'Girl Cut in Two': An Old Scandal, Stylishly Redressed

Ludivine Sagnier and Francois Berleand in 'A Girl Cut in Two' i i

After a bit of innocent literary flirtation, the romance between weathercaster Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) and writer Charles (Francois Berleand) grows dangerous. IFC Films hide caption

itoggle caption IFC Films
Ludivine Sagnier and Francois Berleand in 'A Girl Cut in Two'

After a bit of innocent literary flirtation, the romance between weathercaster Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) and writer Charles (Francois Berleand) grows dangerous.

IFC Films

A Girl Cut In Two

  • Director: Claude Chabrol
  • Genre: Black Comedy
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

Unrated: Includes murder and (mostly off-screen) kinkiness.

Ludivine Sagnier and Benoit Magimel in 'A Girl Cut in Two' i i

By all appearances, Paul (Benoit Magimel) has everything — everything, of course, save Gabrielle. (And perhaps his sanity.) IFC Films hide caption

itoggle caption IFC Films
Ludivine Sagnier and Benoit Magimel in 'A Girl Cut in Two'

By all appearances, Paul (Benoit Magimel) has everything — everything, of course, save Gabrielle. (And perhaps his sanity.)

IFC Films

French Hitchcock disciple Claude Chabrol is hardly averse to bloody climaxes, but no body is cleaved in his darkly droll new entertainment: The principal things that get slashed in A Girl Cut in Two are bourgeois facades and upright reputations.

The movie's "girl" is Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier), a Lyons weathercaster with an ideal surname: Deneige.

That means "snowy," and it doesn't just suit the forecaster's occupation. Partial to jeans and sweaters, Gabrielle may not be as pure as frozen precip. But she's hardly the wanton temptress Sagnier has played in such films as Swimming Pool.

Gabrielle is vibrant and pretty, and soon she's being pursued by two men: famous, gray-bearded novelist Charles (Francois Berleand), who lives just outside town with his "saintly" wife; and spoiled rich brat Paul (Benoit Magimel), heir to an industrial fortune.

Dressed like a Carnaby Street dandy, biting his nails obsessively, Paul is clearly unstable; Gabrielle rejects him in favor of the much older Charles, who's refined, literary and a father substitute for the young woman, who was raised by a single mom.

Yet it's the novelist who takes advantage of Gabrielle sexually, escorting her to a private club where erotic games are played on the second floor. (Chabrol's camera doesn't follow the couple up the stairs, but Gabrielle eventually reveals what happened there.)

Paul decides to protect Gabrielle and to avenge her virtue. What happens next was inspired by the case of architect Stanford White, his showgirl lover and her aggrieved husband — a 1906 scandal fictionalized in the book and movie Ragtime.

Director and co-writer Chabrol has been making films for 50 years, and he knows what he likes: erotic obsession, a little murder, some jabs at the provincial ruling class. This time, he also considers the role of illusion in modern life, where television creates a false sense of familiarity.

Gabrielle is first introduced while she's on air, with nothing but a green screen behind her. The weather graphics her viewers see aren't real, of course. Neither is the avuncular personality Charles puts on when it's time to publicize his latest book. Paul's uptight mother is especially concerned with appearances, but all the major players have their costumes.

That includes Gabrielle, glimpsed in an ironic epilogue that evokes Max Ophuls' 1955 masterpiece Lola Montes. One of the founders of the French new wave, the 78-year-old Chabrol remains a discerning cinephile.

And if A Girl Cut in Two lacks the urgency of his best work, it compensates with wit, style and a few neat tweaks of the viewer's expectations. Charles may be a cad, but Chabrol is proof that some older men are trustworthy. (Recommended).

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