It’s the week of the twilight auteurs, with films from the 72-year-old Woody Allen, the 88-year-old Eric Rohmer and the 78-year-old and still intimidatingly prolific Claude Chabrol in theaters. “A Girl Cut in Two” is vintage Chabrol in its themes. For most critics, that seems to be just fine.
J. Hoberman at the Village Voice calls the film “a spry piece of work,” adding that “although directed for mordant comedy, the spectacle of a naÃ¯ve, lower-middle-class woman’s misadventures in a nest of wealthy vipers is initially unsettling and ultimately gut-wrenching.” The New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis writes that the film is evidence that Chabrol, “after a series of vague if invariably entertaining cinematic sketches, has returned to elegant tight form with an erotically charged, beautifully directed story of a woman preyed upon by different men and her own warring desires.”
Kristi Mitsuda at indieWIRE allows that “If the film doesn’t quite cohere emotionally (the alleged love between Charles and Gabrielle peaks too quickly, without enough foreplay, so to speak) or intellectually (at times the narrative and characterizations work more on a cerebral than dramatic level) the imperfections can be forgiven as the acceptable flaws of an otherwise fascinating work of moral inquiry.” While Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club believes that “the film takes the form of a thriller, but it doesn’t have the pace of one,” he concludes that “Chabrol has made a career out of savage class warfare, and A Girl Cut In Two fires off another bitter salvo.”
Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader finds that “A Girl Cut in Two” showcases “Claude Chabrol’s capacity to make shopworn material seem almost new,” while for Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir, the film’s arguably “more fun around the edges, as an assemblage of bizarre supporting characters and throwaway comic bits, than it is down the middle, as a classic French morality tale about an innocent girl despoiled by two warring predators.” And Ed Gonzalez at Slant, the film’s “almost documentary-like in its examination of bourgeois rituals of wining and dining and modes of self-preservation, but its intriguing bits of psychological observation are not engineered into a particularly sensible or pulsating whole.”
[Photo: “A Girl Cut in Two,” IFC Films, 2008]