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  • TBC
  • Drama, Thriller
  • 2007
  • 115 mins

The Girl Cut In Two

The Girl Cut In Two

Synopsis

French New Wave darling Claude Chabrol evidently relishes ruining his innocent heroine in this cruelly refined tale of a self-destructive love triangle. Loosely based on a true story

About

The protagonists of Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) and Claude Chabrol's The Woman Cut In Two (2007) are both young, ambitious weather girls who will end up as scandalous items on their own network news programmes. But there all similarities end. Chabrol's film is in fact drawn from a real-life cause célèbre from the turn of the century, involving womanising New York architect Stanford White, unstable millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw and the chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit who fatally came between them, leading to what newspapers of the time dubbed 'The Trial Of The Century'.

Co-writing with his regular first assistant Cécile Maistre, the one-time French New Waver has updated the story to present day Lyons, and focused on his characteristic preoccupations with corrupted humanity and sophisticated depravity. The girl of the title is TV presenter Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier), caught between the erotic attentions of much older novelist author Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand) and pharmaceutical heir Paul Gaudens (Benoît Magimel) who is closer to her own age, and while Gabrielle may be 'cut in two' both metaphorically and with an unexpected literalness too in the end, she is not alone in her divided state.

Charles claims to lead a spartan existence devoted to his "saint" of a wife at his country home, but he in fact also moonlights with a succession of lovers in his city pied à terre and a debauched private club. Paul insists he has come to "save" Gabrielle, but he will soon need saving himself, and is torn between innocence and guilt to the point of clinical schizophrenia. Both men are playing selfish, humiliating mind-games against which Deneige's innocence, encoded in her surname ('of snow') and reinforced by her gullible conduct, offers little protection, and once her split allegiances and integrity are put on trial, she comes apart at the seams.

The Girl Cut In Two is, ironically enough, a film of two halves. The first, in which the love triangle is set up, risks ridicule by expecting viewers to accept that an intelligent modern woman would serially forgive both an older lover who treats her contemptibly and makes it clear he will never leave his wife, and a younger suitor who stalks, assaults and threatens her. The conduct of both men is so aberrant and over-the-top (despite Chabrol's typically restrained presentation) that amour fou does not begin to cover Gabrielle's abiding interest in them, and her angelic tolerance becomes increasingly hard to credit.

Get past that, though, and the second half delivers a series of satisfying pay-offs, as all the film's class conflicts, sexual tensions and competing truths quietly explode in a sequence of unsettling twists, deftly stage-managed by the master magician Chabrol. It is a chilling, austere affair in which viewers are cast as voyeuristic sensation-seekers baying for flesh and blood.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Ludivine Sagnier, François Berléand, Jean-Marie Winling, Thomas Chabrol, Benoît Magimel, Marie Bunel, Valeria Cavalli, Carole Silhol
  • Director: Claude Chabrol
  • Screen Writer: Cécile Maistre, Claude Chabrol
  • Producer: Patrick Claude
  • Photographer: Eduardo Serra
  • Composer: Matthieu Chabrol

In a nutshell

Too cold and cynical to be truly enjoyed but the old dog still has a few new tricks up his sleeve.

by Anton Bitel

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