It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Claude Chabrol's "A Girl Cut in Two" plays like a triangular romantic comedy, until we discover that all three of the lovers are hurtling headlong to self-destruction. Even then, it is comedic, in that macabre Hitchcockian way that takes a certain delight in the flaws of mankind. It's a crime movie, as most of Chabrol's 69 films have been, and at first the crime seems to be adultery. He doesn't leave it at that.
At the center of everything is Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier), a peppy young blond who does the weather at the local TV station. Her mother runs a bookstore in Lyon and holds an autographing for the best-selling author Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand). Also at the event is a spoiled local rich kid, Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel). These two men are going to bring her to a lot of grief.
But notice how nimbly Chabrol glides through his establishing scenes, and how adroitly he introduces other characters (the lecherous TV boss, the spoiled kid's bitchy mother, Gabrielle's sensible mother, the author's femme fatale agent). The story hums along in an efficient although absorbing confidence, seeming to show us Gabrielle trapped between Charles and Paul, who both vow that they love her. Is this what the title means? Surely we won't really see her cut in two? Well, yes and no.
Hitchcock in "Psycho" made a point in the opening scenes that the film was Janet Leigh's story, that she was a woman with a secret and that the story would be about that secret. Then she checked into the motel. Gabrielle doesn't disappear from "A Girl Cut in Two," but the film will be about a lot more than her romantic problems. It is important that she seem young, naive and unguarded, so that we can watch both men trying to seduce her with unwholesome motives.