With Amant Double, there is the sense that French director François Ozon is returning to where he is most comfortable: sexual psychodrama. While Ozon’s filmography has some notable exceptions – the high-camp comedy Potiche among them – he seems to be most at home when straddling the line between erotica and horror. Now, after several films that explored different genres, he has gone back to his roots, ploughing the same furrow of some of his best works: Under the Sand, Swimming Pool, and In the House.
Amant Double is, therefore, a double disappointment, both for what it is, and the realisation of what it could have been. Marine Vacth plays Chloé, a withdrawn young woman suffering from stomach pains, which doctors insist are psychological in origin. She sees a charming young psychiatrist, Paul (Jérémie Renier), who calls off their sessions after falling in love with her, thus allowing them to begin a physical relationship. Of course, their happiness cannot last for long, and – after happening to see a man who looks exactly like Paul – Chloé stumbles upon his identical twin brother Louis, also a psychiatrist, with whom she embarks on an affair. Paul denies the existence of Louis, and, as she tries to uncover the truth, Chloé veers closer and closer to hystria.
Stylistically, this is Ozon at his most indulgent, taking cues from Bergman, Hitchcock, and Cronenberg to create a tableau of imaginative, thrilling images. The opening sequence, which replicates Psycho’s drain-eye cut with a far more intimate part of the anatomy, is worth the admission price alone, as is the introductory analysis sequence, in which split screens show the same sequence from different angles, disrupting the idea of the camera-as-eye.
In terms of the plot, although based on a Joyce Carol Oates short story, Ozon borrows liberally from classics such as Vertigo and Rosemary’s Baby. He even puts Myriam Boyer in as a wonderfully invasive neighbour, with shades of Ruth Gordon’s imposing matriarch. Unfortunately, while the sexual elements may be subversive, little else is. While films like Rosemary’s Baby explore the way women’s lived experienced are written off as hysteria, Ozon only partly tackles this idea. He ends up reinforcing boring ideas around pregnancy and neurosis.
Vacth has developed since her role in Jeune et Jolie, but still retains an air of impassive hauteur that can be difficult to enjoy. Renier is much stronger, playing both twins with equal aplomb, despite opposing personalities.
Amant Double is a lot of fun, and – while it could certainly do with a sharp trim – most of it rattles along at an enjoyable, campy pace. By ratcheting up the drama to ten pretty much from the off, however, Ozon loses us long before the credits roll.
Dir: François Ozon. Script: François Ozon. Starring: Marine Vacth; Jérémie Renier; Jacqueline Bisset. 110 minutes