Directed By: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Connie Nielson, Gina Gershon, Chloë Sevigny
Trivia: This movie was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival
If you blinked, you missed Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover, a film that slipped under the radar of pretty much the entire American movie-going public. Opening quietly in September of 2003, Demonlover pulled in a meager $231,000 in the U.S. before disappearing from the scene. To watch it is to realize how tragic this box-office tally truly is. Packed with thrills and plenty of sexual energy, Demonlover deserved much better.
Diane de Monx (Connie Nielson) is a corporate spy posing as an executive for a large French company, where she uses her position to gather secrets for the corporation’s chief competitor. Through conniving and espionage, she arranges the theft of some important documents from her immediate superior, Karen (Dominique Reymond), which detail the company’s plan to merge with a pornographic animation studio based in Japan. The documents are successfully intercepted, and with Karen out of the picture as a result, Diane is appointed the enviable task of heading up the merger talks. But when a seedy American firm also enters the negotiations, Diane finds she must go deeper than she ever imagined into the world of pornography, which includes a visit to an underground sadomasochistic society that, in the end, may just destroy her.
What makes Demonlover so intoxicating is its well-established correlation between business and sexuality, where takeovers are little more than the corporate equivalent of physical rape. When her files are stolen, Karen tells her assistant, Elise (Chloe Sevigny) that she feels as if she’s been physically violated. It’s a feeling others will share before this film is over, yet, from a business perspective, Demonlover adopts the stance that the end results justify any and all means used to obtain them. With pornography being such a huge cash generator, the corporate entity at the heart of the movie is ready to do whatever is necessary to get their piece of that multimillion-dollar pie. So, when Diane, having already experienced corporate backstabbing, deceit, and even murder, finally descends into the dark recesses of violent sexuality, the experience is little more than a natural extension of the world she already knows. As Demonlover sees it, money is the ultimate corporate gratification, and chief executives are little more than the pimps, prostitutes and rapists fighting to get their hands on it.
Demonlover hit me from out of the blue. Knowing so little about this film prior to seeing it, I was blindsided by both its engaging style and intensely dramatic story. While the vices of big business certainly aren’t new to the cinema, I’ve never experienced a reaction quite the same as I did to this movie. Demonlover is yet another of those discoveries that make being a film fan so rewarding.