L’Amour est un Crime Parfait is a psychological thriller based on the novel Incidences by Philippe Dijan whose work has already provided a rich source of material for some of France’s best-known directors include Jean-Jacques Beineix with Betty Blue and André Téchiné with Unforgivable. And the Larrieu brothers had their work cut out bringing this dark, complex novel to the big screen. What they have produced is a dreary, confusing film which leaves the audience as cold and unmoved as the film’s alpine setting.
The plot centres around Marc (Mathieu Amalric), a libidinous lecturer in creative writing at Lausanne University who thinks nothing of sleeping with as many of his attractive young female students as possible. After one such night of passion, a student, Barbara (Marion Duval), fails to return home and the police are called into investigate her disappearance. Suspicion falls on Marc who admits to having an affair with the student but claims ignorance as to her whereabouts. The intrigue deepens when Barbara’s stepmother Anna (Maiwenn) appears on campus looking for her stepdaughter and she and Marc begin a torrid love affair.
There’s no doubt the Larrieu brothers know how to create the mood and setting for a classic film noir story. The Swiss Alps provide a majestic, awe-inspiring landscape – empty and vast where a crime could take place in the middle of winter and not be discovered until spring. Marc is an intriguing character who at first glimpse seems to be enjoying the role of university Don Juan, but has a semi-incestious relationship with his sister Marianne (Karin Viard). And then there is the mysterious appearance of Anna who heads straight for Marc for answers about Barbara’s disappearance. Who is she? These threads are meticulously and laboriously interwoven and work towards a payoff that never quite comes up to expectations. Some of the symbolism is also laid on with a trowel. It’s obvious Marc is a wolf in sheep’s clothing so do we need glimpses of an actual wolf?
Amalric is a favourite with the directors appearing in three of their other films. He has a fabulously expressive face and his best scenes are those where he has no dialogue at all. But despite his best efforts, one person alone cannot carry a whole film and the other characters are either vapid and uninteresting or overblown to the point of caricature. Less style, more content would have made a more satisfying film.
L’Amour est un crime parfait is available on DVD with English subtitles, go to ‘Shop for DVDs in Euros’ on French Cinema Review