Wednesday, August 29, 2012

demonlover

FR © 2002 Elizabeth Films, M6 Films, Citizen Films. PC also: Forensic Films. P: Edouard Weil, Xavier Giannoli, Andrés Martin, Robin O'Hara, Jean Coulon, Claude Davy. D+SC: Olivier Assayas. DP: Denis Lenoir – 2K scan - colour. PD: François-Renaud Labarthe. AD: James David Goldmark. Cost: Anaïs Romand. M: Sonic Youth, Jim O'Rourke. S: Philippe Richard, Olivier Goinard, Dominique Gaborieau. ED: Luc Barnier. Assistant D: Marie-Jeanne Pascal. P manager: Sylvie Barthet. C: Connie Nielsen (Diane de Monx), Charles Berling (Hervé Le Millinec), Chloë Sevigny (Elise Lipsky), Gina Gershon (Elaine Si Gibril), Jean-Baptiste Malartre (Henri-Pierre Volf), Dominique Reymond (Karen), Edwin Gerard (Edward Gomez), Thomas M. Pollard (American lawyer), Abi Sakamoto (Kaori). 129 min. Not released in Finland. A 35 mm print from Institut Français with English subtitles by Andrew Litwack viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Olivier Assayas), 29 August 2012.

In this movie Olivier Assayas approaches the cinéma du look territory of Beineix, Besson, Carax, and Jeunet-Caro of the 1980s and the early 1990s, but his heart is not in it, and the very failure of the movie may be a good testimony about Assayas.

There are also connections with Far Eastern action cinema, but maybe the most prominent impression of demonlover is Assayas' lack of conviction in superficial action. When there is more substance in the characters, he is a good action director.

B. Kite has written a fine double-edged essay on demonlover. In it he compares demonlover with Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse movies, and there are fascinating and relevant connections both in the concept and in the detail: both start with the theft of an attaché case with an important contract. The difference is that Lang invests an extraordinary, burning, unforgettable visual charge in his pulp fiction, but Assayas is not a director "who believes in the image" in the Bazinian sense. Assayas at his best "believes in reality" and is the more Bazinian of the two.

Yet demonlover is interesting and relevant in an Assayas retrospective. It is a thriller with global, metaphysical concerns. It is a story about media industry. Let's not forget that super action fantasies started in France in the serials of Louis Feuillade (Irma Vep... ) and Victorin Jasset even before Feuillade. But Assayas is no Tarantino. He cannot sustain enthusiasm and passion for such genres.

One of the rewards of watching the films of a director back to back in a retrospective is realizing how a director may elicit completely different performances from his favourite ensemble of actors, such as Charles Berling, Dominique Reymond, Jean-Baptiste Malaltre, and Jean-Pierre Gos here. Some of them I saw yesterday in period costume in Les Destinées sentimentales, and now in cyberpunk fiction about interactive sadistic cyberporn.

The most impressive scene is between Diane (Connie Nielsen) and Hervé (Charles Berling) in the Japanese restaurant. After it, Hervé rapes Diane, and Diane shoots Hervé. Connie Nielsen is an intelligent actress whose roles have often been underdeveloped, and even here there is a constant expectation of a fuller characterization, frustrated because of the script.

The 2K digital intermediate look in the 35 mm print is intentionally cold, soulless, and drab.

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