'Demonlover': Resist the Temptation

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2003

The French love Jerry Lewis.

The French love French movies.

At the Cannes Film Festival in 2002, the French booed French movie "Demonlover."

What does that tell you?

Well, it tells you, the French, they have the taste. I can't tell you much more, other than that the booing was roundly deserved and that the movie's slow progress from Cannes to America is further extra-cinematic proof of its sordidness.

But why worry about extra-cinematic proof? There's plenty of cinematic proof within the movie.

Meant to be a sleek, dark, disturbing David Cronenberg-style thriller, Olivier Assayas's film is just an annoying concoction. You might be amused by its presumption, but that's about it as it wends its murky way through cyber-porn, corporate greed, murder and even torture. And those are the good parts!

That world citizen of the movies, Connie Nielsen (Danish, speaks English well enough to play Americans, speaks French well enough to play French), stars as an executive in a video game company set on acquiring the rights to a new Japanese product so powerfully erotic it will obviously dominate the market. However, she's really a mole, working for another company trying to acquire the rights; her secret mission is to subvert the negotiations from within.

Meanwhile . . . oh, there are so many meanwhiles . . . she's plagued by a variety of problems. Subversion from within isn't as easy as it used to be! Whew! Her assistant Elise (doughy Chloe Sevigny) is acting peculiarly, her colleague Herve (Charles Berling) is too aggressive and possibly even sleazier than she is, and the American executive Elaine (Gina Gershon) is being too vulgar in that down-Texas way that European artistes like Assayas believe is the American style.

In and out, down and around, this way and that it goes, in a cold, ice-blue world of corporate drudgery, big bucks, Internet porn and a final "twist" that if you didn't see coming, you haven't been to the movies in years. Not a happy experience.

Demonlover (117 minutes, in French with subtitles, at Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge) is not rated but contains obscenity, violence, torture and erotic content.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company