(Release Info London schedule; May 29th, 2018, Curzon Soho, 18:20)
Crafting a deliriously cinematic web of suspense, shock, eroticism, and power dynamics, director François Ozon returns with "Double Lover".
Chloé (Marine Vacth), who works as a guard at a museum in Paris, seeks to shore up her resiliency and enters psychoanalysis. In Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renier), the sensitive patient finds a caring psychiatrist who helps her overcome bouts with depression. Following the end of the treatment, both realize that they've fallen in love. A new chapter begins for Chloé when she and Paul move in together, yet Chloé soon comes to believe that Paul is keeping a secret. She impulsively visits another psychiatrist, Louis Delord (Jérémie Renier). Spiraling emotional and sexual stakes will push all three of them to extremes, forcing Chloé to take action in order to solve a mystery and save herself. It's an intense exploration of a woman venturing into dangerous romance.
This movie is an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates novel 'Live Of The Twins'. The book has a precise writing style, keen psychological observations, complex characters, and smart storylines. The book tells the story in a more realistic way. The film explores the American author’s themes of neuroses, sex, and the dark side of split personalities. The film follows Chloé’s therapy the same way a psychiatrist might listen to his patients, in a floating way. The visual effects and changing viewpoints in the first sessions almost play against the dialogue. Initially Chloé sits monologuing about her dreams, her feelings and emotions, her family; and the audience should listen carefully in these first 10 minutes. J.C. Oates’ book focuses on the young woman caught between two men. It's important to place Chloé at the center of the movie.
Chloé interacts, from the opening scene, in surprising ways with older women. Each of them holds importance in her journey. These women can all be seen as mother figures. At the beginning of the film, Chloé mentions an absent mother during her session with Paul. She expresses herself very differently, depending on which man she’s with. When it’s Paul, she’s well-behaved and reserved. When it’s Louis, she reveals herself as more daring and provocative, even as she lets herself be dominated by him. Chloé’s evolution can be seen in how she chooses to dress, and how she expresses her femininity. Sometimes the rest an absence of femininity. Encyclopedic knowledge isn’t what leads her to the truth. Chloé is riddled with contradictions. She's never clear and yet she’s always transparent. She’s very alive in all circumstances. The film embodies Chloé’s truth and evoke the realism of each situation, bearing in mind the complexities of hernpersonality. There's a secret within Chloé; she seeks the key to unlock it, and we’re right there with her on her quest.
The starting point for Paul and Louis is simple and binary; good guy/bad guy. It quickly becomes apparent that the trickier role of the two is actually Paul; he triggers the imagination. The Louis character can be seen as an avatar allowing Chloé to live out the desires and fantasies she forbids herself from experiencing with Paul; it’s as though her love for Paul were preventing her from satisfying a more uninhibited sexuality. In any love relationship, even a happy one, there's an element of frustration and a need for a mental space where fantasies can express themselves. Our partner can never satisfy all of our desires; we often need something more, or different.
Paul comes across as a good psychotherapist whose exchanges with Chloé ring true. Louis, on the other hand, makes outrageous claims while transgressing all the rules and framework of psychoanalysis. It’s as though Louis were saying out loud everything that went unsaid with Paul, and saying it brutally; with no taboos or superego. Everything relating to the two men is conceived in mirror images, especially the décor. Paul’s consulting room is comfortable and inviting, with leather furniture, plush carpeting, and warm colors. Louis’ consulting room is glacial with marble accents, cold colors, and fake flowers. As for the mirrors themselves, Paul’s are horizontal and Louis’s are vertical. Paul and Louis have different sensibilities, but they both have something to hide, especially from Chloé. Paul and Louis add up to a complete man. Paul is attentive, an intellectual a good listener, gentle, reassuring; you can lean on him as a paternal figure. Louis is more animal, arrogant, violent, unruly, sexually ravenous. They represent two opposing male archetypes, but each of them responds in his own way to Chloé’s desires. Louis is more subtle in his relationship with Chloé.
With "Double Lover" François Ozon returns to digital and Cinemascope, aiming for a sharper, more contemporary image that's at times almost surgical but always aesthetically pleasing. The film plays with symmetry, reflections, and geometry. The film creates the impression that something is being built, that a brain is developing a thought. "Double Lover" is continuously surprising, ingeniously imaginative, always ahead of the awed and astonished viewer. Like a dream it unfolds, always hovering at the brink of nightmare, resolved finally in an illumination that's as dramatic as it's unexpected. We're made to realize, in retrospect, that we've inhabited an intensely explored erotic mystery; only when the mystery is solved. This film is about our need for the imaginary in order to cope with reality.
"Double Lover" provides a path back to reality; with something that exists yet is even more fantastical and monstrous than what we’ve seen up to that point, plunging us into the abyss of what nature is capable of doing to our bodies. There's a serenity at the end of the film. This ending is either positive or negative; it's brutal and unrelenting, like sexuality, the subconscious, and desire. We all share the desire to pursue a sex life outside a romantic relationship. Everyone, whether they're in a relationship or not, needs their own space of freedom; a secret garden. The film is a love story that asks questions that are essential to all couples. How do we imagine our partners? What are our expectations of them? How far are we willing to go in accepting their mysteries, or are we trying to figure out what they might be hiding inside? "Double Lover" also explores fantasies that some of us may, or may not, have a hard time accepting; and explores the degree of sexual freedom we allow ourselves to feel with someone. Maybe you can't have everything with just one person. That doesn’t mean you've to go looking elsewhere, but what do you do with your frustrations and desires when they start to take over?