R. Williams Talks to Ludivine Sagnier of Claude
A Girl Cut in Two
(La fille coupee en deux)
IFC Film Center
August 11, 2008
is one of France’s most talented and luminous
young film stars. She became every young male Francophile’s
dream girl when she starred in the Swimming
Pool, a film that featured several Sagnier
I saw A Girl Cut in Two
and then attended the round table interview with
Here is a copy of my review (be
sure to scroll down for the interview):
Benoir Magimel and Ludivine
Sagnier in A Girl Cut in Two
A Girl Cut in Two (La fille coupee
Opens August 15, 2008
Written By: Claude Chabrol, Cecile Maistre
Sagnier; Benoit Magimel; Francois Berleand; Mathilda
May; Caroline Sihol; and Marie Bunel.
Reviewed by Wendy
new film, A Girl Cut in Two (La fille
coupee en deux), is a very French film based
on an American story. Girl retells the
story of the “Trial of the Century”
– the 1906 murder of architect Stanford White
by wealthy socialite Henry K. Thaw. Thaw had married
a beautiful showgirl named Evelyn Nesbitt, who had
formerly been White’s mistress. Overcome by
jealousy of the older man’s supposed sexual
prowess, Thaw shot White at a fete in the White-designed
Madison Square Garden. Thaw was charged with first
degree murder, but the jury decided he was insane.
This story has been retold many times, most famously
in author E. L. Doctorow 1975 novel, Ragtime.
French beauty Ludivine
Sagnier (of Swimming Pool fame) plays the
Evelyn Nesbitt part in A Girl Cut in Two,
Gabrielle Aurore Deneige, the weather girl of a
Parisian news station. Gabrielle meets two men simultaneously,
famous author Charles Saint-Denis (played by François
Berléand) and wealthy dilettante Paul André
Claude Gaudens (played by Benoît Magimel).
Rather counter-intuitively, Gabrielle falls madly
in love with the older happily-married Saint-Denis.
She is quite nonplussed by the wealthy, attractive,
younger and borderline-crazy Paul.
Gabrielle and St.
Denis begin a passionate love affair, one where
he introduces her to the dark side of sex, the world
of decadent sex acts and clubs. There is one much
talked about scene where Gabrielle crawls to St.
Denis while she is adorned only with huge peacock
feathers that are supposedly stuck in her rear.
But decadency aside, St. Denis soon hungers for
something different and rejects the now desolate
Gabrielle then does
the besotted Paul a big favor and marries him, much
to the disapproval of his mother, the haughty Geneviève
Gaudens (played by Caroline Silhol). But as in the
Nesbitt/White/Thaw triangle, the husband is never
able to forget the image of his now wife in the
arms of his rival, and he repeatedly forces her
to confess her past indiscretions, fueling his hatred
of St. Denis. And this hatred leads to death, just
like it did in the original story.
All the performances
in the film are first rate. The film is also very
beautiful, beautifully shot and beautifully cast.
The film is a talker like most French films. People
analyze their emotions in depth. Class issues are
plumbed; Paul’s jealous rage is fueled in
part by his belief that a wealthy young man like
himself should never have the problem of attracting
and keeping a beautiful wife in the first place.
And then there is the world of the intelligentsia
versus the world of the bourgeois. All in all, A
Girl Cut in Two is very French – sophisticated
and urbane. If you have never watched French films,
Girl would be a perfect place to start.
You will never understand quite why the French find
us so unrefined until you have a chance to visit
their jaded and sophisticated world.
Francois Berleand and Ludivine
Sagnier in A Girl Cut in Two
Question about what it is like
to work with Claude Chabrol:
Sagnier: He is A list. For French actors;
it is like going to the Louvre. I am a big fan;
he is a monument. I did not think I was upper class
enough to be in one of Chabrol’s films, but
in this film, my character comes from a different
class. Gabrielle is from a provincial town.
Question about how this movie
is similar to other love triangle films that Ms.
Sagnier has starred in such as Les Chansons
Sagnier: I don’t really compare movies.
Question about whether she watched
Nicole Kidman in To Die For to get some
tips on how to play a weatherwoman:
Sagnier: Yes I did but it did not turn out
that well. Her character is too aggressive; in To
Die For, Nicole was the big bad wolf. In Girl,
I am the little lamb.
Question about how she prepared
for the film:
Sagnier: I didn’t prepare. Chabrol
needs honesty, instinct, vitality of being….what
is the word for resistance [English is not Ms. Sagnier’s
first language and she probably meant responsiveness]?
I have those qualities, I am a fighting person.
I used my own character.
Ludivine Sagnier and Francois
Berleand in A Girl Cut in Two
Question about whether, with
its older man / younger women themes, if director
Chabrol had something going on with the film's young
screenwriter, Cécile Maistre. Is the sexual
perversion in the film emanating from Chabrol’s
Sagnier: Absolutely not. Maistre is Chabrol’s
step daughter. [Re the sexual perversion in the
film], I asked and he said no. He would say that
he had heard of this clubs.
Question about whether she wants
to act in American films:
Sagnier: I am committed to French cinema.
And there are very talented actresses in LA. I could
not play a Texas girl who comes to New York to make
it. [Sagnier has a fairly heavy French accent.]
I did audition for the role that
Eva Green was given for the last James Bond movie,
Casino Royale. Every actress in Europe
auditioned. My agent wanted me to do it for the
experience, but I told them that they don’t
cast midgets [Sagnier is five foot three.]
Question about which American
actors and directors she would like to work with:
Sagnier: [Laughs] I am mostly attracted to
dead directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick
and George Cukor. As for actors - people like Joaquin
Phoenix and Cate Blanchette [they, of course, are
Question about being one of the
sexiest women in the world:
Sagnier: With my big belly! [Sagnier is obviously
Question about who is the father
of her child. Is it her boyfriend (Nicolas Duvauchelle),
the man who fathered her daughter:
Sagnier: No, it isn’t him. You don’t
know who the father is, but you will.
Question – Do you think
you consider yourself sexy?
Sagnier: [Laughing] Every morning when I
brush my teeth.
Question about the nude scenes
in Swimming Pool and the racy poster for
A Girl Cut in Two:
Sagnier: It is all about selling movies.
In France, I would never consent to using that poster.
I am not comfortable at all with nudity. I am very
prudish in life. When we filmed the peacock scene,
I did not sleep for two days. It was very stressful.
Question about how in the film
Charles Saint-Denis, the part played by François
Berléand, states that France is wavering
between Puritanism a decadence.
Sagnier: It is the ying and the yang. There
is a dichotomy in every character in the film. That
is why she is cut in two, between purity and diversity,
her ambition and her ideals.
Benoir Magimel and Ludivine
Sagnier in A Girl Cut in Two
Question about why her character,
Gabrielle, would go to Paul when she is rejected
by St. Denis:
Sagnier: There is also a dichotomy between
masochism and sadism. Gabrielle and Paul are never
romantic on screen. I asked Chabrol if I could kiss
Benoît and he said no. She has no tenderness
for him, no feeling.
Question about sex scandals like
the one regarding John Edwards:
Sagnier: In France, it would not be that
much of a scandal. The French are more accepting
of sexuality. And there is not that constant harassment
by the paparazzi. In France they not “after”
French movie stars. They are after American movie
stars, the ones you see in the tabloids.
Question about whether she thought
the Charles Saint-Denis role in the film was a fatherly
Sagnier: He would be a very dirty father.
The uncle at the end of the film, where she is struggling
for a father, fulfills that role.
[Sagnier’s uncle plays a
magician who has the Cut-In-Two-Saw-Trick in his
Question about what she [Sagnier]
will be doing next:
Sagnier: I have another film opening on September
5, 2008 [at the IFC Center the Paris Cinema] call
[Here is a description of A
Secret from the press release: “Adapted
from Philippe Grimbert`s celebrated autobiographical
novel, Memory (Simon and Schuster), A
Secret follows the saga of a Jewish family
in post-World War II Paris. François, a solitary,
imaginative child, invents for himself a brother
as well as the story of his parents` past. But on
his fifteenth birthday, he discovers a dark family
secret that ties his family’s history to the
Holocaust and shatters his illusions forever.
Before the war, his father, Maxime, (Patrick Bruel,
The Comedy of Power) was married to Hannah
(Ludivine Sagnier, Swimming Pool, Love
Songs, A Girl Cut in Two, Public
Enemy) when he fell madly in love with Francois’s
mother, Tania (Cécile de France,The
Russian Dolls, Avenue Montaigne,
Public Enemy). As a young Jewish couple living
in Nazi-occupied France, Maxime and Tania were compelled
to make difficult choices to survive the war while
Hannah (Sagnier) would make a decision that would
change her life and that of her family forever.”]
I also have a film in post production,
Jean-François Richet’s Mesrine's L'ennemi
public n° 1. It is fun playing the girlfriend
of a gangster.
Question about whether she and
François Ozon (Swimming Pool) have
any other projects in the works:
Sagnier: We are trying to find something
that suits us both. We are like brother and sister,
we argue a lot.
Many thanks to Ludivine Sagnier
for talking with www.newyorkcool.com.