December 5, 2002
Olivier Assayas, ,
Starring: Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloë Sevigny, Gina Gershon, Jean-Baptiste Malartre, Dominique Reymond, Edwin Gerard, Thomas M. Pollard, Abi Sakamoto, Julie Brochen, Jorgen Doering, Jean-Charles Dumay, Jean-Pierre Gos, Randal Holden, Alexandre Lachaux, ,
Film critic turned filmmaker, Olivier Assayas’ latest effort is Demonlover (2002), a sleek, near-future corporate espionage thriller. At times, with its labyrinthine plotting and abstract imagery, it resembles something from the mind of David Lynch but its subject matter—the blurring of pornography with snuff films—is more reminiscent of David Cronenberg. Regardless, Demonlover is most certainly the work of a distinct voice of world cinema.
Diane (Nielson) is an ambitious corporate executive who is not above drugging and kidnapping a rival (Reymond) to advance up the company ladder. Volf, the company they work for, is putting together a big deal with TokyoAnime, a large Japanese corporation that is the leader in adult animation. They are moving into 3-D computer animated pornography and need Volf to supply part of the technology that is needed. Diane is committing corporate espionage on her company and selling their secrets to another one but soon finds herself at odds with a mysterious assistant (Sevigny) who is wise to her subterfuge.
Demonlover exists in the same kind of near-future world as Strange Days (1995) and depicted in the recent novels of William Gibson. Their worlds are ones that are only slightly futuristic in nature, just slightly removed from our own. This feeling is further reinforced by Sonic Youth’s experimental, atmospheric score. Their music gives the film an almost otherworldly vibe.
The casting of Connie Nielson, known mostly for appearing in big-budget Hollywood fare like Gladiator (2000), is a bit of a surprise. She does a good job playing the icy cold Diane who thinks she has all the angles figured out but soon finds herself in a situation beyond her control.
Chloe Sevigny, as always, is excellent as a character whose motives aren’t entirely clear initially but as the film progresses, her motivations become more apparent. Gina Gershon appears in a small role as a cocky American businesswoman and appears to be channeling the swagger of her character in Showgirls (1995) and the corporate professionalism of her role in The Insider (1999).
As of press time, the DVD’s supplemental material was not available for review. However, when it hits stores there should be an audio commentary with director Olivier Assayas, a Making Of featurette, a Making of Soundtrack with Sonic Youth, interviews with the cast, a Q&A with Assayas, trailers and bonus footage from the “Hellfire Club” website.
Demonlover is essentially an update of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) for the new millennium. Assayas takes Cronenberg’s theme of voyeuristic thrills derived from watching electronically transmitted pornography and snuff films and takes it one step further by showing how much farther technology has progressed. It has made a wide variety of porn much more accessible to anyone with a connection to the Internet. The commercial potential of such a vast audience has raised the stakes amongst the companies assembling and distributing this material. Demonlover is a disturbing film that never slips into schlocky sensationalism but instead plays it straight.