François Ozon has an eclectic and varied filmography as a director, veering from the gentle fun of Potiche to the more sinister In the House. L’Amant Double definitely falls into the latter category, but that doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had.
The film opens with an eye-popping scene that we rarely see on the big screen (unless you go to a lot of obs and gynae conferences). And as this film is concerned with a woman’s sexuality, initially under wraps and then unleashed, I suppose it’s fair to take a literal peak at her hidden sex. The woman in question is Chloé (Marine Vacth, who also starred in Ozon’s Young & Beautiful). She’s got stomach cramps and can’t find any physical reason for it. Her gynaecologist suggests therapy and off Chloé goes to the office of Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renier), a psychoanalyst cute as a button who has something of the young Michael York about him. When he breaks off their professional relationship due to his feelings for her, it isn’t long before Chloé and her excellent cat Milo are moving in with the adorable doc. But while the woman has unburdened her secrets to him, what does she actually know about Paul? It turns out, not a lot, and so the fun begins.
When Chloé and Paul move into their new apartment – on the thirteenth floor, which is unlucky for some – she discovers a box containing Paul’s past, including a passport bearing the surname Delord. When confronted, he has a reasonable explanation, but when she sees him outside a building with another woman, she realises he has more secrets to be disclosed.
The most obvious parallel to this film is David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, with Jeremy Irons as the twin gynaecologists messing with Genevieve Bujold, for Paul has an identical twin who is also a psychoanalyst. But where Paul is all messy hair and cute sweaters, his brother Louis looks like something between the Milk Tray Man and a Bond villain, complete with purring fluffy cat. And it’s fair to say that Louis’ methods are unconventional, to say the least. As Chloé embarks on an affair with this psychopathic psychoanalyst, she can finally let go of her inhibitions, but at what cost?
Cats play a big role in this film: there’s the handsome Milo, which Paul can’t stand as he doesn’t want another male in the house, Louis’ rare male tortoiseshell and Chloé’s new neighbour’s stuffed feline friend. The neighbour Rose (Myriam Boyer) is so much fun to watch, and she adds to the surreal madness of the story. However, to say there are mad cat ladies in this film is a bit sexist as Louis could be the maddest of them all.
Ozon leads us on the search for the truth as Chloé digs deeper into the men’s past. The whole thing is completely bonkers and Ozon pushes the audience’s a little too far, but there are some genuinely creepy moments as well as plenty of laughs. There are some neat visual connections, particularly to fairy tales, for when Chloé is at work in the museum she wanders down an installation of an avenue of trees. Later we see her running near a real forest at night, pursued by her demons. The actors all seem to be enjoying themselves and there’s a nice little cameo from Jacqueline Bisset. This is far from being Ozon’s best film, for he is capable of producing more nuanced, interesting works, but for the sheer doolalliness of it L’Amant Double is worth a watch.