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Wendy R. Williams Talks to Ludivine Sagnier of Claude Chabrol's
A Girl Cut in Two
(La fille coupee en deux)
IFC Film Center
August 11, 2008

Ludivine Sagnier 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 nude scenes.

I saw A Girl Cut in Two and then attended the round table interview with Ms. Sagnier.

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

Claude Chabrol's
A Girl Cut in Two (La fille coupee en deux)
Opens August 15, 2008

Written By: Claude Chabrol, Cecile Maistre

Starring: Ludivine Sagnier; Benoit Magimel; Francois Berleand; Mathilda May; Caroline Sihol; and Marie Bunel.

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Claude Chabrol’s 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.

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.

Good job!

Francois Berleand and Ludivine Sagnier in A Girl Cut in Two

Question about what it is like to work with Claude Chabrol:

Ludivine 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 d'amour:

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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 own perversions:

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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 alive].

Question about being one of the sexiest women in the world:

Ludivine Sagnier: With my big belly! [Sagnier is obviously pregnant.]

Question about who is the father of her child. Is it her boyfriend (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the man who fathered her daughter:

Ludivine 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?

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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.

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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:

Ludivine 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 role:

Ludivine 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 repertory.]

Question about what she [Sagnier] will be doing next:

Ludivine Sagnier: I have another film opening on September 5, 2008 [at the IFC Center the Paris Cinema] call A Secret.

[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:

Ludivine 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


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