L'Amant Double

 

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Stylish fun in the beginning, this will for many be a film that loses its appeal.

 
L'Amant Double

Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth

 

Such has been the influence of cinema's greatest master of suspense that many a film has been praised for being Hitchcockian, but in the case of this new film by François Ozon, the echo evoked is even more specific. In freely adapting a story by Joyce Carol Oates, Ozon brings to mind that phase of Hitchcock's career that gave us Vertigo and Marnie. However, echoing such work is one thing and equalling it is another. L'Amant Double is one of those films that received boos at the Cannes Film Festival and, as is certainly not always the case, I think that the reaction was justified.

 

For the first half of L'Amant Double there is enough pleasure to be had to suggest that the film may well have been misjudged by that audience. Its strange but intriguing tale concerns 25-year-old Chloé (Marine Vacth who did so well in Ozon's brilliant Jeune et Jolie in 2013) who is troubled enough to turn to a psychiatrist, Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renier), who becomes her lover. But then she discovers that he is hiding the existence of a very different twin brother, fellow psychologist Louis Delord (Renier again), and soon she is on his couch too and, more significantly, in his bed. The main appeal here lies in two elements: the fun that Renier has with his dual role and, for those who relish technique, the splendidly fluid direction by Ozon replete with mirror images and visual touches that play on the theme of doubles. That aspect is a joy.

 

But (and this is the big but) unless you have a taste for such things L'Amant Double becomes totally unhinged in its second half. You could fall back on the possibility that much of what we see exists only in Chloé's dreams (at least twice in the film we see her waking up), but it seems far more likely that we are being asked to go along with a narrative that becomes so preposterous as to be silly and for that reason the much stressed sex scenes incorporated, including one in which Chloé straps on a dildo, come to seem cheaply salacious. Pitched at this level what had started out as a kind of tongue-in-cheek entertainment somewhat akin to Verhoeven's far superior Elle becomes merely ridiculous. The film throws in a scene to disturb cat lovers and murder occurs without any ensuing investigation so perhaps we should after all think of it all as taking place in Chloé's mind! There may be some who like to embrace over-the-top material and who will take a different view, but I for one share the disappointment that many of Ozon's admirers expressed when this film had its premiere at Cannes.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset, Myriam Boyer, Dominique Reymond, Fanny Sage.

 

Dir François Ozon, Pro Eric Altmayer and Nicolas Altmayer, Screenplay François Ozon with Philippe Piazzo, loosely based on the novel Lives of the Twins by Joyce Carol Oates, Ph Manu Dacosse, Art Dir Sylvie Olivé, Ed Laure Gardette, Music Philippe Rombi, Costumes Pascaline Chavanne.

 

Mandarin Films/FOZ/Mars Films/France 2 Cinéma/Scope Pictures/Canal+/Ciné+-Curzon Artificial Eye.
108 mins. France/Belgium. 2017. Rel: 1 June 2018. Cert. 18.