Director: François Ozon
Cast: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset
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Loosely adapted from a Joyce Carol Oates novel, L’Amant Double sees director François Ozon return to his enfant terrible mode after a couple of relatively more prestigious films, such as Frantz. This involves a reunion with his Jeune et Jolie (Young & Beautiful) star Marine Vacth and making one of his new film’s very first shots take place within her character’s genitalia. Why, yes, this is a very restrained motion picture.
Chloé (Vactch) is a fragile young woman plagued by stomach pains deemed to be down to psychological causes, rather than physical. She ends up seeing a psychoanalyst, Paul (Jérémie Renier), as a result, and they develop feelings for each other during their sessions. A few months later, she’s moved in with him and all seems to be going well; even if her pains haven’t fully dissipated, they’re certainly less severe. But during one bus ride, she seems to spot Paul outside a different psychotherapy office, looking quite close with another woman. Is Paul concealing part of his identity and also cheating on her? Or is this a case of mistaken identity regarding someone who looks just like her lover?
The title of the Oates source novel gives part of the mystery away, but that’s certainly not the only twist in Ozon’s psychosexual thriller. Questions of identity are raised not just about her therapist, but also Chloé herself. Another major question is how it’s possible that an erotic thriller so steeped in daffy camp as this one could be so dull.
It’s not necessarily down to the performers – Renier, in particular, does fine work with his very different dual roles. Maybe it’s that while playing most of the film in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, Ozon’s shifts into actual suspense and dramatic heft don’t really gel. The movie is a pastiche of various major texts from the thriller and horror genres – there’s undeniable lineage with David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, a dash of Rosemary’s Baby with Vactch’s look and womb woes, and a lot of Brian De Palma and, subsequently, Alfred Hitchcock. But, the boldness of the gynaecological opening aside, there’s little going on here that’s especially stimulating.