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A Girl Cut in Two (IFC Films, NR)

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film_girl-in-two_sm.jpgLike almost all of Chabrol's films, the suspense is so layered beneath the surface that when the climax approaches, one almost forgets what he was building toward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why do crusty, literate old men always have to hurt the young pretty girls who love them? The question is again pondered in the latest from Claude Chabrol, who's still working hard despite approaching 80. Thankfully, unlike the similarly themed Elegy, Chabrol has more up his sleeve than that, some of it good, the rest a bit too familiar. I've never been convinced of the revered filmmaker's genius, as I don't think he's made anything worthwhile in years outside of his occasional collaborations with the phenomenal Isabelle Huppert (Comedy of Power, Merci Pour le Chocolat and La Cérémonie being the pair's recent gems). Again unlike Elegy, A Girl Cut in Two works because it's snappy and isn't afraid to allow its characters a slice of cruelty.

Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) is the pretty young girl in question, a weathergirl who becomes the object of affection between two men, a respected author Charles (Tell No One's François Berléand) and a brash playboy (Benoît Magimel, in his third film with the director). More than just a dark comedy of romantic errors, A Girl Cut in Two examines the strange dichotomy of the bourgeois, a common subject for Chabrol, with a modest but beautiful girl thrown between the sometimes interchangeable literary and high-society worlds. As the girl in question, Sagnier is charming as always, wonderfully matching the breezy pace that Chabrol takes.

Like almost all of Chabrol's films, the suspense is so layered beneath the surface that when the climax approaches, one almost forgets what he was building toward. A few lessons I've learned from the world of the French "thriller." Firstly, if classical music is involved, beware. Never trust a film where characters listen to opera while driving expensive cars. Secondly, if there's some bottled turmoil involving a person's youth, proceed with caution. A Girl Cut in Two, perhaps fitting with the scheme of the film itself, slides past the notion that both of Gabrielle's suitors might have been molested by the same priest during their childhoods. Thirdly, if it feels like nothing is happening, it's okay to hold your breath. Chabrol likes to conclude his films with a jab, which is sometimes subtle and effective, sometimes harsh and jarring, and other times so quiet that you don't even realize that much happened. A Girl Cut in Two is a bit of all three. Ultimately, the film meets its end in disappointing ways when Chabrol tries to push the faces of both the bourgeoisie and the media in the mud. However, when concerning itself with Sagnier and allowing itself to be a bit naughty, A Girl Cut in Two is a lot of fun. | Joe Bowman

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