L’Amant Double: Dodgy erotic encounters and sheet-clutching

Review: They don’t make inappropriate girl-slapping erotica like they used to

L'Amant Double
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Director: François Ozon
Cert: 18
Genre: Drama
Starring: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins

Brian De Palma has been rather quiet of late, but he's still a hot ticket in France. 'Twas ever thus. The lowliest entries in the De Palma cannon – Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars, Redacted – have all graced the Cahiers du Cinéma's annual Top 10 Lists. More recent French titles, notably Yann Gonzalez's Knife + Heart and François Ozon's L'Amant Double could easily be called I Heart Dressed to Kill.

The prolific Ozon opens this overheated psychosexual thriller with a speculum-view of a vaginal examination, an image which is referenced again and again in a film that pointedly trades on doubles and duplicates. There’s even a mini-lecture on an XXY cat.

Classic Parisian gamine Chloe (Vacth) is suffering from stomach cramps that are believed to be psychosomatic in nature. She starts to see Paul (Renier), a psychoanalyst. Before you can say “code of ethics”, they’ve moved in together. And that’s when Chloe discovers that Paul has a secret identical twin: a meaner psychoanalyst for whom “no” means “Yes!”

Freudian fantasies

Dodgy erotic encounters and sheet-clutching ensue. The bad seed twin becomes increasingly violent, even smashing a pregnant Chloe through shower glass. There are delirious Freudian fantasies, including a triple-breasted distorted Chloe having sex with both siblings and Renier passionately kissing himself. There is vomiting to the strains of Elvis's As Long As I Have You, lots of shots of whited-out gallery spaces, and disconcerting close-ups of vibrating vocal chords and – Ozon to Gaspar Noe: "Hold my drink" – cervixes.


Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse (The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears) adds odd elongations and angles to sustain the freak out factor.

If you've watched any movies before – forget the similarly themed Body Double or Dead Ringers; even Finding Dory will suffice – you'll soon ponder whether the twins are real or if they're the only set of twins.

Were L'Amant Double the work of any other film-maker – one without the credible female-oriented pictures 8 Women and Swimming Pool on his CV – it would make for unimaginatively troubling viewing.

Working from Joyce Carol Oates’s eighties mystery-pulp Rosamond Smith books, Ozon appears to be having a pop at all phallocentric sleaze. His efforts aren’t entirely convincing. They don’t make inappropriate girl-slapping erotica like they used to. And with good cause.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic