BAM Retrospective Review, Post-Punk Auteur: Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover

Demonlover, a mind-bending techno-thriller written and directed by Olivier Assayas, is a mixed ride. It has attained a cult status, polarized viewers, bares resemblance to other cult films such as Videodrome and sports an ambient and jarring score by Sonic Youth. As if that were not enough, Assayas initiates intensely ambitious thematic and narrative goals. All of these elements listed make for an overloaded film that is original yet inconsistent.

The plot revolves entirely around The Volf Corporation’s attempts to broker a deal. They are trying to acquire the rights of a Japanese animation studio, mainly for their 3D hentai. At the same time, they are trying to negotiate a deal with American pornography site demonlover.com, represented by Elaine (Gina Gershon). The woman who is in charge of brokering both deals for the corporation is Karen (Dominique Reymond) who is poisoned by co-worker Diane (Connie Nielsen) in the opening scene. Diane then takes over the deal as well as working with Karen’s business partner Herve (Charles Berling) and assistant Elise (Chloe Sevigny). It turns out that demonlover.com is a front for an exclusive and interactive sadomasochistic torture website called The Hellfire Club, which features unwilling participants. From there, the narrative gradually collapses, hurtling us into the unreliable subconscious of the characters.

Demonlover tries to tackle many issues at once. The first is clearly business culture and the subsequent loss of identity within it. Shooting in cold blue tones, Assayas portrays the business world as a place that only values someone for what they can accomplish, and devalues someone the moment they become expendable. The film looks at how robotic the determination within business can make a person, and the fragility of any eventual success. The more successful elements of the convoluted second half depict the easily replaceable mindset of business and the ever shifting identities within.

The other primary interest of Assayas is the desensitization of violence in relation to our culture and overexposed viewers. The characters are either directly or indirectly exposed to sex and/or violence throughout. Their reactions are dehumanized and shrouded by the business aspect of their goals. One scene that particularly illustrates this is when Diane and representatives of the anime studio discuss the potential legal issues if their product is labeled ‘child pornography’. They are concerned about what that could financially do to the company; not the moral implications behind the potential claim. Having female characters also adds a layer of discomfort since the emotionless reactions to violence against women are coming from women themselves. The viewer is asked to examine their own reaction to the sexual violence shown, especially in contrast to the non-reactions of the characters. Typically, filmmakers’ attempts to explore the relationship between violence and the viewer become contradictory. Examinations of violence force the filmmaker to make their point with, well, violence. Assayas manages to strike a nice balance here with some very strong content without simultaneously harboring the indulgent fascination often found. The scene with Diane looking at the Hellfire Club site is like an assault on the viewer in large part to the way Sonic Youth’s score is incorporated with the imagery. Living in the age of easy access to anything through the internet makes most of this material only more relevant as time passes. The examination of desensitization provides the most successful commentary in demonlover.

The execution of the narrative is where the film becomes problematic. Assayas is trying to throw us off and purposely deconstructs the first half of the film as it moves into the second. By breaking off from traditional narrative techniques and alienating the audience, Assayas is accomplishing what he set out to do with the film. It is up to the audience to decide what they can get from the director’s choice and how it affects their viewing experience. I found it to be a long-winded attempt at intentionally going against the norm for its own sake. At its most confusing, demonlover turns basic characterization on its head and has plot developments happening out of a definitive context. Diane goes from being a ruthless double-crossing businesswoman (who happens to be a spy) to a victim ironically surrounded by others with ulterior motives. This is the only development within the second half that truly works. It emphasizes the loss of identity and temporary nature of business.

The primary reason the film’s final half cannot sustain itself through the narrative breakdown is that it simply stops being engaging. The first half is very plot-driven; every piece of dialogue is about the attempts to close either the deal with the Japanese animation studio or demonlover.com. Characters and their dynamics are established only through the plot-driven dialogue. Once all the set-up is thrown out the window, the film has no method of engaging the audience. His trip into the subconscious is simply not gripping. The second half could have brought the film to the next level, using the set-up to further explore the plot, characters and themes in an unconventional way. Instead, it falls flat. This proud display of playing with structure seems ridiculous when the predictable ending is brought into play. Realizing where Assayas is taking this story only makes getting there tiresome and his methods go from being an unpredictable breakdown of the Hollywood narrative to being a predictable journey to an ending that ironically feels like something a Hollywood film would do.

Although demonlover is not the success it wants to be, it certainly stuck with me. It made me think extensively about the issues Assayas was exploring. Connie Nielsen gives one of the more underrated performances in recent memory and is a highlight. The direction it goes in is all the more frustrating because of how well it builds up its first half. Love it or hate it, Olivier Assayas goes for broke with a film that is somehow both worthwhile and tiresome.

5.5/10



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3 Comments

  • This sounds interesting. I’ve been on an Assayas kick recently with Boarding Gate and Irma Vep. This one seems to be in line with those flicks. Hope I can appreciate this one more than Irma Vep. Awesome that the criterion cast has a female perspective now.

  • Young children do not sit on the stupid stories, stories must have a human message, and be realistic, because the only way Holiwood, like other movie houses can get an audience. Children accompanied by NASA to go into space and this is one direction where to dig under the surface.
    Writing for radio: a brief, clear, logical
    Your audience has only one chance to hear and understand what you write / speak, because to write / say simply, clearly and logically. While listening to your radio listener a real dinner, cat food, drives a car, or something similar. You need to grab the listener’s attention.
    Your audience has only one chance to hear and understand what you say, why do you write / say simply, clearly and logically.
    Can you catch all the listener from the first hearing? If you read newspapers, you can go back and check the details you have not noticed the first time. If listening to the radio, you can not ask the manager to give you repeat the parts that you missed! If you read the newspapers, it’s probably the only thing you are doing at that moment.
    While listening to your radio listener a real dinner, feed the cat, beating it with my sister, for homework, drives a car, or something similar. Your news / story should grab the listener attention and convey a story on the first attempt.
    Just write what you and spoke. The radio was telling people in all – not even sound like you need to read when they are the stories / news.
    Read aloud what you write before you read the application or before the date someone else to read it in the program.
    If you do not look very smooth, if you are running out of breath, if groups of words seem jezikolomci (fish fish bites the tail, for example), if your grandmother would not understand, it seems that you are not well written. Try again! Sometimes it is good to think about a particular person when writing news / story – write it as if you saopćtiti is your neighbor or spouse.

    Start with the most important (“top line”)

    What is it about a story that will make you say “Hey, this is interesting!”?

    Whatever it is, it is what will compel your audience to sit down and pay attention – it’s your “top line” First, every news story should have a strong TOP LINE (starting line / line). This means a strong first sentence, first paragraph. In other words, a strong starting point of the story.

    Strong TOP LINE (TL) is clear, informative and easy to understand.

    Thus, our language should make clear, clear razumijivim after the first listen. If TL is not clear, the rest of the story will be equally vague. TL is the foundation upon which we build our house.

    How to find our Top Line?

    We find it by asking key questions about the story to themselves until the story do not understand ourselves. Who? (Who?) What? (What?) Where? (Where?) Why? (Why?), When? (When?), How? (How?).

    Then decide which of the answers to these questions we need to know the listener first. It is usually best to describe what is happening now.

    To be more stressed that feeling PRESENT, we always strive to use the present tense in the first sentence. It helps that the story sounds to date and helps journalistic opinion that requires logical, perhaps CHRONOLOGICAL information flow. Of course, respect the chronological order sometimes slows the story, but sometimes it’s the only way to tell it.

    Once you find TOP LINE, a clear starting point of the story … then the rest of the story easy to run.

    This is similar to the initial stage of your favorite movie: she works, she draws you into the action as it begins in a good way. Selection and Writing TL can take away a lot of time, it is often the hardest part of the story, but it is very important to spend time to write it well. Do not expect your first attempt will be successful. Like any skill, writing for radio is getting better with time and experience. Ask senior colleagues for advice if you get stuck. And remember: IF YOU ARE IN DIFFICULTIES it’s not because the story is impossible to write … but because you approached her the wrong way.

    As happens in life, the answer to the question is often contained in the pitanju.Npr. “How to write a story?” Closer look at this question: it contains the word “write”, the verb in present tense. Look at your story and look for the verb in present tense. Sometimes you can write in the future tense … it’s ok … AVOID USE ONLY LAST TIME in your Top Line. Start simple.

    How long should be the Top Line? How long is a piece of string? Depends. Sometimes it is possible to get enough of the relevant factors in the short TL. However, sometimes you’ll be forced to use a longer TL body composed of two to three sentences. In this case you must separate the information inserted NATURAL breathing space. For example: “Three football fans were detained after last night’s fight in the streets of Green Berets … trouble occurred when the fans from rival teams … … Togamjesta Mogagrada and clashed in front of City Café.” Breathing room to allow your eye to rest … your lungs to breathe … and your voice that sounds natural. It’s good for radio, good for your listeners.

    Keep your “top line” short and maintain its strength, force of impact.

    Rules and “tricks” for a better story

    Choose!

    Making a good story lies in what they omit. Just a few facts is important enough to put them in your final version. Choose only the most important point.

    Keep things logically. Remember that the story is rightly called the story – should be a logical beginning, middle and end and should compel the audience to want to continue listening. If you feel that the story difficult to follow, and listeners will not think so.

    Tell the story simply. Truly speaking, many stories, even news that we hear on the radio are complicated. Your story has to be amazingly simple. Think about the basic ideas that are trying to convey, then simplify them. Then write them in plain language. Once you’ve written the first draft, review it again and make it even easier.

    Here are some instructions and tricks that can be useful when writing for radio:

    Get rid of the big words. Use only those words and phrases to use in conversation. The person you just interviewed may be the chief executive, over-the director with special responsibility for special projects in Megacorp-in, but do audiences really need to know? Why not just say that this person is Megacorp?

    Make the story easy to listen to. Remember that you are trying to ease the listeners to catch everything the first time … set guidelines for them. If you use the title of the person, put them in front of their names. Do not put the really important words in the beginning – when the listener involved in what you’re talking, he failed them. Parse a sentence to help the listener to hear the key word. Do not be afraid to repeat the same idea in different words.

    Do not write too much. When you write your first draft, review it and remove all the adjectives. Then each of them go back and consider whether it really deserves a place in your story. Many people use adjectives to enhance the drama of the story – a mass / brutal / malicious / dramatic .. If your story really worth telling, the fact itself should be dramatic enough without having to be so richly decorated.

    Locate the story. Where does it happen? This is particularly important for local and regional stations. Immediately tell the TL audience WHERE the story happened, so they can locate a story in relation to themselves.

    Specify the source. You got information from somewhere. Tell the audience where it comes from your news. “Concluding the leaders of the Union …” “Officials from the Democratic Party propose …” Finally, you can check it, right? Let the listener know who says that they themselves may conclude that you will not believe it. If you use facts and numbers that you did not explore (perhaps from a commercial organization or a government body, etc.), assign them to their source. For example, if you are a student leader said that 10,000 students living in poverty without enough money for food, do not say “Ten thousand students is a” food “… say” Student leader TVRDl hijada that has ten students with no food … No believe what someone tells you. If you check the facts yourself (and to 10,000 students surveyed?) Do not accept them as truth. If ten o’clock in the miners’ strike, saying that their strikers Guard is vital, say “The miners are on strike they believe that their guard is of vital importance.” Always atribuirajte (assign source) opinions, statistics, analysis, accusations, blame and praise.

    The main part of each story is its first sentence. If she is not interested in your pubilku, the audience will not listen. If you think that is a boring topic, ask yourself whether you and your audience will just think. Do you really want to publish a story on the radio? If you want, make it interesting!

    Tell the audience what is happening now. Use the present tense. You’re writing news, not history. Compare it with the news at 09:00. What sounds more relevant and why? Three football fans were arrested last night after … OR … Three football fans were in jail this morning after …

    Be sure that you yourself know the story. If you do not know, nor will your audience. If you’re concerned, read the story of a colleague / colleague. See if he / she understands: If not, try again.

    Write short sentences. But change the length of sentences to make them more interesting. NE3 not all be as long as it will read into the program seem to be pronounced as a robot toy.

    Simplify the details, and write numbers in word form, not in figures, because otherwise they would not be possible to read the time pressed. For example, $ 490.610 may look easy on paper, but try to pronounce: The Four hundred and ninety thousand and six hundredths and ten dollars, “the voice. Will anyone be able to understand why not to say only” slightly less than half a million dollars ” , which is far easier to understand.

    Be careful with the adjectives. Too easily people use them to express opinions and reheating a story that does not deserve. For example, mine are not mass demonstrations if only ten miners’ strike came to watch. These are significant mining demonstrations only if the consequences are significant. You may think that the demonstrations are important if your father participated in them, but if you strike the guard has no wider significance it will have great significance for the audience and allows you to make you your opinion interferes in telling the real story.

    As a general rule, do not use direct quotes! If you Boris Yeltsin said, “I really like vodka, your report should say … “Boris Yeltsin acknowledged in passing that he was glad to vodka,” but that said, “I really like vodka.” The words “I” and “we” should be omitted from your coverage, except in special circumstances. Direct quotes on the radio could confuse the listener because you can not go back to the text, as it can in the newspaper. Therefore, it is quite possible that a listener to understand about whose declaration actually works – Boris Yeltsin, viditelja radio, news writer / story, a fourth …

    Continuity and change. A listener should be able to hear all your news during the day, back to each story logically changed and so have all the latest general information, and he never should not be boring. More slušatečlj should be able uključti the only one broadcasting news and understand all the basic information about each story you heard first. This trick is very wise, and everything is made in good writing. Every time you write a story (or just news), find out whether this is the first time that broadcasts throughout the day, and if not, what is above, and you can add it to your version made fresh. At the same time, think how you can keep all the basic information from the background to the story without losing the clarity?

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