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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Girl Cut In Two

Illustration for article titled A Girl Cut In Two

Decisions, decisions: Given the choice between an older, highly regarded star of the French literary set and a young, impetuous heir to a pharmaceutical fortune, what's a girl to do? In A Girl Cut In Two, director Claude Chabrol's latest takedown of the bourgeoisie, that's actually a trick question. Because when you're an upstart TV weathergirl who still lives with her mother, and you're seeing men with the wealth and privilege to toy with your affections, you may find that your options are severely limited. As the title implies, the heroine, played by the luscious Ludivine Sagnier (Swimming Pool), is torn between men who ultimately hold her fate in their hands, despite her bewitching effect on both of them. Fusing acrid black comedy with twistiness of one of his famed Hitchcockian thrillers, Chabrol patiently—really too patiently—reveals the conflicting forces that lead Sagnier into trouble, and they have as much to do with class as they do with matters of the heart.

In what turns out to be a rotten bit of timing, Sagnier find herself courted by two fierce romantic rivals at once: Francois Berléand, a brilliant author and sophisticate whose advancing age hasn't diminished his allure, and Benoît Magimel, a volatile playboy who flaunts his wealth shamelessly. Sagnier falls in love with Berléand, but she's really his Parisian plaything, good for a rendezvous when he's away from his wife in Lyon. Magimel stays in the picture through sheer persistence, though his devotion teeter dangerously into pathological jealousy. Chabrol develops the inevitable confrontation between the two men like a car wreck in slow motion, and getting there takes a little more work than it should; the film takes the form of a thriller, but it doesn't have the pace of one. Still, all that careful, deliberate table-setting allows Chabrol to establish the complex dynamic between the three characters and underline the role that money and privilege plays in sabotaging Sagnier's life. Chabrol has made a career out of savage class warfare, and A Girl Cut In Two fires off another bitter salvo.