Updating David Cronenberg's Videodrome for the dotcom age, exhilaratingly original French cyber-porn thriller Demonlover throws together grey-suited executives, high-tech websites, and corporate espionage. It makes for confounding, occasionally meandering, and yet completely mesmerising viewing. Highflying lawyer Diane (Connie Nielsen) is apparently brokering a business deal that will give her company full control of the global distribution of Japanese anime porn (hentai). Except, she's really a corporate spy, whose espionage activities are dragged off course when she discovers underground torture website Hellfireclub.com.
Intrigued by the murky world of internet porn and tied in knots by the even murkier world of corporate espionage, she begins to lose all sense of who or what she's supposed to be sabotaging. After an attempt to steal the laptop of a rival competitor (Gina Gershon) is badly botched, Diane finds herself at the mercy of Demonlover.com, a ruthless internet porn company.
Writer-director Olivier Assayas' film is a refreshingly adult piece of moviemaking that plays with all kinds of pornographic material, from S&M bondage sequences to hentai cartoons in which young girls are raped by monstrous tentacles. Leaving this attention-grabbing, X-rated content aside, though, what makes Demonlover really 'adult' is its determined refusal to spoonfeed its audience.
"A DIFFICULT LITTLE FILM"
With its fractured and disorientating storyline, this is a difficult little film and at times, one wonders if there's quite as much here as meets the eye. Lacking the stark intelligence of a filmmaker like, say, David Cronenberg himself, Assayas' central theme seems simplistic: capitalism will always capitulate to the desires of the market place, giving us whatever we want, even if it's bad for us. No blinding revelations there, then.
Still, as it draws links between the high-tech worlds of anime, videogames, and pay-per-view pornography, there's something distinctly unnerving about Assayas' suggestion that even the most innocuous entertainments are part of a far less wholesome culture of the image. A fascinatingly compelling film.
In French with English subtitles.