Cannes: Ozon adds erotic silliness to subdued Palme d’Or race

Mars Films | Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth star in François Ozon's "L'Amant double".

The Cannes Film Festival gets naughty and foolish in the final stretch with French director François Ozon’s “L’Amant double”, about a troubled ex-model who falls for her twin shrinks.


With just one film left in the race, Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here”, the usual Palme d’Or impatience has given way to Palme d’Or resignation. By all accounts, it’s been a lacklustre competition, not the vintage we were hoping for on the festival’s 70th anniversary. A week after its screening (it feels like months ago now), Robin Campillo’s deeply moving “120 Beats per Minute” remains the critics’ favourite, if only for want of competitors. Other entries that have gone down well with the press include Hong Sang-soo’s “The Day After” and Naomi Kawase’s “Radiance”. But when have juries ever listened to the critics?

A mixed bag sparing in both gems and duds, the 19 films in competition this year often touched on similar themes. We’ve had dysfunctional families aplenty, a gallery of insufferable and egotistic men, a hefty helping of vodka-infused Russian grimness, and a never-ending supply of self-hating bourgeois Europeans. With some notable exceptions – think Sofia Coppola’s lavish art album “The Beguiled”, or the Safdie brothers’ entertaining “Good Time” – it’s all been fairly grim, but coherently so.

Festival organisers usually keep something naughty and daring in store for the final days, to get jaded journos back on board. It worked wonders last year with Paul Verhoeven’s riveting rape-revenge thriller “Elle”, which the critics loved and the jury promptly dissed. This time they’ve gone full-on camp with François Ozon’s trashy erotic thriller “L’Amant double”, the silliest film I have seen in a long time. And much of the audience loved it.

Marine Vacth stars as ex-model Chloé, a beautiful and vulnerable Parisian who falls for her shrink Paul (played by Jérémie Renier) and then finds out he has an estranged identical twin (again Renier), who also happens to be a psychoanalyst. While the bespectacled Paul is all sweet and boring, his evil twin Laurent is raunchy and into rough sex. Naturally, it only takes Claire a few minutes to get in bed with both and start simultaneous love affairs, one romantic and staid, the other torrid and cruel – while keeping them both a secret.

Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth during one of their "therapy" sessions. Copyright: Mars Films
Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth during one of their "therapy" sessions. Copyright: Mars Films

The sex is playful and creative – ever seen a twincestuous foursome before? - but I was bored through much of the rest. “L’Amant double” could have been a gripping thriller, had the plot and dialogues been less ludicrous. It could have been amusingly mischievous, had Ozon not affected to make it also deadly serious and stylish, unsubtly plugging the twin theme with a tedious profusion of mirror scenes. He’s also got that French-cinephile-auteur habit of stuffing his movie with too-obvious references to the work of other directors, including David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski.

There’s plenty of transgression, deviousness, and bold takes on female anatomy - leading to speculation that jury president Pedro Almodovar may find much to admire here. But the Spaniard’s marvelous women have a richness and depth that Vacth’s character never really approaches, despite the movie’s psychoanalytic pretext. I’d be curious to know what real shrinks think of this film.

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