Cohen Media Group
Chris Nashawaty
February 14, 2018 AT 01:26 PM EST

Double Lover

type
Movie
release date
02/14/18
runtime
107 minutes
performer
Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier
director
Francois Ozon

We gave it a B+

Francois Ozon’s new film Double Lover — somewhat perversely opening on Valentine’s Day — is the kind of deliriously trashy psychosexual thriller that only the French seem to be able to pull off with a straight face. It’s like Dead Ringers meets Body Double with a kinky, winking full-frontal Gallic twist.

Some, no doubt, will find it too preposterous for words (or, in this case, subtitles). Others (like yours truly) will find themselves in camp heaven.

Whether he’s working his way through the overheated paces of a genre movie (Swimming Pool) or grasping for something more historical and high-brow (Frantz), Ozon is one of those directors who’s always worth following simply because he knows what he’s doing. And even though Double Lover lays on the erotic provocations with a trowel and rubs your face in symbolism (mirrors, mirrors everywhere!), Ozon’s latest import is crafted with timepiece precision. You may not like where it goes, but at least it’s confident about where it’s going and how it’s getting there.

Marine Vacth, the willowy Jane Birkin lookalike from Ozon’s Young & Beautiful, stars as Chloé—a former model who starts seeing a shrink to get to the root of her chronic stomach pains. And the director makes our introduction to his protagonist in the most outrageous way imaginable: in a gynecologist’s office, with the camera capturing a close-up to end all close-ups. (Is the scene graphic? Yes. But it’s also more artful than it may seem at first when you’re too busy clutching your pearls.) The doctor tells Chloé that there is nothing physically wrong with her. Her pain is psychological. Which is how she finds herself in the office of Jeremie Renier’s Paul. After several sessions, the line between doctor and patient gets blurred and Paul trades their professional relationship for a romantic one. She moves in. And her stomach pains even begin to go away. Then, of course, things get weird….

One day, Chloé thinks she sees Paul from afar on the street. But it turns out it isn’t him. Paul has an identical twin named Louis who’s also a shrink (Renier has a blast doing double-duty à la Jeremy Irons). Paul won’t cop to having a twin brother, and Chloé starts sleuthing around and seeing Louis as a patient in order to learn more about her new lover’s secret…which naturally means that they quickly end up in the sack. Whereas Paul is gentle and warm and nurturing, Louis is bullying and cold and sexually aggressive.

Again, this is just foreplay for the insanity on tap. If it sounds like I’m being cagey, that’s because it’s best not to know too much about where this racy doppelgänger funhouse is headed. But let’s just say none of it is going to do any good for Chloé’s mental health.

There’s more than a whiff of Hitchcock to all of this. But unlike Hitch, Ozon has a ratings-free license to spice things up with a decathlon of artfully-lit shagging that makes Fifty Shades Freed look like a Family Circus comic strip. Adapted from a story by Joyce Carol Oates, Double Lover won’t win any citations for progressiveness when it comes to its sexual politics (Chloé may be overly curious, but she’s also painted as a willing victim) or its representation of twins (which are drawn as freakish, monstrously unstable curiosities). But movies like this one seem to reside in a zone beyond political correctness and trigger warnings. They’re designed purely to titillate, tease, and twist logic past its breaking point. And on that score, Ozon’s wickedly hyperventilating thriller is cheese that’s well-crafted enough to earn the honor of being called fromage. B+

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