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Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00

Stellar performances enliven 'Love Crime'

Stellar performances enliven 'Love Crime'
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Alain Corneau
  • Dates: Opens September 23, 2011

Some individuals nurture and mentor subordinates affectionately and constructively—up to a point. But as soon as the mentee shows too much talent or savvy, a dynamic dance changes from a charming pas de deux to a destructive entanglement. Such is the situation for the wary, duplicitous Christine who repeatedly assesses and modifies her relationship with assistant Isabelle in Love Crime.

French co-writer/director Alain Corneau, best known here for his 1991 Tous les Matins du Monde, complicates the intrigue with a suppressed but definite erotic charge between Christine and Isabella, as well as a shared male lover between them. Ambitious, talented and attractive, Isabelle at first trusts and admires Christine despite misgivings. She'll learn quickly, especially after a particularly public humiliation. To say any more would be to say too much about the extraordinary developments in the Paris office of the U.S. company.

All About Eve, The Devil Wears Prada and Damages dramatize this kind of sociopathic, sadist behavior better, but Love Crime gives the subordinate many specific reasons for retaliation. With more than a smattering of misogyny and an equally cynical portrayal of most of the male subordinates, Love Crime particularizes the cutthroat corporate world without explicitly interrogating the inhumane, destructive global business mindset. It cares most about the emotional and intellectual contest between Isabelle and Christine, using the American company's bureaucratic backdrop as a forcefully contributing factor.

Better production values would have intensified the atmosphere, especially more appropriate lighting, using a chiaroscuro design, for example. The art direction relies on equally uninteresting, dull colors when a livelier palette would have energized several serviceable but unexceptional scenes. Kristin Scott Thomas' and Ludivine Sagnier's performances carry the film, and they present such a convincing portrait of these women that I recoiled from both, a tribute to their expertise. Love Crime isn't the best entry in the backstabbing genre, but it has a good script with intriguing twists and turns that carry the day. Primarily in French with English subtitles with some English dialogue. At a Landmark cinema.

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