Whatís in a name?
The name Demonlover brings to mind those "movies" one finds at Blockbuster (the ones with names like Sexual Magic, with covers featuring bosomy Wiccan chicks holding candles like itís the third date) silently mingling amongst the huge Hollywood films and the latest direct-to-video stinker starring Dean Cain and Dennis Hopper. No doubt just like those cheapo flicks churned out to make a quick buck, Demonlover will be treated as such, only one copy will be ordered to gather dust and fade away under the watchful eye of 150 copies of American Wedding: The Version With The Extra Semen Joke You Couldnít See In Theaters. Itís a damn shame, because this movie deserves better. Itís a genuinely harrowing experience that may not set the bar higher, but itís great nonetheless.
Diane (the beautiful Connie Nielsen) works for a Parisian firm interested in buying out TokyoAnime, a hentai distributor who wants to break out of the 2D mold and go for completely computer-generated sauciness. Diane desperately wants to be a part of this deal, so she arranges to have a higher-up executive named Karen drugged and assaulted, thus leaving Diane in the perfect position to climb the corporate ladder right to Karenís old position. An American firm (represented by Gina Gershon...mrowr!) wants in on the action as well, proposing a website called Demonlover (get it?) to distribute TokyoAnimeís products stateside (and right to Lawrence P. Raffel!) Unfortunately, the Parisians are cold to the offer with the alleged involvement of Demonloverís parent company with a notorious BDSM torture site called The Hellfire Club. After all, multinational corporate mergers and buyouts have to be done cleanly and by the book, right? Wrong. Nobody is who they seem to be, as Diane is fingered as a mole from rival company Mangatronics sent to deep-six the deal, so they can swoop in and pick up the pieces.
Think thatís confusing? Thatís just the first half! After Diane murders the American executive (in a catfight too astonishing for words), the movie goes from difficult to follow to a lucid dream state that would make David Lynch proud. Continuity seems almost random, and you practically need a flow chart to figure out whoís got whose knife in whose back! On top of all the double- and triple-crosses, weíre given some weird sexual depravity and an ending thatís chilling, yet groan-inducing in its over-the-top sensationalism and heavy-handed irony.
Despite its pratfalls, Demonlover was an absolute joy to watch. Olivier Assayas paints his corporate world in bleak hues as cold as the hearts of his characters. Camera work was silky-smooth, and even at its most confusing, the film still impresses with its slick look and visual tricks (check out Dianeís eerie resemblance to the 3D models her firm wants to distribute...foreshadowing!) Acting was solid across the board (especially Chloe Sevigny as the not-quite-whom-she-seems Elise), and the soundtrack by Sonic Youth, comprised of both indie rock guitar riffs and electronic bleeps and bloops, fits the sterile atmosphere like a leather glove.
Picture quality is quite nice, with no damage in sight, and only minimal artifacting in the blacks. Of course, Iíve also got a bare-bones screener disc, so maybe itíll be addressed in the retail release? Audio was clean and loud without being overbearing, although the sudden changes in language can jar even the most rapt of viewers (why do the French characters suddenly belt out English at each other?). Extras are supposed to include audio commentary, a few featurettes, interviews, trailers, and the like. Again, being a screener disc, I had no access to these, so I canít tell you what to expect.
Definitely a film for those with open minds, Demonlover is an enjoyably disturbing, if confusing romp into corporate espionage. Itís pretty good stuff, and I highly recommend it.