François Ozon’s Frothy French Farce

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Quick, foolish and lent weight solely by the costume division’s copious wigs and furs, “The Crime Is Mine” finds tireless French auteur François Ozon within the playful interval pastiche mode of “Potiche” and “8 Women.” It’s a movie much less about any frenetic onscreen shenanigans as it’s about its personal temper board of sartorial and cinematic reference factors — Jean Renoir, Billy Wilder, some classic Chanel — and as such it slips down as fizzily and forgettably as a bottle of off-brand glowing wine. This story of an aspiring stage star standing trial for a high impresario’s homicide (and benefiting from her second within the tabloid flashbulbs) could also be based mostly on a virtually 90-year-old play, however for these versed extra in Hollywood and Broadway than in French theater, Ozon’s adaptation resembles a type of diva fanfic: What if Roxie Hart went up in opposition to Norma Desmond, besides in rollicking Thirties Paris?

As it occurs, Georges Berr and Louis Verneuil’s 1934 comedy “Mon crime” has twice been tailored into Hollywood screwball romps: 1937’s Carole Lombard automobile “True Confession” and the lesser 1946 remake “Cross My Heart,” starring Betty Hutton. Returning to the milieu of its supply, “The Crime Is Mine” nonetheless updates proceedings with a righteous dose of post-#MeToo gender politics: Whether its blonde-bombshell heroine is responsible of the crime or not is finally immaterial to a case that builds to an impassioned protection of a lady’s proper to defend herself from undesirable patriarchal advances, by any means essential. That her lawyer is a gal pal, reasonably than a male love curiosity as in earlier iterations, ups the ante, although the relative earnestness of the movie’s feminism stands in distinction to an in any other case wholly flippant train.

“Some women are born to love, others to listen,” sighs cash-strapped junior lawyer Pauline (Rebecca Marder), with one among many lingering Sapphic gazes at her platinum-bobbed roommate Madeleine (Nadia Tereszkiewicz). Madeleine is firmly within the former camp, although her covert romance with spineless tire-factory inheritor André (a winsome Edouard Sulpice) is of much less significance to her than her budding performing profession. We first encounter her storming out of the sprawling Art Deco mansion of star-making theater producer Montferrand (Jean-Christophe Bouvet), with whom she had an auspicious afternoon appointment; when he’s discovered useless later that day, with a bullet in his cranium, she’s the prime suspect.

When bumbling investigating decide Rabusset (a drolly pompous Fabrice Luchini) first interrogates her, Madeleine flatly denies any culpability. With Pauline’s counsel, nonetheless, she swiftly settles on one other narrative, one which rests on Montferrand’s fame for being greater than somewhat handsy along with his ingenues: She killed him within the face of an tried rape. “Bit melodramatic,” mutters Rabusset after their clarification — dramatized in glamorously silvery black-and-white — as if the movie’s complete development hasn’t been gleefully heightened from the leap. His misgivings, nonetheless, aren’t shared by the jury, the general public or the tabloid press, as Madeleine’s teary self-defense story, cannily coached by Pauline, captures the favored creativeness and makes her an in a single day movie star.

Is it true? Who cares? Nobody, it appears, besides pale silent-movie siren Odette Chaumette (Isabelle Huppert), who strides in previous the one-hour mark with conflicting proof and a welcome surge of vampish venom, simply as Ozon’s power is starting to flag. Comeback-seeking Odette is after Madeleine’s highlight, however Huppert herself hardly has to wrest it from the sport, fluttery Tereszkiewicz: The digital camera all however genuflects the second the veteran makes her imperious entrance, topped in feathers and a frizzy copper hairstyle, and vocally asserting her proper to its continued consideration. Huppert has little to do however spit out pithy traces along with her signature disdain, and solid the odd lascivious look at a duly mesmerized Pauline — however it hardly takes rather a lot to walk off with a movie this mild.

With its distinguished scenery-chewer lastly current, then, it’s a pity that “The Crime Is Mine” oddly peters out in its remaining third — the script averting seemingly pre-ordained clashes within the title of feminine solidarity, but in addition pulling again from its queerest and most subversive prospects. A witty script sidebar particulars how Madeleine’s case evokes different girls to contemplate bumping off the lads of their lives to enhance their standing and peace of thoughts, although it by no means escalates to dizzier farcical heights, even because it presents us the movie’s greatest line: Asked by André why he was spared the bullet, Madeleine shrugs, “I can’t kill everyone.” There are passing pleasures, too, available in Manu Dacosse’s buttery lensing and the silky gloss of the manufacturing and costume design alike. Yet “The Crime Is Mine” by no means aspires to the exacting postmodern formal rigor of “8 Women”: An out-and-out divertissement, Ozon’s newest is at pains solely to keep away from attempting too exhausting.

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