Claude Chabrol’s most recent release follows his typical trajectory: small coincidences of fate lead to extreme acts of passion which leads to inevitable jealousy and sudden violence. But A Girl Cut in Two seeks to unearth this devastating path not by suspense, or even erotic underpinnings, but through an examination of generational manipulation.
Twenty-something Gabrielle falls for an older writer, who then cuts off communication with the broken-hearted girl just as he’s seemingly done countless times before. Gabrielle then gets approached by a rich, spoilt young man, a cavalier heathen who wants to marry and fulfill some sort of social obligation. The two men have a uneasy past together and the stage is set for a battle of passive-aggressive side comments and savage social lashings, all over this young woman unaware of the twisted game in which she’s wrapped up.
In the end, naivete becomes a key motif, something taken advantage of by the older, wealthy sect, and suffered by the younger crowd eager to rise in the ranks. The film seems acutely benign in Chabrol terms, that is until the final moments, when the director puts his heroine on display in a theatrical gesture of recognition. The twists and turns of her decision-making has literally torn her apart, creating the first graceful step toward grizzled adulthood.