To head off disappointment, it would be prudent to disclose that this effort by Claude Chabrol, “France’s Master of Suspense,” is really not a thriller. Though it by and by works its way around to a crime of passion, it is really more an affairs-of-the-heart type of thing. Many a narrative, needless to say, works its way around to a crime of passion — The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Othello, Medea — without anyone confusing them with thrillers. The bisected title character — a condition made rather pedantically literal in the magic act at the curtain — is torn between two men. Or from another point of view, two men are tugging at her: a literary lion twice her age and a hot-headed young pharmaceuticals heir. Even while the film lacks the hallmarks of a thriller, it nonetheless has the mystery of personalities and relationships, and it has the tension of classes and generations, and it has several points of intrigue: the long-standing animosity of the young man toward the older (what’s behind it?); the young one’s silent companion-cum-lackey-cum-bodyguard (who, or what, is this guy?); the hinted-at kinkiness of the bedroom activities; the enigmatic gentlemen’s club with the unexplored upstairs. Some of that, we might feel, could have been better illuminated. This is clearly, however, a matter of choice rather than negligence. Chabrol, not as a general principle but at least as a one-time game plan, draws a veil over the most private matters, even when these become scandalously public. It’s as though Chabrol loses interest when the secrets turn into news. Mere facts, he insinuates, cannot dispel the mysteries. And his uniformly excellent cast, well-blended, discreet, inward, refuses to oversimplify things. Ludivine Sagnier, François Berléand, Benoît Magimel. (2007) — Duncan Shepherd
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