Wednesday, March 7, 2012


With a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.7 on IMDB I realize its gonna be a challenge to spark your interest in this movie but just hear me out. Olivier Assayas is one of the most versatile directors working today. His ability to seamlessly jump from one genre to the next is pretty impressive. Before and after 'Demonlover' (an espionage erotic thriller), he made a period drama (Sentimental Destinies), a multicharacter relationship dramedy (Late August, Early September) and a drama about a heroine addicted mother trying to get her son back (Clean). And in 'Demonlover' he takes us in to the world of pornography (specifically animated and virtual reality/interactive pornography). I've always considered Olivier Assayas and Steven soderbegh to kinda be doppelgangers. They both have great range, have a steady flow of non-stop work and they both explore the same territory, genres and subject matter from time to time. Both directors made epic films about controversial political figures (Assayas' 'Carlos' and Sodernerghs 'Che'), action films centered around female leads (Assayas' 'Boarding Gate' and Soderbergh's 'Haywire'), they've both done the multicharacter thing ('Traffic' and 'Late August Early September') and both have explored the world of pornography. With Soderbergh, he cast porn actress Sasha grey as the lead in 'G.F.E.' (a film about an upscale call girl). In 'Demonlover' Assayas focused on internet porn. And just like in 'Irma Vep', he turned the cameras around and focused on what goes on behind the scenes in a film that's essentially about a power struggle between two corporations about who gets to distribute animated pornography to the world. I'm sure porn is a shady business full of sleazy scumbags and cokeheads (plenty of films over the years have already shown this), but who knew that the world of animated porn was SO cut throat. A world of kidnapping, double crossing, and even murder. I think that's why I love 'Demonlover' so much. Assasys didn't go the same route as 'Boogie Nights' or 'Hardcore'. Instead he dealt with porn in a similar unconventional fashion as his other new French extremity contemporary Bertrand Bonelllo (so i don't have to repeat myself, please read my review of bertrand's 'The Pornographer' as many of the points i make in that review on pornography in film apply to 'Demonlover' as well). The only difference between the two films is that the pornographer is more of a drama whereas demonlover is more of a thriller.
For those of you who've seen 'Demonlover' you should know that this movie is a quite odd. On your first viewing you might find yourself asking; "what am i watching?". But you have to give it a few chances and after a while it'll grow on you. I mean,whats NOT to like about 'Demonlover'. It has everything: Porn, Espionage, Action and some of the prettiest actresses gathered together in one movie. It appeals to the arthouse crowd (which is pretty much director; Olivier Assayas' scene) and at the same time any fan of Quentin Tarrantino (or fans of his long list of copycats) would love this as well.  'Demonlover' is quite fast paced, has a great contemporary soundtrack (courtesy of Sonic Youth) and has a multinational ensemble cast (Connie Neilson, Chloe Sevigny, Charles Berling, Gina Gershon, etc). Even fans of 'The Social Network' would enjoy this film as a big part of 'Demonlover' is about an internet power struggle. In the film Connie Nielson plays a spy/secret agent ("Diane") hired by a failing anime porn company (Mangatronics) to get information and help take down their competition (The Volf Corporation as well as Eventually her cover is blown and the owners of Demonlover force her to perform in their interactive S&M site; "Hellfire Club" (an illegal site known for its violence and over the top hardcore scenes) as payback. And now, just like Asia argento in Assayas' 'Boarding Gate', our female lead character has her back against the wall and has to find a way out of a very tough spot. In the second half of the film the plot goes "bye-bye" which might (understandably) turn some people off. Even if you pay 100% attention to the 'Demonlover' its almost certain you're gonna get lost at some point.
Assayas does make a few social commentaries on pornography and its effect on society. The film's eerie ending involves an American teen somewhere in "anywhere USA" stealing his fathers credit card to purchase a membership to a porn website. 'Demonlover' also shows us desensitized we are to violence on television and in film as well. As i said in a previous write-up, 'Irma Vep', 'Demonlover' & 'Boarding Gate' (probably my three personal favorite films by Assayas) are all connected in some way. Certain elements of 'Irma Vep' (the hints at S&M and the behind the scenes aspect of the film) were used in 'Demonlover', and certain elements of 'Demonlover' (another film with hints of S&M about a female protagonist with her back against the wall) can be found in 'Boarding Gate'. If you're a fan of Assayas, chances are you're you'll dig this film very much but if you're not all that familiar with his work or don't like to be thrown off by movies then maybe this isn't for you.

For a film that deals with so much sleaziness and creepiness Olivier Assayas still manages to make a pretty sensual and sleek looking film full of sexy close ups, sensuous looks & intimate touches from all the actors. One of the subplots in 'Demonlover' involves Diane getting involved with one of her shady coworkers at Volf. There's also plenty shots of nudity and obviously clips of porn all through out the film...

Assayas also takes us in to the world of the "Hellfire Club" and shows us the sexual fantasies of its various interactive members (ranging from S&M to dress-up). Even the characters in the film are drawn to porn, which is another thing I like about this film. You'd make the silly assumption that once you start dealing with porn on a corporate level (like 'Demonlover' does) the people in the high positions like CEO's and executives look at porn as just a business and nothing more. But the characters in 'Demonlover' are fascinated by pornography just as much as the average curious human being. There's a great scene in the film where Charles Berling (who plays one of the executives at the Volf Corporation) sitting on his bed watching porn with a bored expression on his face with no hint of being aroused (which plays on the desensitization element i was talking about earlier).

Music is another important element to the film. In the advertising for 'Demonlover' it was made very clear that Sonic Youth (who's no stranger to composing music for film) did the soundtrack. Sonic Youth has a history with Assayas: Kim Gordon co-starred in 'Boarding Gate', he used their music in a key scene in 'Irma Vep' and Assayas also directed the documentary 'Noise' which heavily featured Sonic Youth. In fact, a documentary was made about the recording process of the soundtrack (which Assayas sat in on during the recording) that you can see on the 2nd disc of the special edition DVD. Just like Para One's score of 'Water Lilies' and Daft Punk's score of 'Irreversible', Assayas is one of quite a few modern french directors who sought out help from progressive rock and/or electronic musicians to work on their films for a non-traditional sounding score (in fact, fellow french director Leos Carax used Sonic Youth for the soundtrack to 'Pola X' as well). Sonic Youth's music really sets all the different moods that the film conveys and Assayas gave them freedom to experiment heavily (some of the songs on the soundtrack are made up of just feedback noise and random guitar sounds). The song; "Safe In Hell" is a definite standout.
I know this movie sounds like a mess (and it kinda is) but its a beautiful, fun, entertaining and sometimes arousing mess that should be seen at least once.


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