When demonlover first played at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival it was met with a lot of confusion and outright derision. Most critics slammed it for being too confusing and a waste of time for Olivier Assayas - a director whose work these critics felt had been so much better. But demonlover is actually a well made and very intriguing film that has a lot of stylisic panache.
For starters it should be understood that demonlover is a B-movie with A-level talent. The film is primarily a thriller about the nature of control in the world of international corporations. In this case a French corporation named VolfGroup is in works with an American company to strangle a Japanese company out of business. But there is more to this than meets the eye. It seems that some people in both the French and American companies are involved in an underground porn torture website that – besides being highly illegal – rakes in a lot of cash.
Without giving too much away the plot is about a VolfGroup employee named Diane (Connie Nielson) who double-crosses a fellow employee named Karen (Dominique Reymond) so she can disrupt the corporate deal and reap the benefits of the porn site. But she is herself double-crossed. Yet the film raises the question; who exactly is it who is double crossing her? Basically Diane thinks she is in control but really she is being controlled. And in turn those who are in control are themselves being controlled.
Director Assayas makes the deliberate choice to throw everything out of whack including logic; if you want Hitchcock then don't look here. Certainly the jumbled plot will perplex most anyone who takes notes while watching. Part of the reason is because it is not easy to follow the elliptical editing style and expressionistic way it is all put together.
But it should be understood that the open-ended narrative structure is completely on purpose. This is a film of moods and cinema verité visual textures overflowing with allusions to the various elements of corporate thrillers, as well as the sinister world of cyberporn, the violent world of 3-D anime video games and the nature of greed and murder. A straight story would most likely not be as intriguing.
Assayas really has fun with the narrative structure and the style but underneath it all he is commenting on the nature of the corporate world's control of entertainment. Who knows what they have in store for us in the future? And who knows the future of the internet with regards to cyberporn torture sites?
The ending says it all – watch your kids.
The film also stars Charles Berling as a conniving corporate partner Chloë Sevigny as a disgruntled assistant and Gina Gershon as a sassy American corporate woman who has a secret or two.
[The DVD is rated R although the film itself was released Un-rated in theatres. Nothing is missing however pixilation is used in some of the anime sex scenes. I'm not sure why this wouldn't be released un-rated but from what I can tell there is no footage missing.]
The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is 16x9 compatible and looks terrific. The film has a glossy dark look with a whole host of colors flying through each scene.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 French and English and sounds great. The score is by Sonic Youth so there is a fair amount of guitar feedback and noise but mixed in are a lot of other electonica music. The film is not a quite one so it's best to turn it up and enjoy the loud sounds in full force; they sound awfully good.
There are interviews with director Olivier Assayas and actors Connie Nielson, Charles Berling and Chloë Sevigny. None of the interviews go much in depth into the film or the story. If you are confused by the plot these interviews reveal nothing. Instead they talk more about the shooting of the film and some talk about the ideas behind the film. There is also one trailer of the film and a bunch of other trailers for other films.
Demonlover is not your usual run-of-the-mill corporate thriller. It is more interested in style than in plot but that doesn't keep it from being entertaining even when you are not exactly sure what is going on. Anime, cyberporn, cat fights and multiple double-crosses and some nasty violence; it has it all. Most of it is also in French with subtitles. The DVD looks and sounds terrific. Recommended.