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Like many other films by Canadian director David Cronenberg (especially "Crash"), "Dead Ringers" presents the cinematic and psychological equivalent of an automobile accident--you dare not look, but you can't turn away. The film marked a directorial breakthrough for Cronenberg, who was able to continue some of the themes explored in his earlier horror films while graduating to a higher, more critically "respectable" level of artistic sophistication. The film is loosely based, amazingly enough, on a true story about twin gynecologists who routinely traded each others' identities, lives and even lovers. Utilizing innovative split-screen technology (years before computer manipulation made such trickery much easier), the film stars Jeremy Irons in flawless dual roles as the identical brothers Beverly and Elliot Mantle. Their ability to instantly switch identities leads them to a shared relationship with a well-known actress (Genevieve Bujold) and, ultimately, a physical and psychological tailspin that sends them both to the brink of madness and death. The scenario suggests that both men are halves of a whole, and that one cannot exist without the other. But when Beverly pursues a kinky, drug-addicted affair with the actress, his more self-controlled brother is helpless to prevent their mutual decline. In this way "Dead Ringers" becomes a fascinating and stylistically clinical study of duality, and Cronenberg doesn't shy away from the dark and unpleasant aspects of the story. (One look at the movie's display of bizarre gynecological instruments and you'll know why women find this film particularly--and unforgettably--disturbing.) "--Jeff Shannon"
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