Film Review: Love Crime

Pretty good French suspenser, as elegant and yet somehow forgettable as a <i>nouvelle cuisine </i>repast at the hot bistro of the moment.

The screenplay for Love Crime unspools like a colder, very French and lethal version of Working Girl. Modestly unassuming but ambitious Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) toils in a high-powered firm run by the coolly pristine Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas). Head accountant Philippe (Patrick Mille), although Christine’s lover, beds Isabelle in Cairo, after the latter makes a successful business deal there. Christine begins to show her true colors when she takes credit for Isabelle’s Cairo work, and then embarks on a cruel interoffice hazing campaign against her young underling. This feminine duel results, as it must, in death, but who really did what?

Director/co-writer Alain Corneau, who sadly died shortly after this film’s French release, crafted an effective if somewhat heartless entry in the long and honorable tradition of Gallic Hitchcockian suspense. Visually and technically, it’s as impossibly elegant as Christine herself, drawing you into its icy shallows (there's nothing deep about it), and not stinting on some shocking bits of nastiness either. The flashback construction delineating its central crime is rather ingenious, and the spare use of Pharoah Sanders’ jazz music effective.

Thomas is perfectly cast, her hyper-intelligent, slightly glacial quality beautifully employed here. Sagnier evinces a quiet yet steely strength that is a fit match for this formidable workaholic, both in the office and between the sheets. Mille is as handsome and sturdy as a fine piece of furniture, which is his basic cinematic function here as well, hemmed in by these battling grandes dames. Guillaume Marquet plays the essential ferrety subsidiary character who sees all and lets you know about it every now and then.