For its first two thirds, François Ozon’s Amant Double feels like the most stereotypically French film ever made. Starring androgynous ingénue Chloé (Marine Vacth) who works in a modern art gallery and engages in very explicit affairs with identical twin psychotherapists Paul and Louis (both Jeremie Renier), the only way it could seem more like self-parody is if it were in black and white.
After the rather chaste (by his standards) Frantz, Ozon returns to his sexually audacious ways in the very first scene of Amant Double, with the first thing we see of Chloé being the inside of her vagina. It’s winkingly smutty, and earns the gasps and titters it seeks, but also announces that this is absolutely a style-over-substance effort. As the increasingly convoluted story develops, audience attention is held by snazzy visuals, Ozon bending time and space with editing tricks, a technique he uses to spice up both conversations and sex scenes.
You cannot escape just how nonsensical everything is, though. Character motivations shift on a dime and plot reveals get ever more ridiculous, and no amount of nude therapy can distract from that. In the final act, Ozon goes for broke with some absolutely mad set-pieces and dream sequences that have the power to genuinely frighten and thrill. It means that Amant Double is occasionally riveting in the moment, even if nothing stands up to a moment’s scrutiny in retrospect. Pseudoscience about twins and Paul and Louis’s mysterious past act as baggage, and if you’re looking for an accurate portrayal of helpful counselling, this is decidedly not it.
Everything falls apart completely at the final reveal, with a maddening twist cheapening the whole film immensely and rendering the story as an even sillier exercise than it initially seems. And that is very silly indeed.
CAST: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset
DIRECTOR: François Ozon
WRITER: François Ozon
SYNOPSIS: Chloé, a fragile young woman, falls in love with her psychoanalyst, Paul. A few months later she moves in with him, but soon discovers that her lover is concealing a part of his identity.