Wednesday, 28 March 2018

L’Amant Double (Francois Ozon, 2017)

Chloe (Marine Vacth), a young woman with a history of unexplained abdominal pain goes to a psychiatrist to figure out if it is a psychosomatic symptom of something buried deep in her psyche. Instead of a cure, she finds love with calm, easy-going analyst Paul (Jeremie Renier).

Eventually they move in together, and Chloe's pain appears to subside. Slowly her suspicions about Paul are peaked when she discovers another man, Louis (Renier), who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to her lover - but with a diametrically opposing personality and world view.

Excited and repulsed by Louis's sociopathic carnality, Chloe falls into a web of jealousy, sexual deceit and family secrets that will have her questioning who is telling the truth...

I was so excited heading into this movie: Francois Ozon re-teaming with Marine Vacth (star of his 2013 film Young & Beautiful) for an erotic thriller? Sign me up.


It's been over a week since I saw L’Amant Double, and it's hard to admit, but I was not on this movie's wave-length.

I feel bad for writing this but L’Amant Double feels like a movie that requires multiple viewings - and I do not have it in me to give the movie that much time. Ozon's movie is constantly undermining the viewer's sense of reality. This is a diegesis without rules - in terms of sexuality, ethical psychiatric practice, relationships or reality.

Before I go further, there will be spoilers, so if you are interested in seeing this movie, stop reading.

Ozon's approach is as cold and distant as it was in Young & Beautiful, but with an added layer of pitch-black irony which provided, for me, the highlights of the movie. And frankly, I was happy to have the levity.

The movie features some provocative imagery (the first shot is of a speculum encircling a cervix), but I found myself completely unmoved by it. There's a sequence based on our protagonist pegging her boyfriend - it's a good way to show how obliging and open-minded Paul is in comparison with his brother. There is another scene in which Chloe imagines a menage trois with the brothers (who, in one moment marred by suspect compositing, kiss each other in a tight close up). All of these moments have a bit of punch, but I was struggling to find a common root for all of these branches.  

For me, this is the type of movie that lives and dies on its finale. And that's where I felt it dropped the ball. Partially, it is the fault of expectation; partially the strength of the build-up failing to coalesce. I am not usually good at spotting twists, but about halfway in I was pretty sure that it was going to be revealed that Chloe had a twin. Not only is that the case, but the final revelation is so banal and medical (it turns out her stomach pain was caused by a combination of tissue that would have been her twin, but was absorbed by Chloe in the womb), that anything that was interesting or transgressive about the movie's focus on gender and sexuality just comes off as window-dressing.

As far as the acting goes, they are well-attuned to Ozon's perverse opaqueness. Vacth is solid as the lead, but the real star is Renier as the twin brothers. Their distinguishing feature is SNL-level silly, but the actor's characterisations are so distinctly different that they genuinely feel like different people. His milquetoast boyfriend Paul is so wholesome and metro it feels like a joke; his twin Louis is a Dionysian monster who feels perfectly pitched to our current climate.

The film's gender dynamics do feel tied to another era - Louis is a sexual predator who attacks every sexual encounter like a Viking raider. While part of the film's overall stance to agitate, it is really left up to the viewer to figure out why Chloe wants to have an affair with him in the first place. The absence of clear motive is interesting, but problematic.

To be honest, if the ending had won me over, maybe I would feel differently. An interesting watch, but not as mind-melting as I had hoped.

Previous review

Young and Beautiful

No comments:

Post a Comment