A Girl Cut in Two is my first film from French New Wave director Claude Chabrol, and I certainly hope it’s not a representative first impression as it puts me in no hurry to investigate his other films. This romance-drama-thriller ambles through its pedestrian plotline without any sense of purpose; we cross-fade from scene to scene with details obscured and emotional resonance avoided.
The story is probably intended to be a criticism of bourgeois society, but it comes across more as wish fulfilment for the aging Chabrol, as renowned author and intellectual Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand) takes on Gabrille Deniege (Ludivine Sagnier) as a lover. Despite being a successful, gorgeous media personality half Saint-Denis’s age, Gabrielle falls head over heels for the venal writer, because he’s wealthy and has a good memory for quotes.
The plot is complicated by the competing attentions of playboy Paul Gaudens (Benoît Magimel) who is crass and easily-angered, apparently courting Gabrielle out of jealousy as much as any desire. This all seems custom-made to soothe an aging artiste’s ego – old men are virile and attractive! Young men are frustrated and inept! – and an awkward pivot into thriller territory in the back half doesn’t improve matters.