May 8, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Demonlover

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Demonlover, 2002 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because it's a much-talked-about edgy EU indie, and Netflix's digitized "instant movie" library is a great place to get caught up on much-talked-about edgy EU indies, in this case a supposed trippy political thriller about various strange slacker entertainment companies scattered around the world, and the extreme sex-and-violence underground network of original online content that they may or may not be perhaps all trading in under the table for billions of secret dollars, away from the prying eyes of the world's police departments and oversight committees. Because it stars Connie Nielsen, Chloe Sevigny, and Gina Gershon, with a soundtrack by Sonic Youth, made by a French crew (which say what you will about it, but whose cultural snootiness generally results in superb movies and books), and how can I pass up all that?

The reality: So let me admit, I have a real love/hate relationship with the so-called New French Extremity in '00s cinema, in that I've simultaneously loved and hated so far all the films I've seen that fit in the category (which in my case includes such infamous examples as Virginie Despentes's Baise-moi and Gaspar Noe's I Stand Alone, and with such other titles still in my queue as Leos Carax'sPola X, Patrice Chereau's Intimacy, and Jean-Claude Brisseau's Secret Things -- the thing uniting them all basically being the use of extreme, NC-17-worthy sex and violence to get their points across). And so it is with Demonlover as well, which when all is said and done actually has kind of a simple message to convey: that most executives at hip entertainment companies, no matter how trendy their outfits, ultimately look at all artistic content as interchangeable "units," and that none of them pay any attention to what the units actually are, as long as the units "move" in big numbers. Well, and as long as the whole thing is staying exactly one step away from all of them being arrested, which is an aspect that writer/director Olivier Assayas really hammers away at, throughout this look at a cut-throat global entertainment distribution company based in France (think Yahoo! for the EU), and all the crazy coke-snorting cosplay hipster-douchebag executives from creative startups around the world they have to wine and dine each day; in almost every scene involving business (and most of the scenes involve business), there is always a moment where all the principles need to ask if this particular animation of a 14-year-old getting raped by a space-alien octopus is going to get them, say, all arrested if they ever go to Vietnam, or a lawsuit slapped on the company in Toronto. And far from being these quiet, embarrassing conversations, as if all the executives realize what dirty sociopaths they've become, they are instead the exact conversations you would expect sociopathic corporate executives to have concerning these issues, discussed in a blase way over another round of sake in an Irish pub in Mexico City, with a bunch of cartoon-drawing millionaires wearing tattered '80s t-shirts and hipster sunglasses indoors while hanging on their supermodel girlfriends.

This unto itself would've been pretty great, I think, a premise that could've led to a really clever, subtly dark and brilliant look at the new global post-everything meta-meta network of original content providers around the world, and the greedy frat-boy business-major monsters who get rich off their backs no matter what the age; but Assayas tries to throw too much more into this stew as well, adding this whole second layer of drama about how there's this supposed global-law-breaking internet location for extreme sex-and-violence stuff, which may or may not be run secretly by the same crazy d-cks from the American company the Frenchies are currently having to deal with (led by "All My Ex Girlfriends Come To Life Crazy Sexy Cowboy Hat Wearing Hand Coding Ultra Nerd" Gina Gershon). Oh, plus every single character may in fact actually be a spy from the exact opposite company they claim to work for. And did I mention the giant bloody hotel fight in the middle? Oh, and that then our scheming French mid-level-executive antihero played by Connie Nielsen suddenly goes crazy or something...or is being screwed with by a sinister powerful organization...or, um, something like that, where suddenly up is down and black is white, and her former assistant played by Chloe Sevigny (at her wasted-looking sexy best, and by "sexy best" I mean she's speaking French here on top of everything else) is now suddenly her sadistic boss, and that this may or may not be some sort of dreamlike symbolism on Assayas' part on how the corporate world is actually one giant BDSM power exchange? Yeah, there's that too.

It's a great concept for a movie, a sweeping look at the new global network of young business tycoons, who are making millions by being multilingual and used to international travel, ready to embrace the Web 2.0 and ultra-edgy material, along with all the legitimate drawbacks and problems that come with all this; but this movie isn't exactly it, something that comes close during the first half then goes completely off the rails for the second. Go ahead and watch it if you catch it by accident, but don't go out of your way to specifically seek it out.

Strangest piece of trivia: The anime scenes the global executives examine in the movie, to make sure they're not breaking international obscenity laws, is from the actual anime series Twin Angels.

Worth your time? Kinda

Filed by Jason Pettus at 1:18 PM, May 8, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |