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Disenchanted with the ephemeral glamour of the modelling world, Chloé, a vulnerable Parisian woman of 25, is convinced that the severe and persistent abdominal pains she's been suffering, stem mainly from a psychosomatic disorder. As a result, the reserved beauty will soon find herself on the couch of the charming therapist, Dr Paul Meyer, nevertheless, the mutual and unfailing sexual attraction between them will make it impossible to continue with the therapy. Before long, the ecstatic, yet unexplored lovers will move in together, however, Paul's obscure past will inevitably lead Chloé to the conclusion that there's definitely more to him than meets the eye. Is the doe-eyed woman lured into a world of hallucinations and dream-like sequences?Written by
Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears
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Not nearly as smart as it thinks it is
From prolific French auteur François Ozon, L'amant double is partly a study of sexual obsession, partly an oneiric mystery (think Neil Jordan's In Dreams (1999)), and partly a conventional thriller (more whoisit than whodunnit). "Freely adapted" from Joyce Carol Oates's 1987 novel Lives of the Twins (published under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith), and written by Ozon and Philippe Piazzo, the film tells the story of Chloé (Marine Vacth), a woman with a fragile mental state, who falls passionately in love with her psychoanalyst, Paul (Jérémie Renier). Within a few months, she has moved in, however, as time goes by, she slowly starts to learn of a significant part of his identity which he has been concealing.
Imagine, if you will, Vertigo (1958) remade by someone like Gaspar Noé or Lars von Trier, and you'd be some way towards getting a handle on Ozon's latest; completely barmy (you know you're in strange territory when the second shot of a movie is, quite literally, an internal shot of a vagina). As one would expect from Ozon, the aesthetics are solid - the film is built upon an inventive visual style employing juxtaposition, pseudo-split screen, and copious amounts of shots with one person in the frame proper, and the person to whom they're talking only visible in reflection. The sound effects are also excellent and really jolt you out of your seat on a couple of occasions. Similarly, the acting is strong, with Vacth and Renier unrecognisable in their respective roles.
However, the melodramatic and self-congratulatory plot is an absolute mess. Many of Ozon's standard tropes are here; a dissection of the academic middle class/intelligentsia, an examination of the schism between appearance and reality, an attempt to elucidate the mind of a complex woman, a psychoanalytical bedrock, the mutability of identity etc. But it's all diffused through an utterly farcical narrative, which fails to get even the basics right. For example, sex is a central theme, but by the time we get to the fourth or fifth sex scene, it has completely lost its potency (compare, for example, the infinitely superior La vie d'Adèle (2013), where sexuality is just as central, but which features only two sex scenes). The same goes for the increasingly ridiculous plot twists, once you get to three or four and you're still in the first half of the movie, you just stop caring. Ozon has always been hit and miss, for every Sitcom (1998) and Swimming Pool (2003), there's an Angel (2007) and a Ricky (2009), and L'amant double is, in the end, a rather pointless film that seems to think it's saying something exceptionally profound about desire and identity. It isn't.
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