Blu-ray Review: Double Lover (2017)

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You could call Double Lover a double of a double. Penned by Joyce Carol Oates under a second name of Rosamund Smith, François Ozon's kinky psychosexual thriller is the second adaptation of her 1988 novel Lives of the Twins.

And while the source material is used merely as a jumping off point, Ozon's film is a product of extensive homage to the point that viewers just might begin seeing double.

Revolving around Chloe, a fragile twenty-five year old woman (played by Marine Vacth) who fears that her ex-psychiatrist turned lover Paul (Jérémie Renier) is not the man he seems, the film owes a great deal to David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, the oeuvre and aesthetics of Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her comes to mind), and the granddaddy of cinematic voyeurism, Alfred Hitchcock (by way of Rebecca, Vertigo, and Marnie).

After first discovering a passport belonging to Paul that's registered to him under a different name and later seeing a man who could easily be his double with another woman, Eva decides to find out just what exactly is going on at the risk of her relationship as well as her sanity.

Filled with erotic symbolism and Freudian subtext, Lover opens with an iris shot it revisits moments later, moving from an extreme gynecological close-up to the iris of our heroine's eye in one startling (and frankly cringe-worthy) cut.

Continuing its iris motif shortly thereafter as we encounter the first of many long spiral staircases that we'll see over the course of Lover, Ozon's new cinematographer Manuel Dacosse and his frequent editor Laure Gardette have a blast infusing not only the circular shape but the idea of doubles throughout.

Weaving in dual split-screen imagery of Chloe from different angles as she makes a confession in therapy early on as well as another cut which shows our lead multiplied roughly a half a dozen times as she approaches a mirror that slowly decreases back into a single shot, Lover does intriguing things with perspective and foreshadowing that keeps the viewer on their toes.

Losing a great deal of its momentum and purported mystery at the end of its first act once it makes its first big reveal, as Chloe's journey to discover more about her lover predictably evolves into a journey of sexual discovery, Ozon's work grows increasingly ridiculous.

And similar to the way that Ozon miscalculated the effect the speculum closeup would have on half of the audience that visits the gynecologist, he doesn't seem to understand that some of its most taboo scenes beg to be played with an entirely different tone (if kept at all), which only becomes more apparent as Double becomes a sort of sexual roller coaster... minus the fun.

Not trusting the character of Choe enough to let the viewer see things from the very eye he'd zoomed into at the start of the film, Ozon and his cowriter Philippe Piazzo convey way too much through expositional dialogue and likewise, undercut what could've been a vastly more effective moment of horror through voyeurism.

Forcing the viewer to watch something happen to our lead from halfway across the room in a penultimate sequence that would've worked so much better if we'd been able to experience it from her own perspective, Lover keeps everyone at an arm's length and leaves us cold.

Despite some technically dazzling moments that recalled David Fincher's The Game, which might've worked better in an altogether different Hitchcockian work, the film marks a rare disappointment from one of France's most daring contemporary masters.

Trying to distract us with Freudian imagery of cats and circles instead of ensuring the thriller's plotline would be dazzling enough to tie us in knots, Double Lover reminds viewers that although Oates is hard to adapt, this time around, Ozon might've been better off sticking to the book.

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