Double trouble for women in Ozon's psychopathic twin tale

One of the twins comforts Chloé in 'Double Lover'
By Moira Sullivan

Double Lover premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, a narrative by François Ozon starring Jérémie Renier who doubles as twins and Marine Vacth as his lover. In the space of 30 years two films with the same premise based on novels written by women have captured the public imagination. As Godard says, we don’t create for ourselves but for consumers. Since one of the twins is a misogynist and psychopath and the other "a kind of nice guy", were these two novels trying to create a perfect man by taking the bad boy out?

Two famous male directors have selected this theme,  "twins" – one from Canada and the other from France who are delighted that there is a bad boy to be discovered which makes for a perfect thriller. It does not matter that women are deceived,  intimidated and physically assaulted, it’s part of why this kind of suspense thriller works. But is it a film that you want to see on Valentine’s Day when it opens in the US, or any day for that matter?

Claire ( Genevieve Bujold) comforts one of the twins in Dead Ringers

David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988) was a screenplay adaption of Killing Gift by Bari Wood (1975). Genevieve Bujold plays Claire Niveau, a famous actress who falls for one of the famous gynecologists - Bev and Elly Mantle played by Jeremy Irons, who have been deceiving women they trade off with each other. The mystery is based on an intrigue that no one can tell them apart – not the man nor the behavior.  Double Lover has a similar premise with screenplay adaption by Ozon of the novel Lives of the Twins written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1987.

Although Claire Nieveau can figure out which twin is which, 25 year old Chloé Fortin (Marine Vacth) can not. Jérémie Renier plays Paul Meyer, a successful psychiatrist whose patient becomes Chloé. Breaking all professional ethics, he allows her to fall in love and move in. She later discovers he has an alter ego Lois Delord, who is the bad boy of the two. She figures this out primarily because Paul hates cats and Louis does not (!) A love hate relationship ensues to add to her trouble to be worked out by her psychiatrist husband which includes physical assault by his twin.

There is a gynecologist angle in the film as well in Double Lover.  Dr Agnès Wexler (Dominique Reymond) encourages Chloe to start seeing Paul for therapy to cure her of her imaginary stomach pains. While it is perhaps better with a woman gynecologist in this film than lecherous males in Dead Ringers, what business does she have of making recommendations for dating to a patient in an exam. The subtext is that all Chloé needs is a man to take away her pains. Veteran actress Jacqueline Bissett who plays Chloé’s mother does not have much to do in this film, who like Vacth started off by modeling and then playing roles about beautiful women, who are naive or femme fatales. Nowadays she gets roles as monstrous females.

Marine Vacth worked with Ozon five years ago in “Young and Beautiful”. Today at 26 she still is young and beautiful as well as a model and the script calls for a young model who needs therapy.

Double Lover is framed with slick art direction in a film about beautiful people who need perversion and assault to make their flawless physiques believable. Neither Cronenberg or Ozon seem to think well about women where double lovers are only double trouble for them.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 02/14/18
Movie Magazine International