Romance, intrigue, ambition and madness characterize “A Girl Cut in Two,” directed by French “Nouvelle Vague” director Claude Chabrol. Initially released in France in August 2007, the film received the award for Best Foreign Film at the 2007 Pula Film Festival, apparently a prize with only one criterion: pretentiousness.
The movie has the makings of a Francophile’s fantasy complete with glamorous Parisians drinking wine and smoking cigarettes in Paris. And although it has its moments, “Girl” fails to maintain a sense of clarity throughout its 115 minutes. With a “complicated” (meaning disjointed and confusing) plot, and caricature-like portrayals of the main characters, the film is at once too elaborate and too simple.
The story, conveyed to English-speaking audiences through subtitles, traces the dark tale of an ambitious young weatherwoman, appropriately named Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier). Gabrielle finds herself emotionally and mentally “cut in two” — torn between her love for author Charles Denis (Francois Berléand), an older, married man who refuses to leave his wife, and the romantic advances of a rich young suitor named Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel).
Most likely, what actually happens in “Girl” is intentionally ambiguous, allowing the viewer to infer what he will of the story’s ending and the characters’ fate. It’s not that the plot is “bad” per se. On the contrary, it is thought-provoking and complex. But it is this complexity, along with the necessity of subtitles, that makes the viewing experience a far cry from a Yalie’s ideal Saturday night.
Although the acting is solid across the board, the characters themselves are so exaggerated that it is hard to tell whether Chabrol is trying to be ironic. Each major character seems to embody a different French stereotype: the striking femme fatale, the flamboyant and slightly bipolar rich heir, the coquettishly innocent young woman and the “experienced” older man, a Florentino Ariza of sorts who indulges in sexual dress-up games with girls in his flat.
The most memorable performances come from the supporting roles. Valeria Cavalli plays the “saintly” wife of Denis with such warmth that Charles’s leaving her is an impossibility. Caroline Sihol, in the role of Gaudens’s mother, creates a complex character that audiences will both love and hate. Marie Bunel as Gabrielle’s mother Marie Deneige is also noteworthy.
“A Girl Cut in Two” fails to impress on levels beyond the superficial. Unless, of course, the French language, kinky role play, May-December romances and odd metaphors are your thing.