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Review: ‘Love Crime’

Showcase for Actresses

Credit: IFC

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.

Credit: IFC

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"

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