Demonlover (France; 129 min.)


directed by: Olivier Assayas
starring: Connie Nielsen; Charles Berling; Chloe Sevigny
Demonlover
 
Michael says: "Well, the several Chlotrudis members who attended the second installment of the Sunday Eye-Opener were treated with a sneak preview of Olivier Assayas' stylish tale of corporate cyber-espionage. Assayas, whose IRMA VEP is a cherished fave film of mine, adopts a sleek, cold look for his tale of power struggles, sex and commerce. Met with startlingly varied reviews, DEMONLOVER is a wild ride that does lead to a fitting conclusion. Just don't try to follow along too closely along the way. It will all make sense in the end, but getting there will have you scratching your head.

Connie Nielsen (RUSHMORE) plays Diane, a mid-level player in a high stakes game of cybersex commerce. After cooly placing one of her superiors, Karen, out of the game with some devious tactics, Diane takes a few steps up the corporate ladder. Unbeknowst to all (maybe) Diane is actually a corporate spy working for a rival company. Karen's assistant Elise, played with indignant cool that turns into assured cool by Chloe Sevigny, hates Diane and suspects her involvement in Karen's removal. Their company is dealing with a Japanese anime, cybersex company, and hopes to handle worldwide distribution rights. Enter the Americans, representedd by corporate cowboy... or make that cowgal, Gina Gershon. (Not that she's western, she just exudes the cocky confidence of a cowboy.)

If that sounds confusing, I'm barely scratching the surface. What DEMONLOVER presents is a fascinating tale of power, in a playing field tradintionally populated by men, Assayas gives us cold, intelligent, powerful women. But just how powerful are these women? Like the porn industry they deal with, aren't the men actually calling the shots? Or if we follow the consumer chain to its ultimate user... who will we find there?

Assayas takes us on a wild ride, and leaves us befuddled, and ultimately disturbed by the point he's getting across. Along the way, he gives us some surprisingly beautiful images, a few memorably unsettling ones, and some great performances by actresses. For a time, Sevigny reminds me of her turn in AMERICAN PSYCHO, until her character turns that idea on its ear and she becomes something else entirely. And Gina Gershon is amazing how she just brings life and vigor to the screen whenever she appears. I wish we could have seen more of her. The sound design by Sonic Youth is an integral part of the film, and spirals from a whisper to a scream and back again. I had to keep myself from clutching my head at times, wanting only to screen out the sounds.

I'm thankful for the 12 minutes of anime porn that were cut from the film... there was plenty left behind. But otherwise, Assayas has created a visual and aural experience that grabs you right from the start and doesn't let you pause to take a breath." 4 1/2 cats
 
Bruce says: "DEMONLOVER is a strange duck. It is a beautifully stylized film but also a vacuous one, so plot-driven that the characters become almost superfluous. At times the plot was so convoluted that I couldn’t remember who was supposedly doing what to whom. No explicable motivation is driving the action, and the film catapults itself forward on its own at breakneck speed. Clearly no one is driving, particularly Olivier Assayas its director. That is not to say Assayas does not know what he is doing. At times he is masterful. There is a time/travel sequence, going from France to Japan, which is nothing more than abstract colors expressing the moment much like a rapid time trip through a Joan Mitchell painting. Just when one is thinking 'it doesn’t get much better than this,' something happens on screen leaving the viewer to suspect he or she has nodded off for a moment missing some key fragment that would connect the dots, make the pieces together. In fact I sat through this film twice in order to pick up the pieces I’d missed. Turns out there weren’t any.

"Essentially a thriller about pornography industry espionage and counter-espionage, the film begins on a plane. Diane (Connie Neilson) injects Haldol into Karen’s Evian to immobilize her. Diane wants Karen’s job. This is not a case of blind ambition, however; Karen is a corporate spy. When they reach Charles DeGaulle, Karen (Dominique Reymond) collapses en route to her jet black Audi TT and is pushed into the trunk where she is found eighteen hours later. Her briefcase is stolen. Diane gets her job. When Karen’s assistant Elise (Chloe Sevigny) visits Karen in hospital, Karen claims that she feels 'dirty, disgusting like I was raped.'

"Diane, Herve (Charles Berling), and Elise then travel to Japan to finalize a porno deal with a Tokyo anime corporation. Diane is concerned that the animators are using children as models because the anime porn characters – the Ninja sisters who use magic sex to fight monsters - have no pubic hair. The explanation from the Japanese is that pubic hair is not legal in Japan. Who knew? Certainly not the French. During the business trip Herve begins to lust for Diane.

"Back in France it becomes that Elise and Diane blatantly do not like each other. Herve makes advances; Diane spurns them. Suddenly the Americans arrive. Elaine Si Gibril (Gina Gershon) is a tough talking American eager to make a porno deal to eliminate the competition. What she doesn’t know is that some of the people to whom she is making her pitch are secretly working for the competition. The Americans and the French bicker over contracts for demonlover.com; starznaked.com; sexslavelaracroft.com; and the porno piece-de-la-resistance hellfireclub.com. Hellfire is different from the others. Virtual reality is involved. As a picture of a woman chained to a bedspring comes onscreen along with the caption 'Do you want to torture Zora? Send us your fantasy and we’ll make it real,' it becomes clear this is real-time porno.

"Herve makes his move; it appears Elise might be more than a mere managerial assistant; several brutal killings follow; best laid plans are thwarted; and there is a surprise twist, too novel to discuss. The ending is both ironic and sardonic, a combination more lethal than Haldol. Turns out Karen was the lucky one. 2.5 cats"