Saturday, 13 June 2009

THE MANY FACES OF THE GIRL CUT IN TWO

While collecting the art to accompany the review of Claude Chabrol's Girl Cut In Two (see the previous post) I was struck by how differently the film was being marketed in different ways to different audiences. In Britain, with the title changed from 'The Girl' to 'A Girl Cut in Two', the colour is a lurid pink and Ludovine Sangier is shown from the scene where she is the most prostrated before Charles Saint-Denis (though without the peahen feathers she was wearing). It's a picture about sexuality, and a woman who appears to be seeking out exploitation, in an almost predatory pose, completely contrary to the actual scene from which its taken, and to the inner flow of the film.

The film was a German co-production, but in Germany, it's presented as a very different movie: a psychological study of 'The Split Woman', the idea of split personality emphasised by the mirror image Sangier as Gabrielle, and her looking confused, if not befuddled. The red background contrasts with the black dress to suggest the torn personality, and the two men, Charles and Paul, are posed in the bottom corners of the poster like little gremlins warring over her soul (cf the scene where Pinto's date passes out at the toga party in Animal House).

That war seems all but over in Italy, where again the movie has been retitled The Innocence of Sin, which again makes Gabrielle into a more active participant in what goes on; the idea of the woman as seducer is reinforced by the pose, in which Gabrielle becomes older, features a hairdo reminiscent of the licentiousness of the Roaring Twenties, and indeed makes her look very much like a cross between Dominique Sanda and Stefania Sandrelli in The Conformist.

Sexuality is removed from the equation in America; the US posters turn the film into a neo-noir thriller, with Sangier looking very American in the main shot, which has the diagonal line dividing her face in two, just like classic pulp magazine covers, and the shadows or blinds from noir movies. Here the two men are posed with her, not gremlins but fully part of her story, and in the same diagonal, which I like in terms of design. It makes the film look like something Brian De Palma might have directed, and, the more I think about it, the more that makes sense; DePalma's metier is objectifying women, and manipulating the audience into sharing their exploitation. His women are often femme fatales, or trying to be, which is not a part of Chabrol's film, but the sensibility, while less subtle, is not that far removed.

Finally, what about the French themselves? I confess, the marketing of the film in to its native audience is the most puzzling of all. We're back to pink, but in France we're presented with a drawing of Sangier posed somewhere between a Marseilles hooker and a Rohmer gamin transferred to the 1950s. Holly Go not so lightly. She's cut not-quite-in-two by the framing, as if she's poking her head and saucy self around a doorway, inviting you in for a good time. Which seems even farther removed from the reality of the film than any of the other countries. What is it about prophets in their own country? Or is France really, as Chabrol, via Charles, suggested, torn between puritanism and decadence? And judging from the marketing response to his film, they haven't made up their minds!

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