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Love Crime

Love Crime

Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), the senior executive at the Paris offices of an international food products conglomerate, is a very dangerous woman. Suavely manipulative and disarming in her carefully deployed show of candor, she poses a particular hazard to her young assistant Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier), whom she draws into a disconcerting, flattering, and false intimacy. Giving Isabelle gifts, fussing over her like a parent or a lover, seeming to offer coveted employment opportunities, she also exploits the young woman’s work for her own career purposes.

Love Crime, the last film by the late French filmmaker Alain Corneau, seems in much of its first half to be about high-level corporate power-tripping and intricate office maneuvering for status. For a while, it also seems focused on the on-the-job education of Isabelle in the sometimes nasty business mores and byways in executive suites. The almost primly buttoned-up, and perhaps repressed Isabelle is a prime victim for her supremely self-possessed boss. Scott Thomas’s Christine is a svelte, angular, adroit manipulator of others’ emotions and hopes.

Corneau’s film, which he co-wrote with Nathalie Carter, is also a somewhat melodramatic study in the psychology of female relationships within this heady but poisonous milieu, and of the eventual worm turning—until it isn’t. At about the midway point, it switches tone and direction, and becomes a crime procedural and puzzle-poser. Corneau, an old hand at this kind of thing—he was for a time a protégé of American genre meister Roger Corman—proceeds in a generally efficient way, and his later plotting isn’t without some superficial interest, but it doesn’t flow smoothly or logically from his movie’s first section. And he essentially invites audiences to focus on some implausibilities of character and action. There is a mildly twisty finale, but it may not seem an adequate payoff.

Sagnier, who must bear the brunt of the movie’s altered course, is a very effective performer—her face can register two or three impulses or feelings in very close succession—but she can’t quite navigate Love Crime’s stretched demands.

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