The Girl Cut in Two

Film, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
‘French society may be drifting towards Puritanism or decadence,’ says deciduous, sixtysomething, Goncourt-winning author Charles Saint-Denis (a marvellously offhand François Berléand) in a mock-channel TV interview in this nonchalantly acidic, upper-class-baiting delight by approaching-nonagenarian director Claude Chabrol. Charles is clearly a fully paid-up member of the decadent party: holed up in splendid isolation in his modernist manse in the Lyon countryside, the old married roué, gourmand, aphorist and erotomane is dubbed affectionately ‘the Marquis de Sade’ by his well-preserved publisher Capucine (Mathilda May).

He’s moved to join the despised Parisian ‘media circus’ having smelled fresh blood in Ludivine Sagnier’s honest-hearted, less socially favoured weather girl, who he subjects to a series of ‘free-love’ humiliations and abasements in his upmarket brothel. Meanwhile, the unfortunate woman is assailed, in the equally threatening second half of a destructive pincer-movement, by the manic attentions of idle, arrogant, unstable, fatherless – and puritan – millionaire Paul (Benoít Magimel) intent on marriage and possession.

An immaculate script, written with his long-term collaborator Cécile Maistre, reinvents the celebrated 1906 White murder case as a barbed anti-French-establishment anti-fairy tale (Sagnier’s weather girl is named Deneige – ‘snow’). Beautifully lit and crisply shot by Eduardo Serra, and directed with a confidence and seeming ease that stems from (and quotes) some 60 years of post-New Wave cinematic mastery, Chabrol’s latest comedy of manners is a minor stylistic and tonal triumph.

Eschewing explicit moral condemnation in favour of a scabrous Buñuelian cool, humanised by a marvellously affecting central performance by Sagnier, and surrounded intriguingly by satellite performances which play riskily and amusingly with the edges of self-parody, this is one of Chabrol’s most elegant, acerbic and heartfelt entertainments in years.

Posted:

Details

Release details

Rated:
15
Release date:
Friday May 22 2009
Duration:
115 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Claude Chabrol
Cast:
Ludivine Sagnier
François Berléand
Benoît Magimel