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PARIS — Alain Corneau‘s thriller Love Crime explores the dangers of mixing business with pleasure. This tale of power-plays and seduction leading to murder in the world of executive skullduggery stars the polished Kristin Scott Thomas and up-and-coming Ludivine Sagnier. It should play well at the box office although the plot, considered in the cold light of day, does not withstand scrutiny.
Christine (Scott Thomas), head of the French subsidiary of a multinational agro-industry giant, is the office chief from hell, all mind-games and manipulation. Her young deputy Isabelle (Sangnier) falls under her charm, to the point of allowing her boss to claim the credit for her own brilliant ideas. Her resentment is eased by Christine’s allowing her a free run with her lover Philippe (Patrick Mille), the company accountant who, it emerges, has been creaming off some of the company take.
As the stakes rise (there’s a promotion to New York in the offing), so does the tension between the older woman and her rival. There is more than a hint of sado-masochism in their relationship. Christine, having induced Isabelle to admit that she “loves” her, then proceeds to humiliate her.
After an hour and more of no-holds-barred office politics whose object appears to be to inflict pain as much as to obtain profit, it comes as no surprise that things end up with blood on the parquet. With, indeed, the blood spelling out Isabelle’s name.
Isabelle is duly accused of murder, and from this point the film begins to stutter seriously as Corneau and his co-writer Natalie Carter resort to laborious black-and-white flashback sequences to indicate how she is able to extricate herself from the charge against her. Isabelle, we realize, is a manipulator of world championship capabilities, beside whom Christine is a junior league player. Far-fetched hardly begins to describe it.
Love Crime has Hitchcockian pretentious, with perhaps a touch of film noir, but the “love” component is perfunctorily done and the “crime” pay-off is unconvincing (despite the twist in the tail). The Master would not have allowed the suspense to dissipate so wantonly.
However, there are compensatory pleasures. Katia Wyszkop‘s production design is stylized and minimalist almost to the point of abstraction. Yves Angelo shows why he remains one of France’s top cinematographers. Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders’ score, including his 1980s recording “Kazuko,” is superb.
On a sad side note, Corneau died less than two weeks after his film opened in France last month.
Release date in France: Aug. 18
Production credits: SBS Films, France 2 Cinema, Divali Films
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Ludivine Sagnier, Patrick Mille, Guillaume Marquet, Gerald Roche
Director: Alain Corneau
Writer: Alain Corneau, Natalie Carter
Producer: Said Ben Said
Director of photography: Yves Angelo
Production designer: Katia Wyszkop
Music: Pharoah Sanders
Custome deigner: Khadija Zeggai
Editor: Thierry Derocles
Sales: TH1 International
No rating, 106 minutes
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