Crime de filme - the no thrills thriller
Friday, August 12, 2011
Justinian in Crime D'Amour, Miss Lumière

Miss Lumière takes us to Crime D'Amour ... Ruthless corporate women out for the kill ... French justice system tricked ... Où pour le cinéma français? 

Love Crime (Crime D'Amour), the last film made by French director Alain Corneau is also his most flaccid.

Corneau died soon after its release, so there's no chance this once fine director of French thrillers Serie Noire (1979) and Choice of Arms (1981) can redeem himself.

Your reviewer limped out of a screening one recent rainy Sunday afternoon feeling positively un-thrilled.

Which is quite an achievement, given the film stars one of her most admired actresses and one of cinema's most luminous presences, Kristin Scott Thomas.

Scott Thomas is always riveting to watch, even playing a cold corporate bitch (Christine) in a dull, dull film. 

She's cast opposite Ludivine Sagnier (Isabelle) who's meant to be the hot blonde contender.

Sadly, Sagnier plays the part with such unsubtlety - the scene where she practically rapes her boss's lover is ridiculous to the point of burlesque - she's completely unbelievable.

Corneau, and his co-writer Nathalie Carter, seem to have little idea of how the high-stakes world of power games, subterfuge and corporate rivalry actually plays out.

In terms of a plot - ruthless corporate mentor undone by seethingly ambitious corporate protégé - it's all very dreary and predictable.

Bags more styleJoseph L. Mankiewicz did it much better in All About Eve. And with bags more style.

That's another problem with the film. One expects a French thriller to get the atmosphere right, if nothing else. 

Not here. The drama unfolds in two strangely improbable settings - the modern offices of a multinational company and the "luxurious" home of Christine.

Both locales look utterly fake. It's as if the set designer for a repertory company production of Emerald City in Montreal was engaged at the last minute.

There's not a whiff of Paris to be had. Les flics don't even smoke.

The lighting, which favours a lot of flat grey, may be as unimaginative as the screenplay, but the direction is all black and white.

It lacks nuance, timing, and most critical for a film that claims to be a thriller - good, old fashioned suspense.

Which is just another way of saying that Love Crime doesn't keep you interested, let alone guessing - a minor sexual frisson between Christine and Isabelle notwithstanding.

The so-called "twists and turns" in the film's second half are embarrassingly stupid.

In fact, the film falls away like gossamer the moment Scott Thomas' Christine is dispatched from the action.

This scene, so pivotal to the psychological drama of the plot, is directed almost completely without tension - it's as slack as old catgut.

And revisiting what actually occurred in black and white flashbacks is plain naff.

Pity really.

All the ingredients were there - Crime D'Amour sounds so much better in French, the director is French, most of the cast is French, they speak French, it's set in France and Scott Thomas, well, looks so French.

Perhaps French cinema has reached its zenith. Or maybe it's just not as thrilling as it used to be.

Miss Lumière

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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