×

Film Review: ‘Love Is the Perfect Crime’

A typically riveting turn by Mathieu Amalric keeps this twisty and increasingly bizarre thriller from going off the rails.

With:

Mathieu Amalric, Karin Viard, Maiwenn, Denis Podalydes, Sara Forestier, Marion Duval. (French dialogue)

The jittery energy and intelligence of actor Mathieu Amalric are the chief virtues of “Love Is the Perfect Crime,” a sleek, blackly comic thriller in which a serial ladies man finds his life spinning out of control when one of his young playthings goes missing. Still, the film is further distinguished by sparkling widescreen cinematography and the giddy direction of the Larrieu brothers, Arnaud and Jean-Marie. Increasingly bizarre, the twisty pic risks going off the rails, but remains grounded by Amalric’s typically riveting turn. The French-Swiss co-production could manage to reach fans of contemporary Hitchcockian fare across multiple territories.

Based on Phillippe Djian’s novel “Incidences,” the film, set in a mountainous region between Switzerland and France, opens with fortysomething university professor Marc (Amalric) seducing his creative-writing student Barbara (Marion Duval), driving her at night to the huge chalet he shares with his sister, Marianne (Karin Viard). Curiously, Barbara disappears after her tryst with Marc; more curiously, Marc doesn’t seem at all alarmed by this development. It’s a credit to the Larrieus that their protagonist appears a prime suspect of criminality from the get-go while remaining mischeviously charming nonetheless.

Things become more complicated when the missing woman’s stepmother, Anna (Maiwenn), comes to campus — the spectacularly designed U. of Lausanne — asking Marc where Barbara was last seen. Naturally, the sexed-up prof sees the stepmother as another potential conquest; meanwhile, he’s being pursued by another student, Annie (Sara Forestier), who insists on getting “private lessons” from her instructor. The revelation that Marc is a sleepwalker adds another layer of intrigue to the proceedings, as does a scene in which he tosses Barbara’s stray shoe into a snow-covered ravine.

Further surprises in the narrative are handled with playful aplomb by the writer-directors, aided by Amalric’s loose-limbed and vastly entertaining performance. Thesping is strong across the board, with Denis Podalydes standing out as the exasperated head of Marc’s department. Composed largely in shades of white, Guillaume Deffontaines’ lensing maintains a classy tone throughout. The moody synth score by Caravaggio is another major plus.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Love Is the Perfect Crime'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 7, 2013. Running time: 111 MIN. Original title: "Amour crime parfait"

Production:

(France-Switzerland) A Gaumont presentation of an Arena Prods., Vega Film, Entre Chien et Loup, Mollywood production. (International sales: Gaumont, Paris.) Produced by Bruno Pesery, Francis Boespflug.

Crew:

Directed, written by Arnaud Larrieu, Jean-Marie Larrieu, from the novel by Phillippe Djian. Camera (color, widescreen), Guillaume Deffontaines; editor, Annette Dutertre; music, Caravaggio; production designer, Stephane Levy; sound (Dolby Digital), Olivier Mauvezin. 

With:

Mathieu Amalric, Karin Viard, Maiwenn, Denis Podalydes, Sara Forestier, Marion Duval. (French dialogue)

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content