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Short Take: Double Lover

(François Ozon, France, Cohen Media Group, Opening February 14)

The indefatigable François Ozon has evolved into something like a movie twerp version of Claude Chabrol, churning out genre exercises with as much rehearsed bad-boy twinkle as the contemporary European middlebrow can allow for. The difference is that Chabrol was a character-first filmmaker—one rarely finishes a Chabrol film without wondering where its people are headed—while Ozon always seems to start with concept, each film (with the exception of his still-career-best Under the Sand) a self-contained contraption.

There is nevertheless occasional fun to be had, especially when he deigns to go full trash, as in Double Lover, a Joyce Carol Oates adaptation that sounds like a mid-’90s quick-to-video bodice ripper starring, say, Mädchen Amick and Jason Patric. Instead, we have fragile beauty Marine Vacth and the ever-able Jérémie Renier—the former playing psychiatric patient Chloé, the latter in a dual role as twin psychotherapists Paul and Louis. She’s sleeping with both, unbeknownst to Paul, her longer-term boyfriend, who’s estranged from Louis for mysterious reasons. It’s easy for the viewer to tell the Reniers apart: gentle Paul has a scrappy facial scruff and a shaggier ’do, while severe, sexually aggressive Louis has a tighter-cropped beard and gelled hair.

De Palma would enjoy a stab at the plotting, though he’d likely have more fun with the visuals. The kinky pleasures here often verge on the goofy (a fantasy sequence in which Renier makes out with himself is achievable with some functionally untitillating CGI), and the only real fetishes—twins, couches, mirrors—are purely cinematic ones.