Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Double Lover’, New York Cat Film Festival

Marine Facth and Jérémie Renier in Double Lover

Not being hugely familiar with the oeuvre of François Ozon — the only other Ozon film I’ve seen is Swimming Pool, and that was 15 years ago — I didn’t know quite what to expect from the French director’s latest, L’amant Double (Double Lover). Opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, Feb. 14, I anticipated a lightly plotted French feature with long, lingering shots of doe-eyed lovers and a smattering of gauzily tasteful sex scenes — A Man and a Woman for the 21 century, perhaps?

More fool me: while it does feature soul-piercing glances and sex aplenty, Double Lover is as far from Claude Lelouch as you can get. Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 1987 novel The Lives of the Twins, it’s about as good a date movie as Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016) — in other words, probably not the best film for a romantic night out.

25-year old Chloe (Marine Facth) has been suffering from intense but unexplained stomach pains. The film begins as she receives a severe haircut, her previously long locks shorn to pixie-cut length as part of her effort to break from the past and resolve what appears to be a problem more psychological than physical in origin.

After an extremely (extremely) revealing gynecological examination confirms there’s no organic cause for her discomfort, Chloe is referred to shrink Paul Meyer (In Bruges’ Jérémie Renier), whose quiet attention over a series of consultations provides a cure for her predicament. Patient and doctor also begin to fall in love, and, upon completion of their consultations Chloe, her extremely handsome cat Milo, and Paul move into a 13th-floor apartment (hardly a good idea at the best of times, and certainly not in the movies).


Sure enough, things take a turn for the awkward when Chloe learns the cat-hating Paul may be keeping some secrets from her – including the existence of his cat-loving twin brother Louis, a fellow psychiatrist with a decidedly unorthodox bedside manner and a magnificent tortoiseshell named Danton.

Whether mirroring its director’s feelings toward women or not, there is a mile-wide streak of misogyny running through Double Lover. Ozon’s film reflects the influence of such features as Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, DePalma’s Sisters, and a handful of Polanski’s best, including Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Tenant – good films all from directors largely lacking in feminist credentials.

In short, this extremely well-made feature has as many questionable elements as it does admirable ones. Ozon’s strong commitment to his theme – extending to the extensive double-casting of actors and the inclusion of an Elvis song surely intended to underscore the film’s duomaieusiophobic plot – render Double Lover attractive to viewers willing to dive beneath its surface misogyny. Others will squirm uncomfortably during some its more trying scenes.

1st Annual New York Cat Film Festival

Akamatsu the cat, featured in the First Annual New York Cat Film Festival

If Milo and Danton don’t sate your appetite for film felines, you’ll want to head over to San Francisco’s Roxie Theater this weekend for the 1st Annual New York Cat Film Festival. This two-hour long program (screening twice on Saturday, Feb. 17) introduces viewers to wheelchair-bound Akamatsu, a colony of Argentine cemetery cats, the American Museum of the House Cat (located just off Highway 441 near Dillsboro, North Carolina), and a New Jersey cat-fighting ring run by a retiree named Ellen. Don’t worry, though – no animals were harmed in the making of any of these films!