Monday, July 20, 2009

"Demonlover" Film Review

"Demonlover", like so many great films finds it's heroine, it's Alice, lost down a Rabbit's hole. Connie Nielsen stars in this French dramatic thriller, as a woman who seems at once completely lost and yet violently driven by unseen forces, maybe the devil himself, to venture deeper and deeper into a dark, posionous world.
The film is byzantine, full of plots within plots, secrets and lies and twists we never see coming, perhaps however we should...the film is about more than anything, the corruption of the soul, and not from a pure, virginal state. "Demonlover" recognizes that we are at our core, animals with carnal desires that must be fulfilled, the title itself seems to play with this idea of the whore-like relationship between man and the Beast. Connie Nielsen seems like a woman constantly on the verge of a total psycho meltdown. The different masks she must wear to remain acceptably cool under pressure are beginning to wear thin. As Diane, she works for an entertainment conglomerate negotiating the purchase of an online anime pornography site with some highly illegal and highly lucrative ties. She is cutthroat and from the opening scene, we see she isn't above some illegal business herself in order to move up on the ladder. But is Diane motivated by simple greed or is it something more sinister? Is her new male peer and seemingly sexual interest aware of her bad deed and/or does he even care? As the negotiations become more and more complicated, as we travel from France to Japan to America things begin to unravel for Diane as she realizes she gotten herself in way over her head.
As a film that was released before the "French Extremism" movement really came into it's own with this years "Martyrs", it is the definition of the genre. Morally dubious and complicated characters trapped usually in devices of their own creations, we watch them toil and trouble about until things get completely out of hand. "Demonlover" is incredibly violent and malcontent, but it has a hardline of morality that is hard to miss. As viewers of the film, we are indicted. The film is about personal corruption in many ways through our self-created consumer based voyeur-centric culture. We feed off of watching others in misery whether we are directly aware of it or not. But is it human nature, or is human nature just the easy way out, justifying immorality? Do morals even have a place in a world that we've created to take what you want, regardless of others? Diane's troubles seem to come from deep in her heart, as if the further she journey's toward the dark pit of Hell, the more aware we are that she has a yearning within herself to be rid of it all...but that made she forgot how to recognize that feeling within herself, or worse, is repressing it. "Demonlover" is an indictment of corporate culture, the dehumanization of the individual is dealt with in many ways similar to science fiction, but without the revelations. The film brings up a hornet's nest of issues, none of which are easy to answer and which really stir the heart..."Demonlover" is not above asking the hard questions, but it is impossible not to watch, as Diane interacts with the others within her tangential web of cretins, we see they are all the same, heartless creations of a consumer-based culture, and we ask ourselves whether we would be able to go that far, and unfortunately I'm sure some would be able to empathize with these pathetic creature's various plights.
The thriller structure of the film makes "Demonlover" an easier pill to swallow with all of it's messages and subtexts delivered via pop-culture cliches of the femme fatale, corporate espianoge, sex and violence. Beyond the subversive screenplay and classic performances by
Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling and Chloe Sevigny the film is technically accomplished. Shot in gritty flourescent HD, we see both the glamour of the Japan nightlife on the same plane as the blood, sweat and metal of a torture chamber. The lighting is ugly and unforgiving, evoking nausea and claustrophobia at all the right moments. The music, an atonal masterwork by Sonic Youth, is perfectly married with the film, at times hypnotic and in equal measure horrifying. Together, the sight and sound convince me that the world of "Demonlover", is best left on the other side of the screen, which may be point. Unlike many film where you'd die to spend a minute in the hero's shoes, I'd be very reluctant to trade my couch for Diane's private jet.
I was first introduced to Olivier Assayas(the director) in college picking out this film at Tower Records(RIP). It's been several years since then, and I've now experienced all the films he has available in the US. "Demonlover" is unique for him, as he hadn't made a film like that before, and hasn't really since then, coming closest with 2008's "Boarding Gate" starring Asia Argento in a similarly dismal corrupt world.

Most of his films are totally character-centric objective works, that are beautiful and show a less cynical, present day world of more ordinary but still complicated and very interesting people living "normal lives". "Irma Vep" is a quirky Art-house classic he made with then wife Maggie Cheung about a filmmaker trying to remake the French silent classic "Les Vampires"(which seems in a few ways to have inspired the plot for Demonlover). "Clean", also starring Maggie Cheung he made after "Demonlover", and is true triumph of the character study and shows both the gritty side and loving side of the director in his ode to Cheung. I'd honestly say along with Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Olivier Assayas is one of the greatest working directors, making important films about our times and our peers, friends, and when he wants to, as is the case here, various criminals and their dark deeds.
5 Hentai Tentacles out of 5

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