Mon Crime is the latest in the extraordinary number of movies that director François Ozon manages to churn out at a very regular rate. Since his first short film in 1988, he has released at least one movie per year in all but six of the intervening 35 years. While such a rapid turnover is impressive in itself, inevitably the quality of those films has not been consistently good.
At its best, his work can be memorable, quirky and original, especially admirable when he collaborates with some of the greatest female actors of the age (including, among many others, Danielle Darrieux, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier and Charlotte Rampling). At its worst, his output can seem humdrum and instantly forgettable.
The good news is that Mon Crime does not fall into the latter category. While the breathlessly frothy content of the film does not reach the heights of his rather more hard-hitting works, such as Sitcom, Ma Maison and Frantz, it makes for an enjoyable watch, allowing some of his stalwart actors – Huppert and Fabrice Luchini among them – to camp it up and have fun in the process.
As in some of his other movies, Ozon remains attentive here to cinematic history and to the joy of theater. Based on a 1934 play by Georges Berr and Louis Verneuil, Mon Crime gives both a vivid sense of the popularity of boulevard theater in Paris between the world wars and, through its tone and subject matter, of cinema at the time; it’s easy to imagine Mon Crime having been created by a director like Ernst Lubitsch, whose elegant cinematic comedies are still well worth seeing.
The story revolves around a struggling young actress, Madeleine Verdier (played by Nadia Tereszkiewicz), who, after attending a casting call, is suspected of shooting a film producer who tried to take sexual advantage of her (Ozon’s allusions to the much more recent times of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement are difficult to miss here).
In the sensational trial that follows, Madeleine is defended by her out-of-work lawyer roommate Pauline Mauléon (Rebecca Mardier), who proves to be much more adept and eloquent than the bumbling male magistrates and judges (with actors like Luchini and Daniel Prévost on gloriously over-the-top form here). The subsequent blossoming of Madeleine’s acting career and role as a feminist icon are, however, contested by another actress, Odette Chaumette (played by Huppert, sporting a wonderfully absurd hairpiece), who, possibly in order to increase her own public profile, claims to have been the real murderer of the producer.
Ozon makes use of a rich panoply of acting talent (Dany Boon, André Dussolier and Félix Lefebvre, from Ozon’s previous film Été 84, all turn up briefly onscreen), but the fact that Mon Crime felt a lot longer than its one hour and 40 minute running time suggests perhaps that some of those walk-on roles could easily have been pruned. Overall, the movie is watchable and diverting, with the two central female characters, especially Mardier as the young lawyer, on fine form, but I left the cinema feeling that this is a movie that thinks itself to be rather cleverer than it actually is.Favorite