Double Lover ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

[6]

Twinsies!

I've long ago given up looking for some coherent intellectual or aesthetic thread among the films of François Ozon. And so, it seems, has Ozon, since many of his recent efforts have been minor variations on the kinds of affable middlebrow French comedies that seldom get shown in the U.S. Without Ozon's brand name, and the stars he can attract, who would see things like Potiche or The New Girlfriend? Then you've got a film-historical stunt like Franz. And oh yeah, there was Young & Beautiful, one of the few semi-throwbacks to Ozon's "transgressive" days.

The Double Lover is another one of those would-be provocative items. Ozon is once again working with Marine Vacth, and has Jérémie Renier and, believe it or not, Jacqueline Bisset along for the ride. There is actually a rather impressive streak of perversity coursing through The Double Lover, but of course one has to abide a lot of sheer nonsense to access it. Vacth plays Chloé, a young woman who, due to parental abandonment issues, has trouble with intimacy. She is referred to Dr. Paul Meyer (Renier), a therapist who treats her for awhile until he has to pull the plug on their sessions. Alas, he has fallen in love with her. Shortly after this indecent disclosure, Chloé and Paul fuck.

This is treated like a big nothing in this film, which is part of what makes The Double Lover both compelling and infuriating. There is a baseline of turpitude that is simply accepted, partly because things get more and more warped as they go along. In terms of formal construction, both plotwise and one a shot-by-shot level, Ozon is pretty clearly chanelling De Palma channelling Hitchcock, which tends to elevate the material to the level of consistent watchability. But the story is a bit like a David Cronenberg riff on Fifty Shades of Grey.

Wait, I probably made that sound cooler than it is. Most of the hidden "secrets" are obvious from the jump, and the whole question of doubling and twinning starts out in Vertigo / Dead Ringers territory and soon goes off the rails into something that resembles a tony, upscale Takashi Miike effort. (Again, probably overselling.) There is a deep dumbness to The Double Lover, and unfortunately the film seems at times to take itself rather seriously. (Doesn't mean you have to.)

But this seems like it's the most genuinely engaged that Ozon has been in a long time, like he's actually having fun. The Double Lover may not be Ozon's Body Double, but at least he's gotten out of his doddy bubble.