Criminal Lovers (Les Amants Criminels, 1999) is a little hidden gem of a movie, a stylistic psychological thriller by director François Ozon (Swimming Pool, also recommended) that’s much better than its pedestrian title would let on. The story begins with the murder of a classmate by two high school students, Alice, played with force by Natacha Régnier, and her boyfriend Luc, who has been manipulated by Alice to conspire in the act. The couple then flee to the woods to dispose of the body, and — they hope — get away with the crime.
At this point the film takes a fascinating turn into a modern-day take on Hansel and Gretel, as the couple are captured by a creepy forest denizen who has a taste for human flesh. I view their hellish entrapment by the hermit as a perverse dose of justice meted out upon them.
This film was not particularly well received by critics at the time, but I saw Criminal Lovers over a decade ago on one of the indie movie channels, and it still resonates with me. The way the couple transition from sexually-charged criminals — on the run, but otherwise with the upper hand — into helpless kidnap victims parallels Hitchcock’s Psycho. Criminal Lovers is a great, taut little indie thriller, and very French. Only available on DVD.