Sunday, September 18, 2011

Alain Corneau: Wicked Game (Love Crime)

Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Love Crime, Sundance Selects, 2011.

Corporate intrigue has proliferated many of the most fascinating narratives set within the workplace in the past 25 years. Working Girl, Profit, Office Killer, American Psycho, The Business of Strangers, demon lover and Damages are but a sampling of the dark entries in this dramatic sub-genre. The general motivation is to cleverly display the intrigues of big business while embellishing them in a ghoulish light.

Overlooked French auteur Alain Corneau's swansong is another brick in the wall. Love Crime is deliberate in its composure and framing, a cerebral yet blackly humorous melodrama which soon devolves into unlikely mystery. Ludivine Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas both deliver razor sharp turns as deceptively demure naif assistant and dragon lady boss. The first half of the film is familiar if stylistically ingenious in its materialization of high end workaday nightmare and psycho-sexual trauma. The second half is less stimulating, relaying black and white flashback and mystery guesswork.

Corneau made a career out of noir procedurals and standard character studies. And yet his strength and vision came through in many films and parts of others. His Serie Noir and Tous les Matins du Monde are both rightful classics of the crime drama and costume drama. Love Crime highlights his power while belying his haphazardness. A retrospective of his oeuvre is long overdue, and his final film is noteworthy as an entertaining genre film and a showcase for its two actresses, especially Chabrol muse Sagnier in a tour de force turn.

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