Ludivine Sagnier was at the LA Film Festival this year, which was rather a glamorous surprise in the Regal 6. She was introducing Crime d’amour, the final film from veteran director Alain Corneau; Kristin Scott-Thomas co-stars in a tale of corporate back-biting, unruly passions, ambition and obsession/compulsion.

The opening scene is almost the best thing about the film, as Sagnier’s Isabelle sits with her boss Christine, in the latter’s luxe-to-a-tee living room. They are working casually after hours, drinking wine, getting to know one another a little more. Unexpected sexual nuances and surprising gestures deliciously spice the action. But it opens with the punchline of a story, as if warning the viewer that the film’s satisfactions will not necessarily come with much back-up.

The plot’s the thing, and to reveal too much would be pointless. It plays out neatly enough, setting up an antagonism, allowing the viewer to see that something is afoot in the preparation of a crime, and then dissecting the aftermath as the police work to accuse and then clear the perpetrator. We are half let into a secret whose revelation becomes increasingly superfluous, but it is all put together with high efficiency – the equivalent of that living room, or perhaps the shiny offices of the unspecified company. Their sequestered, tunnel-vision world is well evoked, in the skyscraper cockpit offices and tactically-timed meetings. But all they are doing is working on “projects” and other vague jargon, and the English dialogue of their American colleagues is semi-parodic.

Scott Thomas is superb (is she always?): thorny and malevolent, but perhaps possessed of a desperate vulnerability. Sagnier runs a gamut of personalities and fully suggests the slippery, driven identity beneath, without ever really revealing it (rightly) and so gets away with a very actress-y job. Given everyone’s duplicitous-ness, it’s hard to know how far to trust the lesbian subtext, but it’s not even that important. In a sense, Corneau has made an archetype of a film, a classy French thriller with psychological mechanisms and a bitter ending. It is handsomely-mounted, but its complexity gradually drifts further and further away from ingenious. Really nice Pharoah Sanders score though.

Rating: 6.72/10

Watch the trailer now.