In the last shot of this taut crime mystery, a character is casting an empty stare into the distance after pulling off the perfect crime. The quiet psychological turmoil provides a fitting if unspectacular end to this last film from French director Alain Corneau, who died last August. The film’s low-key sensibility, however, has consistently put a dampener on the story’s melodramatic core of emotional treachery, office politics, blackmail, and cold-blooded murder.
Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) is the bright assistant to high-flying corporate executive Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), who shows alarmingly little hesitation in passing off her junior’s ideas as her own. Despite Christine’s recurrent professional betrayal, Isabelle is nevertheless a conforming presence, presumably because of her affection for her ruthless schemer of a mentor. But as Christine threatens to expose the ongoing financial chicanery of Philippe (Patrick Mille), the lover privately shared by both women, tensions begin to flare between them. When Isabelle is persuaded by a concerned co-worker to claim credit for her own work – instead of letting Christine take all the plaudits – a cycle of psychological abuse and public humiliation follows, involving all three of the film’s protagonists.
Whilst remaining thoroughly cold and precise, Love Crime then unveils a ludicrous revenge plot, so matter-of-factly presented that the audience may be forgiven for expecting a little more passion from the proceedings. This, incidentally, looks to be exactly where Brian De Palma plans to enter the equation himself: for better or for worse, the thriller veteran of Dressed to Kill, Scarface and Femme Fatale is all set to direct an English-language remake of the film, titled, well, Passion. It’s surely something the original could have done with a lot more of.
Dir Alain Corneau, Category IIB, 107 mins, opens on May 5