Director: François Ozon
Writer: François Ozon
Starring: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset
Genre: Thriller / World Cinema
Mentally fragile former model Chloé (Vacth) starts seeing a psychoanalyst (Renier) and two of them fall in love and move in together. However, she soon discovers that he is concealing a part of his identity and that he has a twin brother (also Renier), and she embarks in a passionate affair with him too, and as their affair goes to some very dark places she begins to question what is real and what is just in her troubled mind.
French auteur François Ozon has put together an increasingly eclectic filmography over the years, and the fact that he follows up his beautiful and heart wrenching monochrome drama Frantz with a dark psychological erotic thriller pretty much sums up his impressive diversity as a filmmaker. Though his films certainly are of impressively varied genres, he still adds his own unique touch to them, and with assured confidence he always adds a sense of fun to his films that make them an enjoyable watch no matter how silly their plots are. There is no denying that L’Amant Double has a plot that is at times a bit silly, but thanks to Ozon’s deft touch as a filmmaker it is tremendous fun and extremely well made, which always makes narrative flaws and downright silliness all the more forgivable.
From the very start L’Amant Double is a film without any inhibitions that sucks the viewer into its dark and seductive world and never let’s go and makes the likes of Fifty Shades seem like a limp imitation that fails to reach any of the places that L’Amant Double can reach in a single shot. The playful visuals that often focus on showing doubles of both organic and physical objects just add to the enjoyable cinematic experience in a film that seems take inspiration from some of the dark psycho-sexual and body horror films of David Cronenberg, the unashamedly sexually explicit films of Brian De Palma and character-driven psychological thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock.
However, this is not just a copy and paste exercise, and Ozon seems to be very much in control of his film from start to finish and adds his only little visual touches, and the audience cannot help but be sucked into the dark mindset of its characters. This is also helped by the superb performances from the two main characters; Marine Vacth portrays her character’s mental fragility perfectly in a physically committed performance as Chloé, while Jérémie Renier impressively makes sure his performances as both Paul and Louis are distinctive enough the make the characters subtly different, but no more than that in what is a wonderfully charismatic performance.
In what is a perfect Hitchcockian demonstration of economical filmmaking, Ozon makes every shot, piece of dialogue and indeed the depiction of every single character (including two pet cats) count and add to the intoxicating and rich atmosphere of the film; even Chloé’s seemingly kind and gentle neighbour has a dark side, and one single shot that captures her expression as a fragile Chloé asks if she can sleep in her daughter’s old bedroom poses many questions. Indeed, this is a film that poses many questions about all of its characters and its narrative, and though it rarely presents any clear answers, this just adds to the seductive nature of the film. While Ozon’s generally static camerawork featuring long takes, Manuel Dacosse’s crisp cinematography and Phillippe Rombi’s brooding score only add to the sinister, but engrossing atmosphere of the film.
There is no denying that as the multi-layered plot with its abundance of questions (and lack of genuine attempt to answer many of these questions) goes along it does get increasingly silly, and this does produce an occasional moment of frustration and make the whole experience rather superficial, especially as the film makes no attempt to address some of its storytelling flaws. However, Ozon makes sure that the film never takes itself too seriously, and so focusses on being darkly playful with its increasingly complicated narrative, and this and the great performances are the reason as to why it may not be the most memorable of films, but while on is certainly a tremendously fun viewing experience for those willing to embrace the darker side of human emotion and desire.
It may be as equally daft as it is dark, but thanks to the superb performances and assured direction from an auteur at the top of his game L’Amant Double is a deliciously sinister, seductive and enjoyable thriller.