It’s all smoke and mirrors, literally, in Francois Ozon’s latest thriller L’Amant Double. A kinky and playful psychosexual romp, exploring identity, desire, and mental illness, the film is a pure pulp thriller, but filtered through the prism of Ozon’s technical mastery. His latest cine-literate exploration shows once again that he is the most versatile filmmaker in the business.
The film tells the story of Chloé (Marine Vacth) a former model struggling with the malaise of modern life. Her depression is manifesting as a physical ache in her stomach, which regular medicine cannot treat. She starts seeing a psychiatrist, the kind and gentle Paul (Jérémie Renier) and she unburdens herself to him. They fall in love and Paul ends her treatment so they can be together. They move in with each other, but Chloe soon realises there is a huge disparity of power in their relationship. He knows everything about her, but she knows nothing about him.
Ozon ramps this up, by having Chloe discover that Paul has a twin brother, Louis, who is also a therapist. But Louis is the yin to Paul’s yang – cocky, arrogant and antagonistic. Why has Paul never mentioned this? Why does he deny that he even has a brother? Is he living a double life? Is there some dark secret in the past he wants to keep hidden? Driven to answer these questions, Chloe herself assumes a fake identity and starts visiting Louis for therapy, and thus begins a dark game of sexual power struggles and erotic fantasies as this fucked up ménage-a-trois spiral into an absurd Freudian nightmare. It is nonsense, but gloriously entertaining all the same.
Adapted from the novel Lives of the Twins by Joyce Carol Oates, Ozon very much makes this his own thing, with some particularly playful moments of artistic filth that only he could pull off. Playing with concepts of duality throughout the film, he uses lots of mirror imagery, symmetrical framing, split screens, and reflections. Taking inspiration from all across the cinematic spectrum, Ozon draws a hitherto unknown line between Bergman’s Persona and Adrian Lyne’s Basic Instinct. On this journey from psychological drama to trashy 90s erotic thriller, we stop off at Vertigo, take a thematic jaunt through De Palma’s twisted triptych of Sisters, Body Double, and Dressed to Kill, and finally veer into the fleshy delights of Dead Ringers for a bit of Cronenbergian body horror.
The film is knowingly ridiculous, and despite its psychological pretensions it is never meant as anything more than a bit of naughty fun. It is not to be taken seriously at all. Vacth and Renier are both excellent, playing it all dead straight, as the many mysteries and twists unfold around them. The DVD release comes with interviews with the cast and director and a selection of lighting and costume tests. There is also the trailer and a gallery of different artwork used for the film’s posters.
Cast: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier Director: Francois Ozon Writer: Francois Ozon Released By: Curzon Artificial Eye Certificate: 18 Duration: 110 mins Release Date: 6thAugust 2018