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Foreign Film Friday: L'amant Double review - a wild, kinky, doppelgänger nightmare

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Verdict: Maybe not one for the casual cinema-goer, but a twisted treat for fans of erotic thrillers.

There’s a delicious sort of sickness laced within François Ozon’s latest film. A perverse, psychosexual drama based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel Lives of Twins, L’amant Double (or Double Lover) doesn’t so much skate around its incestuous underlinings as it does dive right into them like an excited cannonball.

Add in a concoction of countless dream sequences and some heavy-handed mirror imagery and you can imagine the taste would leave you bitter. But this is an Ozon film, and the results are devilishly enjoyable.

The plot centres around the distressed psyche of an ex-model named Chloé (Marine Vacth, the star of Ozon’s 2013 film Jeune et Jolie) who, after complaining of persistent stomach aches, is referred to a psychotherapist named Paul (a brilliant Jérémie Renier). Their relationship quickly segues from the professional to the carnal as both declare their attraction for one another, leading to former therapist and former patient quickly moving in together.

Chloé soon becomes suspicious, however, after discovering that Paul is hiding a secret from her involving his previously unknown twin brother Louis - also a psychotherapist.

The differences between Paul and Louis are like night and day, making Renier’s dual performance all the more riveting. The former is caring and quiet; the latter, cruel and biting. This is best illustrated through the brothers’ office settings, with Paul’s consisting of rich, warm, earthy tones, while Louis’ is a cold, domineering monochrome.

They are opposites in every sense save for appearance and profession - “mirror twins”, as Louis leeringly puts it. As Chloé delves further into the skeletons in the brothers’ closet, her kinky affair with Louis becomes equally as twisted.

Comparisons to Hitchcock and Cronenberg have been coming in aplenty and they’re hardly unfounded, from a Vertigo-esque shot of a winding staircase right down to the doppelgänger themes at play (any Dead Ringers fans?).

But Ozon certainly makes it his own, if not in the first two thirds then certainly by the final act, which becomes so wildly nonsensical it’s difficult to decide whether or not to trust anything you’re seeing (which may well be the point).

Drama becomes melodrama, suspense becomes a wide-eyed what-the-hell-is-going-on, yet it never once stops being engrossing. Much like Chloé, you know what’s happening is sick and ridiculous but Ozon, as well as the cast’s fierce commitment, makes it impossible to look away.

Sadistic eroticism aside, L’amant Double ultimately shows us a woman struggling with herself and her identity. The opening credits sequence tells us this immediately: an offscreen figure chops at Chloé’s once long hair as she stares passively at the floor before meeting the camera’s gaze, the sound of scissors snipping growing louder and louder. While the film itself may struggle with identity issues of its own, it’s also having too much fun to care. And so are we.

L'Amant Double is in cinemas now, distributed by Curzon. 

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