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L’amant double (2017)

Directed by François Ozon

3 stars

Beautiful unemployed model Chloé (Marine Vacth), suffering from chronic stomach pains with no apparent physical basis, consults psychiatrist Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renier). Despite his overwhelmingly low-key approach (he barely speaks) she is soon feeling better, he has fallen in love with her (in an equally low-key way) and they have moved in together under the watchful eye of her cat Milo.

A series of chances leads Chloé to discover Paul has an identical twin brother, also a psychiatrist, though one with a much more hands-on approach. Soon she is involved with both brothers.

This is high melodrama of the psychosexual kind, but from its I-can’t-believe-you-just-put-a-movie-camera-there opening in her gynaecologist’s treatment room, to the scene near the end where a hospital’s reception is indicated by a seedy sign best translated as “Entrance” and an arrow indicating “down here”, it’s clear Ozon has his tongue firmly in his cheek.

Freely adapting Joyce Carol Oates’s “Lives of the Twins”, Ozon’s chief ingredients are sex, and twins, and rough sex, and cats, and mothers (Jacqueline Bisset), and illness, and cake, and sex with twins. At one point, Chloé briefly acquires a second head, the better to engage with her twin lovers.

For much of the film, Chloé is glacially, elegantly subdued, catwalking her way to her job as an art-gallery attendant, the only classically beautiful exhibit amongst an increasingly visceral series of art installations.

It becomes clear that much of this is happening in Chloé’s head (as well as other parts of her body) but even after the slightly rushed denouement some things are left unanswered.

Most of the time it’s quite fun, and it gives Ozon ample opportunity to reference his hero Hitchcock, from Marnie, through Spellbound, to Vertigo (check out the spiral staircase at the entrance to frère Louis’s consulting rooms) while Alien and The Manitou also seem to get a look in.

But the film’s biggest flaw is that both main characters remain so minimally sympathetic that it’s hard to care much about what happens to them. You may manage more than the slightly amused detached engagement I could muster, but I doubt it.

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