The shames in Love Crime are more specific and far more intentional, but the French movie's corporate world is as generic as the offices it depicts. Here, business gets done, but no work. No paper ever slips askew, and no surface suffers under the weight of unattractive clutter.
The same can be said about the homes of its antagonists, Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier, glassy) and Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas, fairy-tale evil). Both share the smooth, neat aesthetic of their shared work space. Isabelle's house — all hard-tiled kitchen and spartan, sexless bedroom — could be a cell in her boss's compound. And get a load of Christine's couch — it's way longer than Isabelle's, figuratively and literally. It's a great aircraft carrier of a thing, and she clearly doesn't deserve it. For this — for her casually greedy entitlement and her cruelty and her big-ass décor — Christine will pay.
But not before she punishes Isabelle for exhibiting the drive that Christine says she wants to instill in her protégée. Love Crime is the kind of movie that screams, "Be careful!" in every shot — the surveillance-camera-like angles from which we view Isabelle tap into a feral sexuality and the surveillance camera that actually catches her in an even less guarded moment. Director Alain Corneau's last movie (he died in 2010) is an office horror picture, higher toned and furiously plotted so as to avoid comparison with American workplace camp like The Temp (that absurd 1993 multiplex contemporary of Glengarry's). It's better shot, edited and acted, too, but finally campy in its own subtitled way. Corneau and his gorgeous, flat characters aren't warning us about anything worth worrying about. They're begging us to warn them.
Well into Margin Call, Will Emerson — the thorny underboss played by Paul Bettany, looking papery as usual and sounding like the Geico lizard with a mouthful of rich food — breaks down how he spends his $2 million salary. Outlining mortgage payments and savings numbers along with his outlay for hookers and liquor and restaurants, he sounds reasonable, even modest. Whether you make $5 an hour or can stake an IPO on your name, you adjust to your means, then live at their edge. If Christine had only sat Isabelle down and told her what kind of sofa could be bought in exchange for a lot of hours and a lot more pride, Love Crime would turn out differently. John Tuld, meet your successor.