European films

Film review: L’Amant Double – François Ozon’s psychosexual thriller pales in comparison to his early erotic dramas

Ozon’s latest ends up a preposterous piece of nonsense that submits to the logic of dreams, but it isn’t without its kinky charms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 11:39am

2.5/5 stars

Art-house aficionados who have yearned for the French director François Ozon to return to the superior psychological mystery of his earlier films – like 2000’s Under the Sand and 2003’s Swimming Pool – will be intermittently intrigued by this erotic thriller, loosely based on Joyce Carol Oates’ pseudonymous novel Lives of the Twins.

While it’s a deceptively sombre story of sexual desire, remorse, and alternative existences conveyed with doppelgängers, L’Amant Double (The Double Lovers in English) flags its preposterous intent early with a surprise opening gag: the close-up shot of a vagina spread open by a speculum, which dissolves – even in matching shapes – to that of a woman’s teary eye.

Both organs belong to Chloé (Marine Vacth, star of Ozon’s Young & Beautiful), a 25-year-old former model who has been experiencing stomach pains. After a check-up reveals no physical causes, she is referred to psychotherapist Paul Meyer (Dardenne brothers regular Jérémie Renier), who soon pins the issue on Chloé’s difficult relationship with her mother.

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Vigilant viewers may notice that Chloe never confirms if her mother is still alive. The mysteries deepen when, after she and Paul become an item and move in together, Chloé accidentally discovers – and begins to regularly visit – a creepy psychotherapist named Louis Delord (also Renier), who claims to be the twin brother that Paul vehemently denies exist.

As the heroine becomes at once attracted to and repulsed by Louis’ sexual aggression, the film juxtaposes its far-fetched suspense with campy sex farce that would make Paul Verhoeven and Brian De Palma proud – only to concurrently sink Chloé deeper into a Freudian tale scattered with imagery of cats, mirrors and identical twins.

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But if his noir narrative ultimately disappoints by ceding complete authority to the logic of dreams, Ozon has at least scored on one count: L’Amant Double is so gloriously and unpredictably kinky – how about the sight of two Reniers making out? – that it manages to make Fifty Shades of Grey look like child’s play.

L’Amant Double opens on August 10

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