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Place Vendôme Review

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When a prestigious gem dealer commits suicide and leaves his firm in crisis, his apathetic, alcoholic wife Marianne (Deneuve) snaps out of her torpor to take care of business, only to find she's in possession of seven fabulous if suspiciously-acquired diamonds that various sinister mystery men want.

★★★★★

Diamonds aren't a girl's best friend after all, judging by the aggravation they inspire in this enigma-laden affair. Algerian-born actress turned director Garcia is considered one of the most important women directors in France, although this is only her third feature in a decade. Certainly, she attracts a chic cast, but this intent drama of serious betrayal and embitterment tricked out as a crime thriller doesn't travel particularly well.

When a prestigious gem dealer commits suicide and leaves his firm in crisis, his apathetic, alcoholic wife Marianne (Deneuve) snaps out of her torpor to take care of business, only to find she's in possession of seven fabulous if suspiciously-acquired diamonds that various sinister mystery men want. She doesn't want to give them up until she comprehends she's being manipulated and can use the stones to avenge an old betrayal.

Marianne also develops a sympathetic interest in an ambitious dealer at the firm, Nathalie (Seigner), who reminds her of herself years before. Nathalie is torn between two lovers (Bacri and Dutrone), unaware of their connections to Marianne and apparently the nervous key to the frankly baffling, unthrilling international conspiracy centred on the disputed diamonds.

You could be forgiven for anticipating rather more than you get from the excess of unresolved plotting. The cool Deneuve, still very beautiful, is mighty elegant for a woman who's been on a diet of booze and pills for decades, but her careful body language and anxious eyes do suggest a woman willing herself to get a grip. Garcia is no Hitchcock, however, and after setting out Macguffins hither and thither, all interest in the theft is jettisoned, and we discover this is a feminist parable in which Marianne deals with her issues, freeing herself to get on with her (vacant) life. A rhinestone rather than a gem, this is drama that looks sophisticated and deep, but proves hollow.

Wobbly as a thriller, this can draw you into its glittering corners but (unlike a diamond) its pleasures won't last long.