22 March 2021

Olivier Asseyas's Demonlover (2002)

I can fully sympathise with critics of Olivier Asseyas's Demonlover saying they don't understand the film, it's trying to be hip but without substance, it's like some of his other films in that it merely depicts a world of wealth with its international (first class) travel, five star hotels, five star restaurants, etc. And if this is to be perceived as a criticism of capitalism-gone-mad, why can't we see that?

To me, Asseyas is largely in love with the world of the super wealthy he shows us, but at the same time wants people – rich or poor – to admire his work. He does classy, international films, he does difficult films (such as this one). Is he a great director, an auteur? I've only seen Irma Vep and Personal Shopper before, so I'm not one to judge by comparing this with several of his other movies, although 'great' is certainly not a word I'd use for any of the three films I've seen. Interesting, definitely.

Diane (Connie Nielson) is first seen spiking her sleeping boss Karen (Dominique Reyond)'s Evian water, in the first-class airplane toilet: she works for Volf but is also a spy for Mangatronics. The injection puts Karen out for a while so Diane is told by Hervé (Charles Berling) that she has to negotiate with a Japanese anime firm, which is introducing 3D hentai, although Elise (Chloë Sevigny) remains faithful to her former boss Karen and under her breath calls the ice-cold Karen a connasse ('cunt', but primly called 'bitch' in the sub-titles).

Then there's the deal with Demonlover, whose representative is the rather eccentric Elaine (Gina Gershon), who on arriving at the Paris airport is wearing a tacky tourist tee-shirt and asks Elise to score her some pot. Demonlover is really a front for the Hell Fire Club, which traffics in real masochism to its slaves on demand via sadists' credit cards through the dark web.

After a bungled robbery in which Diane tries to find Demonlover's files for Mangatronics, Elaine interrupts her, there's a fight to the death, Elaine dies but previously unconscious Diane wakes up where she wasn't. She manages to break through to the Hell Fire Club, but she knows too much already. She's lost the power game and it's up to others to dominate her now. Elise is also a double agent working for Demonlover, takes control of the power Karen once had and leads the Irma Vep/Emma Peel leather-clad lookalike into enslavement Hell Fire Club-style.

I don't think Asseyas quite got everything into place and there are certainly a few questions to be asked here, such as the timing of the flashbacks in this jigsaw, but then what film can ever be perfect? Although this is far from that.

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