PARIS - Alain Corneau's thriller "Love Crime" explores the dangers of mixing business with pleasure. This tale of power plays and seduction leading to murder in the world of executive skulduggery stars the polished Kristin Scott Thomas and up-and-coming Ludivine Sagnier. It should play well at the box office although the plot, considered in the cold light of day, does not withstand scrutiny.
Christine (Scott Thomas), head of the French subsidiary of a multinational agro-industry giant, is the office chief from hell, all mind games and manipulation. Her young deputy, Isabelle (Sangnier), falls under her charm, to the point of allowing her boss to claim the credit for her own brilliant ideas. Her resentment is eased by Christine's allowing her a free run with her lover Philippe (Patrick Mille), the company accountant who, it emerges, has been skimming off some of the company take.
As the stakes rise (there's a promotion to New York in the offing), so does the tension between the older woman and her rival. There is more than a hint of sadomasochism in their relationship. Christine, having induced Isabelle to admit that she "loves" her, then proceeds to humiliate her.
After an hour and more of no-holds-barred office politics whose object appears to be to inflict pain as much as to obtain profit, it comes as no surprise that things end up with blood on the parquet -- with, indeed, the blood spelling out Isabelle's name. Isabelle is duly accused of murder, and from this point the film begins to stutter seriously as Corneau and his co-writer, Natalie Carter, resort to laborious black-and-white flashback sequences to indicate how Isabelle is able to extricate herself from the charge against her. Isabelle, we realize, is a manipulator of world championship capabilities, beside whom Christine is a junior league player. "Far-fetched" hardly begins to describe it.
"Love Crime" has Hitchcockian pretentions, with perhaps a touch of film noir, but the "love" component is perfunctorily done and the "crime" payoff is unconvincing (despite the twist in the tail). The Master would not have allowed the suspense to dissipate so wantonly. However, there are compensatory pleasures. Katia Wyszkop's production design is stylized and minimalist almost to the point of abstraction. Yves Angelo shows why he remains one of France's top cinematographers. Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders' score, including his 1980s recording "Kazuko," is superb.
On a sad side note, Corneau died less than two weeks after his film opened in France this summer. (please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)
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