Blu-ray Review: Double Lover

STUDIO: Cohen Media | DIRECTOR: Francois Ozon | CAST: Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset
RELEASE DATE: 6/19/18 | PRICE: DVD $17.99, Blu-ray $20.99
BONUSES: Interview with director Ozon and star Vacth
SPECS: NR | 107 min. | Foreign language drama thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | French with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

One of the joys of following the career of Francois Ozon (In the House, Potiche) is seeing the much-lauded French filmmaker jump from genre to genre with each new release. While he’s made entertaining comedies, dramas and even a musical, his strongest suit has been psychodramas — character studies that have a creepy, dreamlike feel.

Double Lover is his latest such effort, a suspense drama that plays off the many “twin” thrillers that have been made over the years. The film’s third act is a bit too predictable, but, on the whole, the film has the ominous edge that characterized Ozon’s best-known arthouse hits (See the Sea, Criminal Lovers, The Swimming Pool).

The plot is deceptively simple: Unemployed model Chloe (Marine Vacth) is recommended to a psychoanalyst by her doctor. The mild-mannered shrink (Jeremy Renier, Summer Hours) and she become lovers and move in together. All is well and good until she discovers he has a twin (also Renier) who has a domineering, aggressive personality. She becomes sexually involved with the twin, who is also a psychoanalyst, and soon discovers the tragic story that led the brothers to become estranged.

As the film moves on, an unusual but real concept is discussed — that of a “parasitic twin,” a baby that is never born but whose remnants are inside of its sibling. This notion fuels the film’s third act, which brings in a fourth character who serves as a rather sizable “MacGuffin” — the mother (Jacqueline Bisset, Class) of a young woman who went to school with the brothers and is mute and paralyzed for life, due to a failed suicide attempt.

Although the conclusion is one that can be guessed at early on, Ozon’s mastery at conveying Chloe’s unease makes Double Lover eminently enjoyable. One is aware that he is familiar with twin thrillers from The Dark Mirror onward and is toying with viewers’ expectations, a la Hitchcock and De Palma (who is repeatedly emulated with the use of split screen to convey the schizo nature of the storyline).

A very prominent aspect of the proceedings is sex. There are several sex sequences in the film, and we not only see the twin brothers kissing but also the weaker sibling being penetrated with a strap-on dildo by Chloe (a little ritual that is suggested to her by the dominant brother). These sequences move the film away from the implied sexuality in Hitchcock’s films and closer to the perversity of some of De Palma’s later work.

The small cast do a great job of incarnating their characters. Bisset gets the odd task of playing an individual who starts out as friendly and winds up bitter and angry (and then changes tone again in the film’s finale). Renier does a very good job as the sibling psychoanalysts who are completely polar personalities and yet seem cut from the same creepy cloth.

The film is very much a triumph for Vacth, though — her character’s persistently weird and contradictory behavior comes across as believable (no mean feat) while she shows off all sides of her clearly damaged character.

The package includes one extra: film historian Richard Pena interviewing Ozon and Vacth. Ozon notes at the outset that he welcomed the chance to make a more “playful” film after the austere and visually stunning Frantz. He does namecheck Hitchcock and De Palma as his main influences and discusses Lives of the Twins, the 1987 Joyce Carol Oates novel on which the film is based. He also clarifies the end, for those who thought they misinterpreted the revelations in the third act.

Vacth offers her take on Chloe and her position as the eyes and ears of the viewer, since all the action takes place from her POV and she is present in every scene save one.

Buy or Rent Double Lover

About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”