Sunday, October 30, 2011

Love Crime (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Love Crime

 "Love Crime", the new psychological thriller by Alain Corneau  is as dangerous as "Scream" or "Open Water". Ghostface is not present this time in his Munch-malevolence, nor are there any killer sharks, yet the confines of an office are just as scary as a black and white shower stall once was in the 1960s.     

Veteran actress Kristen Scott Thomas plays Christine, an icy blonde executive who applies her lipstick with a slash and enjoys teasing and belittling her young assistant  Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier). Christine is all rigidity and sarcastic gush. She even goes as far as kissing Isabelle with passion only to dress her down with sly pricks to her ego that her hair is not right or her makeup is overdone. If you want to see an Executive Domme in action, Christine is a model par excellence. The ghost of Joan Crawford bristles within.  

Isabelle  is always the put upon submissive. When we see Christine making love, Isabelle is a rigid caterpillar in bed frozen in her cocoon.  Abruptly Christine's husband Philippe (Patrick Mille) begins an affair and there are enough sparks upon sparks to rival "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" although the film is closer to "Leaving" (2010) the Camusian portrait of  marital collapse  which also highlighted Kirsten Scott Thomas' understated but lethal menace.
In one key scene, Christine makes a big show of humiliating Isabelle  during a board meeting. The percussion would make Glenn Close cringe.

It is actually Ludivine Sagnier who most resembles Glenn Close in her hallmark role in "Fatal Attraction". Step by step we see  her internalizing her hurts and wanting to become like Christine as in the classic "The Talented Mr. Ripley". Much like a character in Kafka, we see Isabelle move inexorably to a  violent conclusion. She faces each panic and setback pressed against a sharp edged corner or a blank corridor with no exit. An office cubicle is the reflected in the same light as a high security prison.

Then abruptly there is a gleam in Isabelle's catatonic stare: a tool shed becomes a refuge for deadly intent.

The lioness is born.

Isabelle's world becomes a phantasmagoria of resentment. Her  stark office environment is dispassionate and gray in tone, a bit like shots from a flat digital camera. The characters are all bugs under a microscope. 

The final transformation of Isabelle is akin to the clap of an open fist or the swish of a blinding and dominant white dress. Violence oozes from her neck like perfume and you can almost smell the predatory intent. 

"Love Crime" sneaks up on you like a hesitant mistress with a  softness in quiet deliberation and it doesn't spare the poison. 

Ludivine Sagnier like Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck before her, is a woman you should definately handle with protection, but at all cost, please don't miss her.

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