Alain Corneau was remarkable. Sixty-seven years old, dying
from cancer, not only did his style remain as rigorous and lucid as ever but
with Love Crime, he tapped into adolescent truths inaccessible to
directors half his age. The story’s first half is an office drama between
Isabella (Ludivine Sagnier), a young executive who despite her brilliance is
hopelessly innocent, and her boss Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), who steals
Isabella’s ideas. Her colleague and lover Philippe (Patrick Mille) is a callous
coward. And she’s happy with that because everyone likes her.
All the while Corneau perfectly conveys the corporate
milieu. “Let’s double check with HQ.” “Profits are going through the roof!”
“Get me that brief, now.” In period pieces like All the Mornings of the
World or Fort Saganne, Corneau proved that he was a master of the vivid
detail, but here his approach is the exact opposite: comic generalities. By
broadening his scope, he allows us to focus on Isabella’s mortification.
Late at night, she has a financial epiphany and while
immediately executing it forgets to credit to her boss. Big mistake. Because
this is a French film, Corneau has previously interjected a lesbian undertone,
and Christine takes the neglect as proof her love will never be requited, and
turns on her. There are recriminations and fractured alliances. Threatening to
turn in Philippe for a jointly committed financial crime, she gets him to
schedule a midnight office tryst and then stand Isabella up. A security camera
records the tearful aftermath and Christine includes it in an ostensibly
lighthearted video of overstressed executives. It’s enough to drive someone to
murder and that’s exactly what Isabella does.
Corneau got his start directing simple, effective cop movies
and Love Crime’s second half is sort of
a return to form. It’s a police procedural, but instead of whodunit it’s more
of a howdunit. We see Isabella meticulously commit the act and meticulously
frame herself. What’s her plan? By lining up all the evidence to point to her,
she hopes that when her intricate plan methodically overturns she’ll seem all
the more innocent. It’s a plan that risks descending into absurdity but
provides for an immensely entertaining movie.