permissive wife, Dona (Valeria
Cavalli), and his mistress.
I can never take my eyes of
Sangier when she’s onscreen, and she gives a luminous performance as the
young beauty, once gay and carefree, but slowly descending into
depression. But Magimel gives a truly exceptional performance as
Gabrielle’s unbalanced suitor/husband. His portrayal of a dissolute
young man who becomes almost maniacally smitten with Gabrielle is
acutely unerring. Unfortunately, she feels the same way about
All the main actors give
riveting performances, but a supporting actress who really stands out is
Caroline Sihol, who plays Paul’s domineering, calculating mother, Geneviève Gaudens.
There are a lot of Chabrols
involved in this. In addition to Claude, Matthieu Chabrol wrote the
original music, Aurore Chabrol was script supervisor, and Thomas Chabrol
has an acting credit. I guess the old man is keeping his family
ensconced in Euros. In French.
September 7, 2008