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Ruthless executive Christine brings on Isabelle as her assistant, and she takes delight in toying with the young woman's innocence. But when the protégé's ideas become tempting enough for Christine to pass on as her own, she underestimates Isabelle's ambition and cunning -- and the ground is set for all out war. Written by
Corneau's last film: a competition between lady business executives
French director Alain Corneau (who, alas, died a week after the premiere of this last movie of his and who also made the sublime 17th century music drama "Tous les matins du monde") managed to get 2 class actresses for the main roles here in this French-language movie, Kristin Scott Thomas (Christine Riviére) and Ludivine Sagnier (Isabelle). Christine is quite believable as manager of the Paris branch of a multinational (fake name, Barney Johnson, but mainly shown on their office paper) in product strategies for food, perfectly cast here as business woman. The main offices are in America (New York and Washington, so there are some English dialogs with executives from these offices, very short) and we see Isabelle going to Cairo (although surely not filmed there). She is not so believable as being the 2nd in command. I was not so aware of her having such high position until a Japanese delegation wants a picture with the 2 top managers of this firm (her and Christine). The work environment is quite unbelievable,just designer office rooms with a desk on which you almost don't see them doing anything and in the meetings they are in, nothing is discussed, only showing the ends of these meetings. But this movie is about the power struggle between these 2 and who they use and abuse for their purpose of getting to the top (Christine is aiming at a job in the head office in New York). This is the best part of the movie. Isabelle is extremely fanatical about her work, which means everything to her, she has no friends (as Sagnier said in a Dutch interview). This hard-working Isabelle does the best work but Christine claims it as having been hers on 3 occasions. Isabelle both admires (loves) and hates Christine. Christine says at one point that she loves Isabelle. Both have a love-affair with the same colleague, who at a certain moment is being blackmailed by Christine, much to the disgust of Isabelle. It all turns wrong when Christine shows security camera pictures of Isabelle having gotten angry and having a car accident in the garage and humiliates her in front of all their colleagues at a party, where she already felt uncomfortable, not talking with anyone. Christine meant it as a joke, she said, but her degrading remarks to Isabelle show otherwise. The rest of the movie is all about Isabelle's quite-clever-or-not revenge, which I won't reveal here (one can find more than enough about that already). It's all not terribly surprising or great cinema, but it is an entertaining thriller which grips you from beginning to end, despite some incredibleness. I think money is well spent on going to this movie, especially if you're a fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, who speaks excellent French and is great here, as usual. 104 minutes, some flashbacks in black and white. If you liked "La Tourneuse de Pages", this comes close, at least in the beginning. I have seen it twice now (2 pre-premieres) and must say the beginning remains fascinating, whereas the second part becomes weaker the more you see it, but it still is an ingenious detective plot, a tribute to this much too young deceased (67) film-maker.
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