The Double Lover: The devil in the belly
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2017: François Ozon once again tries his hand at a new genre with the formal virtuosity of an architect, underpinned by unsettling visceral urges
Right from the opening of The Double Lover [+see also:
film profile], in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, with a haircut scene which transforms Marine Vacth, the young blossoming girl from his film Young and Beautiful [+see also:
interview: François Ozon
film profile](previously shown in competition on the Croisette) into an adult, and to show her to us straight away, body and soul (from the painful sweatiness of her inner self to her clammy face which is often thrown wide open by doubt and incomprehension), François Ozon sets the tone for an aesthetically marvellous film that frames a masterpiece in architecture, with its straight lines and cold spirals, and above all its imperfect symmetrical games and mirrors (real and figurative, right up to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris where Chloé works as an attendant for the exhibition on "flesh and blood"). The theme of twins is at the heart, not to mention the stomach, of the story told by this uninhibited erotic thriller, which is based on a crime novel written under the pseudonym of Joyce Carol Oates, which already gave rise to Faux-semblants by David Cronenberg (1988).
Our heroine, 25-year-old Chloe, has her appointment with her lover in the morning at the office of a psychoanalyst, Paul (beautifully played, as is his double, by Jérémie Renier), where she comes to lay herself bare, with all other medical specialists she’s seen having given up trying to understand the harrowing evil that has always torn her insides apart. Very quickly, the patient and the mysterious therapist succumb to their senses and move in together with Chloé’s cat, which Paul takes a suspicious disliking to, drawing the attention of a rather noxious busybody neighbour, who happens to work at a mausoleum for stuffed cats. But it is when our heroine thinks she sees Paul there when he shouldn’t be, obsessively starting to play the double agent to try and solve the mystery, splitting her partner into two at the same time in an exercise in psychoanalysis of a whole different type and discovering his wicked twin (wonderfully played by Renier, bis repetita...), that the film is set alight and takes on a more unsettling tone with its increasingly numerous shadows, which Ozon keeps a mystery with some superb frames playing on reflections and aspects and dizzying superpositions of faces (including that of Jacqueline Bisset, who comes back twice as a mother) and bodies, all against the backdrop of prenatal cannibalism.
That’s all we’ll say about the plot, except that it is carried by this style, masterful in its chilling physicality and its impeccable geometry, but without fuelling or justifying it, and that this is perhaps why we are not fully overcome by the suspense the film tries to instil, right up to the final scene in which Ozon suddenly unveils everything (in a misleading way, of course), in a rush. By picking up (perhaps too much, rather fittingly) on the motifs of the classic thriller/horror film in which a person is split into two (a genre that the president of the competition jury at Cannes, Pedro Almodovar, is himself familiar with), Ozon seems to trace out a spirograph rose: a fascinating shape, the regular dizzying convolutions of which captivate us instantly, almost producing an optical effect, and which has no other objective than itself.
(Translated from French)
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