Director: François Ozon
My experience in foreign language films might not be impressive, but two modern, French-speaking directors stand out when I think about my favorites, or even those who I have watched multiple movies from. One is Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother, Laurence Anyways, Tom at the Farm, It’s Only the End of the World), and the other is Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, Young & Beautiful, Frantz). Ozon has a unique vision that eliminates borders, that makes itself felt in any language, that I enjoy experiencing every time. I didn’t love Double Lover as much as his other films; in fact I found it full of problems. But that doesn’t stop it from being another stunning feature from this great director, a movie that didn’t find its mark in me, but which still commands your attention and your time.
Chloe is an ex-model who finds herself living without a purpose, and experiencing piercings stomach pains, which her doctors think are entirely mental. So she decides to visit an analyst to talk her way through her problems; her mother’s absence, her feelings of inadequacy, her inability to connect with the world around her. Her therapist, Paul, is a great listener, comments infrequently, simply letting Chloe unburden herself of all her issues and fears; a basic tactic that works wonders for this beautiful young woman. Eventually, Chloe and Paul feel a connection between themselves, and they end their professional relationship so that they can take their personal relationship to the next level.
The pair move in together, Chloe’s cat Milo joining the party, and all seems well for a period of time. But Paul is hiding something, and it will drive a wedge between the young couple. Apparently Paul changed his last name some time back, for which he claims were just business reasons. But Chloe soon finds out that Paul has a twin brother, Louis, who is also an analyst, one with an entirely different approach. As Chloe begins to see him for therapy and to delve more deeply into the secrets that surely exist between these estranged brothers, she finds herself torn between her attractive to both twins. What comes next is as shocking as it is hard to understand, as the line between reality and fantasy blurs until no one knows what is truly happening.
The film starts with Chloe cutting her hair very short and then an extremely close look at the inside of her vagina during a gynecological exam. It’s abrupt and edge-setting, I’m sure on purpose, but I don’t believe it had the desired effect. If it was meant to de-sexualize her, to make her a character instead of an object, then I get the point and appreciate the seriousness with which Ozon took this story. But it really only served to make audiences uncomfortable, to make the later sex of the film painful and upsetting and grotesque, instead of in any way pleasurable. Again, if that was the aim, Ozon did his job well, I’m just not sure he thought through the repercussions of making that sort of impact on an audience, of saying yes there will be a lot of sex, but you really aren’t supposed to enjoy it, so get ready to feel guilty if you still enjoy watching any of the actors undress.
So it’s complicated and hard to describe, the feeling that the film is a twisted romance but that we are only supposed to focus on the twisted part. Make the story sexual or don’t, I wouldn’t recommend making it overtly sexual and then also overtly not; it’s a mixed message that never smoothed out. Ozon is a fantastic director, but the plot beat him up and took control of the film, he was never holding the reins, and neither were the actors, unfortunately. Vacth and Renier (twice over) were very strong in every scene, they never took a take off, but the material was just so odd, so dark, so high and low, that their characters could never settle into a specific grove. Also, too many dreams and fantasies made the timeline choppy and unreliable, until you never could tell what was real and what was fake, so much so that by the end you gave up trying, and any reveals simply weren’t that revolutionary. Too many mistakes were made and missteps taken for this film to be anything other than impressive but not actually good.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and shot using an Arri Alexa camera with Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo lenses, the video quality of the Blu-ray was very nice, with a clear picture that’s as good as you could ask for from a drama with little to no action. The cinematography focused often on mirror images and duplicates, which was a little expected and amateur; the movie was adapted from a Joyce Carol Oates novel, so perhaps the filmmakers were just translating some of the imagery in the book, it just wasn’t a very original idea.
Audio – The Blu-ray was done in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English. That’s it for the sound, and I couldn’t even comment on the score because it made so very little impact. The film focuses on conversations and quiet moments, with some dream sequences that are more “out there”. But the audio doesn’t stand out in either a positive or a negative way.
Extras – Only two bonus features are available on the disc: a Conversation From The Quad with Francois Ozon and Marine Vacth, and a theatrical trailer.
Rent It. This is the weakest Ozon film I have seen, and it’s still not awful. The man is a talented director who’s due a low moment every now and again, I have faith that his future projects will be returns to his stellar form. This one just didn’t sit well with me, bothered me on too many levels, and never developed into something special. Perhaps the story is a favorite of Ozon’s, because it felt like he forced a plot that wasn’t good enough to be a film into theatres anyway, and even great acting couldn’t save what was always going to happen from happening. The video was nice, the audio fine, there aren’t many extras, so the film definitely doesn’t focus on the technical, instead aiming at the dramatic, and hitting it square in the nose. I simply didn’t enjoy watching, despite strong aspects here and there, but I’m ready to give this cast and crew another chance a different time.
☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay