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  A Girl Cut in Two

Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Francois Berléand, Charley Fouquet, Caroline Silhol

Directed by: Claude Chabrol

Produced by: Patrick Godeau

Written by: Claude Chabrol, Cecile Maistre

Distributor: IFC Films


As seen at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival:

     With A Girl Cut in Two, veteran French director Claude Chabrol has fashioned a genuinely engrossing semi-thriller/black comedy that, while self-indulgent at times, proves compulsively watchable. And no matter how farfetched the movie’s plot may become, Chabrol always keeps things feeling authentic – a solid feat.

     But A Girl Cut in Two isn’t the picture that it is because of Chabrol, ironic as it may seem given the filmmaker’s status as one of the pioneers of the French New Wave and its accompanying auteur theory. Instead, the movie marks radiant actress Ludivine Sagnier’s time to shine. As stunning to look at in every frame as her performance is nuanced and engrossing, Sagnier owns A Girl Cut in Two in the role of the protagonist. Her performance fulfills everything that that of a Chabrol leading-lady should: Sagnier is vulnerable and erotic, but also intelligent and darkly funny.

     Sagnier plays Gabrielle Deneige, a local weathergirl who finds herself in two wild relationships. (I wish I could come up with a better adjective to describe these, but I can’t – part of the point of the movie is to make Gabrielle’s persona obscured.) She becomes transfixed by popular fifty-plus-year-old author Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand) when he appears on TV, only to later find herself convinced that she would like to pursue a relationship with him when she formally meets him at a book-signing. He’s already married, but has long lost sexual affinity with his wife despite still deeply caring for her. As Gabrielle and Charles begin to engage in romance or something like it, Gabrielle also dabbles in marriage with Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel), a rich young heir to a pharmaceutical fortune who she also meets at the signing. Initially unbeknownst to Gabrielle, Paul and François share rather nasty feelings for each other—and Paul develops especially-strong malice towards François as Gabrielle becomes progressively enraptured in the older man—creating, as the blood-red-tinted opening shots of the film would reflect, a recipe for disaster.

     Reading back over that synopsis, I realize how glib and unlike the film it really sounds. But the truth of the matter is: to confine A Girl Cut in Two into a mere mold of words is unfair. This isn’t so much a work of plot as it is a piece of expressionism provided the convenience of a plot – not unlike the early films Chabrol made in the 1960s and ‘70s. The way that the movie juggles tone and emotion and abstraction is genuinely masterful, much thanks to Chabrol no doubt. But again I return to the work of Sagnier, who is every bit as responsible for the aforementioned seamless juggling as her director is. Just like the film, she captures the essences of both lofty melodrama and gritty naturalism all in one package. The results are stirring.

     But there’s also a point at which my praise for the film must come to an end. A Girl Cut in Two is, no doubt, much too long for its own good. Running for 115 minutes, Chabrol’s work ultimately tends to exhaust all emotional-angles when it comes to its supporting characters—Sagnier could never tire in the lead role, of course—and as a result it tends to wrap itself up into too complete a package. As I left the film, I felt that the third act was not rough enough around the edges, mostly because it went on for too long. Chabrol, in essence, had ruined a lot of the fun mystery associated with his supporting characters by allowing them to stay on the screen for too long. There are two moments—one following a murder and one following a magic trick that explains the film’s title—in which the movie could’ve ended with the aforementioned sense of mystery intact, rife with unspoken emotional complexities. The current conclusion, while logically conceived, isn’t nearly as intriguing as it should’ve been.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 6.25.2008

Screened on: 6.20.2008 at the Majestic Crest Theatre in Westwood, CA.


A Girl Cut in Two is Not Rated and runs 110 minutes.

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