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Demonlover (January 22/05)

Though nobody could ever accuse writer/director Olivier Assayas of playing it safe, Demonlover is nevertheless an incoherent disaster. Assayas' off-kilter approach is intriguing for a little while - something that's compounded by a genuinely interesting visual style - but ultimately becomes exhausting and mind-numbing.

Our "hero" is Diane (Connie Nielson), an executive who is willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead - even if that means having a superior drugged and kidnapped. Her company's latest target is animated porn, a burgeoning market coveted by various rivals - including one represented by an American named Elaine (Gina Gershon). The film also features Chloe Sevigny (playing an underling who hates Diane) and Charles Berling (as a sadistic colleague).

Demonlover starts off fantastically, with Diane stalking said superior in an airport after injecting a sedative in her drink aboard a flight. Assayas - along with cinematographer Denis Lenoir - imbues the movie with a shaky, sinister quality that is admittedly quite compelling. But it's not long before the film adopts a tone of utter bewilderment, eschewing anything resembling coherency in favor of inexplicable plot developments and a general sense of confusion. It's as though Assayas is trying to emulate Takashi Miike, infusing the film with unlikable characters and a story that's hopelessly convoluted.

It certainly seems as though Assayas is attempting to make some sort of a statement about the lack of ethics in today's business practices, but in his zest to present the material in an unusual and avant-garde manner, he winds up alienating the audience and negating any positive aspects in his own screenplay. It's abundantly clear that Assayas is a talented filmmaker - he's already proven as much with Clean - but he's just trying to do too much here for his own good. And though the film's conclusion is unexpectedly nasty, there's really not much here worth recommending (Sonic Youth's discordant score remains one of the few highlights of the film).

out of

About the DVD: Palm Pictures has gone all out with this feature-loaded two-disc special edition, which presents the film in a longer, uncut version that's previously been unavailable in North America. The lion's share of the extras are located on the second disc, with an hour-long making-of featurette the obvious highlight. The disc also includes interviews with Nielson, Sevigny, Berling, and director Assayas (interestingly, Sevigny doesn't have a whole lot of positive things to say about her experience working on the film). There's also a 30-minute look at the process Sonic Youth underwent in scoring the film, along with a 40-minute Q&A that Assayas held after a screening at an American university. All in all, this is an amazing package that will surely please fans of the film.
© David Nusair