French filmmaker François Ozon can tackle subjects of the utmost gravity (see Under the Sand, Frantz and a host of other solemn dramas). But my favorite Ozon movies are the ones that blend seriousness with erotic mischief – works like 8 Women, Swimming Pool and In the House. Just as irresistible is the dangerously sexy and perversely funny Double Lover, a psychological thriller that concerns two psychologists ... well, actually their twins.
At first, Chloe, beautifully played by Marine Vacth, doesn't know this; neither, for that matter, does the audience. The ex-model is in therapy with Dr. Paul Meyer to relive the stomach pains she's suffered since puberty. Has it made her frigid? He is too turned on by his patient to find out, and breaks off their sessions to propose they move in together. Which means Chloe must now seek treatment with Dr. Louis Delord, the twin brother Paul claims he never had. Both of these men are played by the same actor, the remarkable Jérémie Renier. And when he deftly switches from Paul's compassion to Louis's sadism, Chloe – and by extension, viewers – start seeing both them as two sides of the same coin.
Ozon risks getting a little too campy as his heroine contrives to keep the two men separate in her life, especially once one brother's brutal sexual healing gives her epic orgasms but drives her further away from the other. The filmmaker is also explicit in the extreme, from the opening shot of Chloe's gynecological exam – which delivers what can only be described as a genuinely unforgettable closeup – to a kiss that journeys into her trachea. (Deep throat, indeed.) She works security at a modern-art museum, which gives her lots of time to contemplate a world that might be fracturing – or is it just her own mind? There's a mindblowing fantasy with both twins. A strap-on enters the picture. Also, Chloe's nosey cat goes missing, and what's going on with the cake-baking neighbor (the excellent Myriam Boyer) whose own feline has been stuffed? You may have to enter therapy yourself to get at the byzantine layers of meaning the movie throws out there.
Having loosely adapted his script from the Joyce Carol Oates novel Lives of the Twins, Ozon takes the plot in directions you don't see coming. The terrific Jacqueline Bisset shows up as a figure from Chloe's past ... or is it the twins' past? The French filmmaker uses more mirrors than Versailles to reflect the morphing psychological states of his characters, directing like an auteur punch-drunk on Hitchcock, Brian DePalma and David Cronenberg. Double Lover puts dull Hollywood twaddle like Fifty Shades Freed to shame with its wild, wanton ride into the subconscious. It's the Valentine movie of choice for naughty lovers. You may have no idea where you are, but you will be riveted.