Dir François Ozon, 110 mins, starring: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset, Myriam Boyer, Dominique Reymond, Fanny Sage
Prolific French director François Ozon moves into Hitchcock and Brian De Palma territory with a bit of David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers thrown in for good measure in this wildly overcooked erotic thriller/psycho-drama. Marine Vacth plays the confused heroine, Chloé, a 25-year-old former model. She is subject to strange stomach pains and is in a very nervous state.
Her rugged psychiatrist Paul Mayer (Jérémie Renier) suddenly announces during one of their sessions together that he has “feelings” for her which make it impossible for him to continue with her as his patient. She becomes his lover instead and promptly moves in with him.
At this point, the film spirals off into the realm of the improbable. Paul has a twin brother who is as cruel and sadistic as he is kind and tender. Chloé begins a relationship with him as well and seems to take pleasure in his abusive treatment of her.
The film is based on Lives Of The Twins, a novel by American writer Joyce Carol Oates but Ozon has customised the material and made it very Gallic indeed. It quickly becomes apparent that the film is intended as fantasy and that the director is not interested in plausibility or psychological realism. Non-sequiturs abound.
Chloé may be an affluent ex-model but she still takes a job as a security guard/watchwoman at a modernist art gallery. (The works on display all seem linked to her anxieties and nightmares.) Ozon throws in huge close-ups of her eyes. The sex scenes evoke memories of softcore thrillers from the 1980s from directors like Paul Verhoeven and Adrian Lyne.
For all its many (surely intentional) absurdities, the film is dealing with raw and primal emotions. Chloé is a very complex figure, tormented by events deep in her past. Renier’s dual role is similar to that played by Roger Moore in Basil Dearden’s 1970 British thriller, The Man Who Haunted Himself.
There are two of him, each the polar opposite of the other. Chloé is drawn to both of them. You can see the brothers as projections of her fears and fantasies as her grasp on reality becomes ever more attenuated.
L’Amant Double (Double Lover) surely isn’t intended to be taken entirely seriously. Its approach to psychoanalysis is straight from the 1950s Hollywood playbook. The treatment of the “double” is also highly stylised. Ozon is trying to provoke and tantalise us.
He throws in lots of high-minded medical jargon about the secret language of twins and takes every opportunity he can to include melodramatic plot twists. This is a playful and stylish pastiche of the Fatal Attraction-style potboiler. Ozon is an effective enough filmmaker to send up conventions of such films even as he seems to endorse them.
L’Amant Double hits UK cinemas on 1 June.
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