François Ozon’s provocative film will not leave viewers indifferent. The French director returns to the top form.
The director uses genre cinema vocabulary, such as erotic thriller, horror and mystery drama, but he processes them in his own way. This way L’amant double starts working on multiple levels and is full of exciting details. Ozon never lets the viewer safely settle within the presented world, surprising and playing with their habits at his own convenience. The opening shot is a classic example of that. I shall not reveal what it is, but please be ready: you must see it! The director creates shots that are at the same time deceptively beautiful and colourful and disturbingly dark. They have more clues than it may seem at the first glance. Ozon references other masters of cinema like Cronenberg, Verhoeven and Lynch, but his movie is fresh and entirely original. Perverse, defiant cinema is his daily bread.
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The protagonist of the story is Chloé (beautiful Marine Vacth), a young woman suffering from anorexia and chronic abdominal pain. After the gynaecologist diagnosed that nothing is physically wrong with her, the patient is sent to a psychologist who would help find the mental causes of her condition. Therapy quickly brings results. The former model finds work in the museum as a security guard. The pain subsides, and regular sessions with Paul (Jérémie Renier) become a pleasure. Until the man stops the therapy. Meetings with Chloé became too personal for him, meaning – he just fell in love with the patient. The couple begins a relationship and moves into a shared flat. When unpacking Paul’s boxes, the woman comes across some photos and details about him. Paul may be someone other than who she says she is. Her investigation, however, brings surprising results.
Each shot in L’amant double is thought through and masterfully composed. The DOP (Manu Dacosse) works hard to not to lose the interest of the viewer, every now and then relieving the tension with a visual joke. The number of silhouettes and faces reflected in mirrors and panes or shots with a split screen surpasses all statistics. The script and light but meaningful dialogue locate the film on the edge of melodrama, thriller and erotic game.
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Ozon does not try to be too serious. How else to explain shots with voyeur cats (dead and alive), piercing gazes or a scene with a dildo. Production, although treating serious matters, like sanity, maternity and feminism, exists on the border of pastiche and the cinema of exploitation. Who else, other than Ozon, knows the territory better.
Thematically, we do not have anything here that the French director would not serve us in previous films. L’amant double is about a complicated feminine psyche, the boundaries of reality, discovering the hidden personalities of people whom we seem to know so well. The film fulfils its task perfectly as a captivating, surprising and suspenseful movie while using mainly clichés and recognisable patterns. Easier said than done, but Ozon does it without a hiccup.
dir. François Ozon
Starring: Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier
France, Belgium 2017
A Curzon Artificial Eye release premieres in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on the June 1st.