The Crime is Mine is the latest fantastic film from renowned French director François Ozon. Out in Australian cinemas from this Thursday, the film is an adaption of the 1934 play entitled Mon crime (which is also the French title of the film). Ozon has carried that theatricality throughout. At times, you feel like the characters may burst into song, such is the nature of the film.
Set in 1935, The Crime is Mine follows friends and room-mates, Pauline, an unemployed lawyer, (played by Rebecca Marder who also played a young Simone Weil in Simone: Woman of the century and Gabrielle, daughter of Isabelle Huppert’s character in The Godmother/Mama Weed) and Madeleine, a struggling actress (Nadia Tereszkiewicz, who you may remember from Only the Animals (Seules les Bêtes) at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020) from rags to riches following Madeleine’s confession to the crime of murdering a well-known theatre director, Montferrard (played by Jean-Christophe Bouvet).
Initially denying any involvement, she soon realises the potential for fame and declares to the investigating Judge Gustave Rabusset (played by the wonderful Fabrice Luchini who you may have seen in Alice and the Mayor and The Mystery of Henri Pick at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020) that the crime is hers.
Madeleine treats the trial like a theatre role with Pauline writing her “lines” and declaring to the courtroom that she murdered the sleazy forceful director to protect her virginity. She becomes the public’s darling and once acquitted, all the roles, fame and fortune that she ever dreamed of are hers for the taking. Pauline too becomes a highly sought after criminal defence lawyer. However, just when all their Christmases have come at once, Odette Chaumette, a has-been actress best known for her role in silent films of decades prior (played by Isabelle Huppert) shows up with the potential to upend their newfound happiness.
The Crime is Mine is wonderfully witty, and well-scripted. We haven’t been able to check the original play, so we are not sure whether the adaptation is consistent with, and has taken the text verbatim from, that play. That said, while The Crime is Mine may be adapted from a 1934 play, it remains (or has been updated to be made) relevant to the themes of power and control in gender politics. During the trial, Madeleine resonates with most women, who were also tired of being seen as sex objects and nothing more. Ozon’s film is farcical, absurd and harks back to the screwball comedies of decades past.
The film features a fantastic cast including of course Isabelle Huppert in the role of Odette Chaumette, and Fabrice Luchini as the investigating Judge Gustave Rabusset. Rounding out this excellent cast are André Dussollier (Black Box / Boïte Noire at AFFFF 2020/1 and Everything went fine in 2022) as Mr Bonnard, head of Bonnard Tyres and the father of André (played by Édouard Sulpice, who was in Happening/L’événement at last year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival), the man with whom Madeleine is in love. Dany Boon (best known for Welcome to the Sticks/ Bienvenue chez les Chtis but was also in Driving Madeleine at this year’s AFFFF) is great as the nouveau riche Marseillais Mr. Palmarède, who has become even richer as a result of the director’s death.
The Crime is Mine has fantastic costuming transporting us to 1930s Paris. This was the 20th film Pascaline Chavanne, Head Costume Designer, had worked with Francois Ozon on. In the press kit, she speaks about the need to work with the physiques of the actors of today rather than trying to make them fit into the outfits of the period. Isabelle Huppert’s character was based on Sarah Bernhardt, which sees her wearing “1900s theatre attire even though the film takes place in 1935”.
Musician Philippe Rombi composed the majority of the music contained in The Crime is Mine. It adds to the theatricality of the film, in particular the nostalgic, orchestrated music played during the Parisian rooftop scene.
Director Francois Ozon says that “The Crime is Mine can be seen as the final instalment in a trilogy including 8 Women and Potiche.” That said there is no need to have seen the two other films to appreciate The Crime is Mine. Rather the films are a trilogy on the theme of the status of women, rather than sharing characters and storylines.
The Crime is Mine is a perfectly articulated, scripted, acted and designed film and one we highly recommend you see when it is released in Australian cinemas this Thursday 12 October 2023.
Matilda Marseillaise watched The Crime is Mine via a screener
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For events with links to France and the Francophonie happening in Australia this month, check out our What’s on in October.