Tuesday, February 13, 2018

no sex, please, we're american

Recently, my wife and I ventured out to see one of the rare subtitled French films exhibited here these days - François Ozon's "L'amont Double"/"Double Lover," which is not so much a love story as the kind of gleefully demented pieces of erotica that I haven't seen in ... decades.

Following a long drought of sexless American movies, we were - how shall I put this? - unprepared for the crazed psychosexual drama that Ozon nearly coerced us to watch, somewhat willingly. When I think of this fabulous filmmaker, the musical "8 Women" and the Catherine Deneuve charmer, "Potiche," immediately come to mind. But, wait - Ozon also moonlights as an occasional provocateur, notorious for fare more disturbing and unforgiving, such as "Swimming Pool" and "See the Sea."

"L'amont Double" is ostensibly about a morose young woman's obsession with the notion of twins, "ostensibly" being the operative word here.

In the opening scene, this troubled woman, Chloé (Marine Vacth), has her hair cut to resemble Mia Farrow's in Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" (the first of several noteworthy film references made by Ozon) and then visits a gynecologist, complaining of intense stomach pains. Her doctor recommends a trip to a psychoanalyst named Paul (Jérémie Renier).

What follows is equal measures of graphic sex and more filmic references, with specific nods to Alfred Hitchcock, David Cronenberg, Brian DePalma, Ridley Scott and, as mentioned, Polanski. Ozon seemingly loses control of his narrative - "seemingly" being the operative word here - which is the same impression that Darren Aronofsky implied with "mother!" But then, in his film's last ten minutes, he goes a step further and fiendishly upends everything that we experienced and blindly believed. No, he's in control.

Ozon's movie, aside from creating the dubious pleasure of peeking in a window and watching private lovemaking, is a grim reminder of how sex-free - and more to the point, infantile - that American movies have become. Adult moviegoers, not just children and teenagers, now flock to action movies and comic-book flicks in which men and women barely converse, let alone have anything resembling an intimate relationship.

I can't recall the last major studio film, with major players, that included a sex scene. And if there was one, the players were certainly not A-list.

I'm thinking of someone like Tom Cruise, who started his career as "sex symbol" but now plays largely asexual characters in action movies.

It's curiious: The modern Hollywood sex symbol isn't sexual on screen. George Clooney? Jennifer Lawrence? Ryan Gosling? Charlize Theron? All hugely attractive (and desirable) people who lead sexless lives on screen.

And then there's Sarah Jessica Parker, a terrific actress. But when she engages in a scene with a man in a bed (as she did regularly on "Sex and the City" and now on "Divorce"), she's wears either a bra or a slip. Huh?

While it's understandable that actresses would rather not be exploited or objectified in films and eschew nudity (even partial) when possible, I feel compelled to ask: Why even agree to a script that includes a sex scene?

And what's wrong with playing the scene in question under a sheet? It would be more natural and certainly more realistic than being clothed.

It's as if the Puritans have been resurrected and taken over the film industry. You remember the Puritans, right? The original settlers here. Sex freaked them out but they sure loved their guns. Nothing's changed.

If the real Puritans were here today and saw "L'amont Double"/"Double Lover," they'd be self-righteously appalled, call for tar and feathers, and chant:."Devil's work! Perversion, be gone! Heathens, repent! Amen!" 

Anyway, enough can't be said about the cunning performance(s) of Jérémie Renier in Ozon's affronting, twisted film which, it should be noted, is based on a story by Joyce Carol Oates ("Lives of the Twins"), no less.

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(from top)

~Original French poster art for "L'amont Double"/"Double Lover"

~Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth in a scene from the film
 ~photography: Cohen Media Group 2018©


G.K. said...

Never heard of it and now I simply MUST find it!

Sheila said...

I found this film fascinating but difficult to recommend. One really has to be adventurous. I loved the sequence when the two brothers - played by the same actor - approach each other and kiss. I can't imagine how the filmmaker achieved that but it is quite an effect.

joe baltake said...

Great moment, Sheila. I would have mentioned it but I wanted to say the least about the plot - particularly my theory about what the first 90 percent of it represents. It took a lot of restraint, but I didn't want any spoilers.

Marvin Halpern said...

Joe, I liked that part of your article in which you compare the FRENCH "Double Lover" to how "sexless" AMERICAN films have become. HOWEVER, I tend to agree totally with Sheila, to the effect that the film is difficult to recommend. Film is really chaotic. Why did Ozon insist on such a "fast" pace that one is really not able to fully comprehend many of the frenetic scenes before they are "whisked away" to be replaced by more scenes that are equally "frenetic" and not totally coherent? Did he not trust his material, with the consequence that he wanted the pace to be as fast as possible, thereby not giving the audience anything (or much) to think over? Film has flopped horribly in San Francisco; word of mouth has been awful. Having said the above, I will "concede" that, like Sheila, I really liked the two twins coming on to each other, and I agree with you that the last 10% of the film is very good. (But too little, too late.) And Joe, why no mention of the wonderful Jacqueline Bisset in how many roles (no spoiler here)? Marvin

joe baltake said...

Marvin- My theory is that the first 99% of the film all takes place in the head of its messed-up heroine everything. Only the last few minutes of the film take place in reality. Just about the entire film is frenzied because its heroine is frenzied. It calms down in only those last few minutes. Only those final few moments in the film take place in reality. That’s my take. I hesitated sharing this because it's something of a spoiler, but this misunderstood film (misrepresented by the critics) deserves a description that its potential audience would find compelling. -J

Flip said...

Joe- I was going to write, "Be a spoiler!" You whetted my appetite for this movie but I wanted to know more. I'm glad you spoiled the film for your readers. Believe me, we ALL thank you, both those people who have not seen the film (like me), and those of us who have seen it (but may not have "got it"). Yes, be a spoiler!

Kent said...

I like how during one of the sex scenes Chloe becomes a conjoined twin with herself. Obviously a nod to DePalma's "Sisters." Great stuff.

van said...

I do like your statement that the film is so "frenzied" because this represents the state of the fucked-up heroine's mind (i.e., frenzied). I first realized (I think) what was happening when it was explained who the Jacqueline Bisset character REALLY was. It was then that I realized that the Jeremie Rennier character was not a "twin" and that Sandra/her mother Jacqueline Bisset really didn't exist. It became clear to me when it was explained why Chloe was having "stomach pains." Since all these things occurred toward the last part of the film, I would have to agree with your theory (namely, that 90% - 99% of the film takes place in her mind).

Jeremy Pemberton said...

You must be sick to death of discussing Double Lover. But I thought that almost immediately after Chloe's visit(s) to Paul began, she felt much better. In fact, she fell in love with him, and vice versa; so that her "imagined" stomach pains did not become much worse until after they had moved in together, she saw the passport with a different name, and she saw "Paul" from the bus with another woman.

So Chloe's "foregoing" of reality didn't really begin WHEN she first visited Paul, but rather only after they moved in together. Therefore, when she saw the name on the passport and saw Paul with the other woman, that is when REALITY ended for poor Chloe.

In short, my feeling is that, for a while at least, Chloe was in "reality" when she was being treated by Paul.

Mike Schlesinger said...

You can drop Jennifer Lawrence from that list. She apparently has a torrential number of sex scenes--with nudity--in RED SPARROW.