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Review: ‘Love Crime’

Showcase for Actresses

Above: Kristen Scott-Thomas in "Love Crime."

"Love Crime" (opening September 23 at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters) gives a pair of actresses a showcase in which to display their impressive skills.

I just complained about certain images of women coming from the new Fall TV line up but I have to say that I'm liking a lot of what I'm seeing in films. Feature films -- especially foreign and independent ones -- are finally discovering older actresses. Actresses like Helen Mirren, Tilda Swinton, Charlotte Rampling, and Kristen Scott-Thomas are all getting great parts and showing us that older actresses can not only be riveting on screen but can also draw crowds.

What I like about "Love Crime" is that it gives us a pair of strong, fascinating female leads and neither one is remotely a role model. That's one of the main points I want to make about women in the media. I'm not an advocate of simply "positive" female roles. That's as bland and false as some of the negative stereotypes. What I want to see is diversity and complexity, and if the women are evil, amoral, and ruthless that's fine, just don't make them cardboard cutouts.

In "Love Crime," Kristin Scott-Thomas plays a powerful corporate executive in a multinational company. Her young assistant Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier), idolizes her and also seems to do most of the most. Isabelle is content to work behind the scenes but Christine seems to want to humiliate her and push her to the point of a reaction. But Christine underestimates Isabelle and the film turns into a deadly power game.

Ludivine Sagnier stars as Isabelle in "Love Crime."

IFC

Above: Ludivine Sagnier stars as Isabelle in "Love Crime."

Director/co-writer Alain Corneau passed away earlier this month so "Love Crime" is his swan song. He handles this mystery thriller with cool efficiency and essentially leaves it in the hands of the actresses. Scott-Thomas gives Christine a surface charm and amazing arrogance. She's fun to watch as she manipulates and humiliates people. But her character's inability to see the threat Isabelle represents is a little hard to believe. Sagnier is amazing as Isabelle. She manages to be mousy as well as ruthlessly effective.

Corneau gracefully moves the film from a drama about corporate politics and maneuvering to an intricate murder thriller. There's an elegance to the film and when that cool, sleek surface is disrupted by sudden violence it's jolting.

"Love Crime" (in French with English subtitles) is a well-crafted and compelling thriller with two superb actresses.

Companion viewing: "The Business of Strangers," "Swimming Pool," "Leaving"

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 28, 2011 at 8:57 a.m. ― 2 years, 12 months ago

"Discovering" Helen Mirren? I think she's been recognized critically for a number of years already. Initially starting off as a sort of "British Nicole Kidman," (daring roles in flawed controversial movies, i.e., CAL, THE COOK, THE BAKER & THE CANDLESTICKMAER, or whatever that was), she has developed not only into the most respected British actress after Vanessa Redgrave, but one of the most respected actresses in all English-language films.

A note on Ludivine Sangier. I have forever preferred Italian actresses over the French,(and that would include your Bardots and your Deneauves), but I was captivated by her beauty/sensuality in THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE and sure hope it wasn't all just a buncht of theatrical make-up and soft-focus lighting! lol Now that I know she is in this cast, I will plan to go see LOVE CRIME. I think she really is beautiful unlike some American actresses who think they are, are perceived as such, but really are not.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | September 28, 2011 at 11:56 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Sometimes I think you don't actually read what I write but rather are just looking for something to get irate about. I am not "discovering" Helen Mirren now but celebrating her as an older actress getting great roles. It's Hollywood that is doing the "discovering" and realizing that actresses that have always been good can be good past the age of 30.

I have been a fan of Mirren's since she worked for Peter Brooks in an unconventional MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM in 1968. She is by no means "a British Nicole Kidman." She was well established before Kidman even made her first film. That's like saying Marilyn Monroe owes something to Madonna. You also forgot to mention Mirren's even earlier roles in O LUCKY MAN, LONG GOOD FRIDAY, MISS JULIE, CALIGULA, and EXCALIBUR.

As for Sagnier, she is also in the film I mentioned, SWIMMING POOL, but much younger. Glad you have "discovered" her.

And for the record, the title of the Peter Greenaway film is THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE, AND HER LOVER.

Thanks for the comments.

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