Considering how prolific Joyce Carol Oates has been over the past thirty-some years, it is surprising there haven’t been twenty of thirty more feature adaptations of her work (but there are a lot of short films listed on her imdb page). Ironically, two of her novels that were adapted here in America were subsequently remade in France. Fittingly, one of those was The Lives of the Twins a doppelganger-themed “women’s suspense” novel written under her trashier pen-name Rosamond Smith. Twins will fascinate, seduce, and generally disregard doctor-patient ethics in François Ozon’s Double Lover (trailer here), which opens on Valentine’s Day.
Dr. Paul Meyer made good progress curing Chloé Fortin’s psychosomatic stomach aches, until he stopped seeing her professionally and started seeing her personally. (They’re French, so apparently that’s okay there.) Fortin is truly mad about Meyer, but as soon as they move in together, she realizes how little she knows about him. For instance, his surname used to be Delord, but he took his mother’s maiden name when his father was unjustly embroiled in a scandal. At least, that is the story he tells when pressed. He still keeps mum on his twin brother Louis Delord, who also happens to be a shrink.
Fortin stumbles on Delord by accident, but she quickly books an appointment. She first goes hoping to get some answers, but keeps returning out of sexual attraction. Delord could indeed be described as Meyer’s “evil twin,” especially considering his even laxer code of conduct regarding patients.
Double Lover can definitely be described as an “erotic thriller,” but it would be a risky choice for Valentine’s date-night. It would be spoilery to explain, but there is some seriously adult subject matter here, way beyond mild steaminess. Eyebrows will be raised. In most other respects, Ozon observes and refines the conventions of psychological thrillers, but he over-relies on dream scenes as a symbolic literary device.
Regardless, master genre cinematographer Manuel Dacosse (Alléluia, Strange Color of You Body’s Tears, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun) makes it all look like a De Palma movie trying to look like Hitchcock (which is a good thing). As Fortin, Marine Vacth projects enough sexual tension for a dozen Hitchcock heroines. She is not a blonde, but with her brunette bob, she could ironically pass for the younger sister of Isabella Rossellini, who had the analogous role in Lies of the Twins, the previous TV movie adaptation of the Oates/Smith novel.
Dardenne Brothers regular Jérémie Renier is terrific as Meyer and Delord, creating two very distinct personas, while leaving space for our myriad suspicions to grow. Jacqueline Bisset is also excellent as a third-act secret-revealing character. Of course, Ozon has long been one of the best at handling actors, but that is especially so in this case, with nearly everyone having dark sides and dual natures to contend with.
Honestly, DL is almost too risqué and risk-taking for its own good, but Ozon drenches his excesses in style. This could well be too much for 50 Shades to handle, because it makes it look like the smarmy cheese that it is. Recommended for patrons who like their French psycho-sexual thrillers on the wild side, but sure to generate mixed responses with the rest of us, Double Lover opens this Wednesday (2/14) in New York, at the Quad Cinema.