Cannes 2017: François Ozon’s Amant Double

On Film / The Daily — May 26, 2017

“After a foray into relatively restrained period filmmaking in the recent, World War I-set Frantz, François Ozon is back to his old tricks—and really, who's complaining?” asks Jon Frosch in the Hollywood Reporter. “Premiering in competition at Cannes, the French auteur's L'amant double certainly won't win any prizes for taste, coherence or originality. But it's got style, sex appeal and a delicious streak of batshit crazy that this year's sleepy main slate sorely needed—think endoscopic vaginal shots, ‘twincest’ fantasies, voyeuristic cats both live and stuffed, a creepy, perennially cake-bearing neighbor and Jacqueline Bisset in a dual role. (And I didn't even mention the strap-on.)”

Wait, endoscopic what? Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan elaborates, noting that, “while L'amant double’s lovingly photographed close-up of a vagina certainly sent a jolt through the audience, it wasn’t just the vagina that made this moment an instant classic. It’s what Ozon did next that sealed the deal: The director match cut from one oval shape to another, dissolving from Chloé’s vagina to a shot of Chloé’s eye, the folds of skin around each matching up almost exactly. And then, just as the audience thought to themselves, He really did that, huh? Ozon took things one step further: A single fucking tear fell out of the eye. It was so ridiculous, so earnest, and so beyond the beyond that the audience had to applaud. That is a serious chutzpah cut.”

“Based on the novel Lives of the Twins by Joyce Carol Oates under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith, this stylish over-the-top genre cocktail combines satire, melodrama, tongue-in-cheek horror tropes complete with a David Cronenberg homage, cats galore, and lots of sex,” writes Barbara Scharres at RogerEbert.com. “It may just be Pedro Almodóvar’s thing, and at Cannes, the jury president is king.”

At Ioncinema, Nicholas Bell gives the film 3.5 out of five stars and sets it up for us:

Chloé (Marine Vacth) is urged by her gynecologist (Dominique Reymond) to see a psychoanalyst regarding her nagging gastrointestinal issues. However, upon meeting with Paul (Jérémie Renier), Chloé finds her growing attraction to him getting in the way of their therapy. Paul’s feelings are mutual, and soon after ending their professional relationship, they move in together. But Chloé quickly realizes she doesn’t know much about Paul after all, and upon learning he changed his last name as a young adult, she begins to dig into his past. Immediately, she discovers Paul has a twin, who is also a psychoanalyst, albeit one with significantly unorthodox methods. Feigning a need to consult him, she soon embarks on an affair which begins to burn out of control.

“The softcore silliness and lite-erotic stylings of François Ozon’s horribly middleweight psycho-suspense thriller may yet give it camp classic status, like a super-porny version of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected,” suggests the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “Actually it looks a bit like a mock-sophisticated version of a Claude Chabrol movie based on Ruth Rendell.”

For Screen’s Allan Hunter, “a combination of Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Verhoeven and Mel Brooks” comes to mind. “It has a ridiculous, misogynistic feel like a daring coffee table magazine spread from the naughty 1990s that has somehow re-emerged in the 21st century.”

With Amant Double, I wanted to create a sexual thriller with strong psychological tension,” Ozon tells Variety’s Elsa Keslassy. “The idea was not to shock but rather depict the complexity of lust. It’s definitely a departure from Frantz which was rather chaste; the two protagonists did nothing more than exchanging a kiss. Amant Double has more of a thriller bent than Young & Beautiful.

Updates, 5/27: “Ozon’s Alfred Hitchcock influences have never been hard to spot,” writes the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin. “His previous film, Frantz, was an elegant rethinking of Vertigo in postwar Europe. But here he tears his shirt off and goes full Brian De Palma, with sinuous tracking shots, shattering glass and mad narrative gambits in which the lines between reality and illusion are deviously blurred, and certain objects are piled up with absurd degrees of metaphorical significance: just wait for the stuff with the cats.”

“Ozon is less concerned with the dynamic between twins than he is the notions of double lives, shadow desires, and the human lust to fill the negative space that’s carved out by our choices,” writes David Ehrlich at IndieWire. “‘When I’m with him I want to be with you,’ Chloé tells Louis, ‘and when I’m with you I want to be with him.’ Ozon recognizes that reconciling those mirrored desires can be fun, and frightening, and even a little dangerous, and so he’s made a trashy, gorgeously styled movie that can be fun, and frightening, and even a little dangerous.”

“It’s possible to see something vaguely sexist in L’amant double’s love triangle, in which Chloé is torn between the buttoned-up, sensitive savior, who may have ‘cured’ her of her psychosomatic condition, and his negging twin, who treats her with a brutish, aggressive ‘honesty’ in both the office and the bedroom,” writes A. A. Dowd at the A.V. Club. “But in Ozon’s hands, the material is such knowing pulp—drunk on its own arch luridness—that it resists any reading that treats the pathologies, or their implications, remotely seriously.”

“For those who know Ozon’s work, L’amant double constitutes a most welcome return to the frisky pleasures of his early career, when he steamed up the screen with the likes of Criminal Lovers and Swimming Pool,” writes Variety’s Peter Debruge.

L’amant double was an opportunity to either intellectually stimulate or titillate its audience with campy debauchery, but in trying to do both, it achieves neither,” finds David Acacia at the International Cinephile Society.

“He won’t be getting any new fans with this latex-wrapped identity mystery, but his kaleidoscopic palette has become all the richer thanks to this fun-filled indulgent entry,” adds Nikola Grozdanovic at the Playlist.

More from Bénédicte Prot at Cineuropa.

Update, 5/28: Ozon “never quite manages to lift his material above the realm of psychosexual camp,” writes Rory O’Connor at the Film Stage. “Then again, perhaps his aim isn’t any higher.”

Update, 5/29: “A female friend sat next to me, muttering ‘I hate this movie, I hate this movie,’ while I sat on the edge of my seat, clapping with delight every few minutes,” writes Vulture’s Jada Yuan. “The obvious comparison is to Dead Ringers, David Cronenberg’s 1988 creepy surrealist thriller featuring Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists in sexual competition with one another, though the central mystery of L’amant double is far less twisted, with far less body horror—which it makes up for with way, way more sex.”

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