Moving confidently forwards and backwards between youth movies, backstage tales, household sagas, interval items, melodramas, romantic comedies, diva automobiles and biopics, Olivier Assayas often is the most versatile French director of his era.
“Demonlover” (2002), streaming through Film at Lincoln Center in a brand new director’s minimize, combines a number of modes. It’s an intricately plotted, cool and nasty cyber-thriller that, twisting itself right into a Möbius strip, means to show cutthroat industrial intrigue within the online game trade.
Snazzy from the onset, “Demonlover” opens mid-red-eye in a first-class airline cabin populated by high-powered enterprise sorts. As her colleagues snooze, the enigmatic Diane (an elegantly wan Connie Nielsen) laces certainly one of their water containers with a robust sedative to eradicate a rival. Complications ensue, accentuated by hard-edge techno and a rating primarily provided by Sonic Youth.
Cutting on movement from close-up to close-up (or from TV to laptop computer display screen), “Demonlover” gives the look of repeatedly switching the channel. A heady globalism prevails. Business lunches are negotiations in three languages. Casual references to Qatari actual property offers punctuate the matter at hand, specifically an curiosity by Diane’s agency in buying worldwide distribution rights for pornographic anime — offering not one of the feminine cartoon characters are underage. The assembly easily segues to the animation studio, a strobe-lit Tokyo disco, then again to a resort the place, having revved their engines on individually watched porn, Diane and her boss Hervé (Charles Berling) undergo the motions of practically having intercourse.
Every character in “Demonlover” is a participant in a murkily grasped recreation. As emotionless as she is, Diane demonstrates her motion chops, fencing with two rival girls. An American interloper (Gina Gershon, bursting onto the scene in an “I ♥ Gossip” T-shirt) briefly instructions the film, whereas Diane’s grouchy assistant Elise (Chloë Sevigny) conspires behind the scenes.
Elise maintains the phantasm of a traditional life, checking on her babysitter within the midst of brutal intrigue, at the same time as Diane’s position as a double (triple?) agent seems more and more theoretical. Like her, the film grows extra summary because the motion accelerates. Well earlier than coldblooded Diane survives a car-crash conflagration, it’s obvious that she is a few type of avatar, a form of Lara Croft (or perhaps a replicant gone rogue) dwelling in a live-action anime.
The plot doesn’t thicken a lot as dissolve or self-destruct. “Demonlover” evokes “Irma Vep” (1996), Assayas’s mock vérité account of an unmade French crime movie, in pondering its leisure context, which, on this case, is a world of soulless sensation and digital thrills. (The film additionally remembers David Cronenberg’s hilariously maligned “Videodrome,” from 1983, which concocts a cable TV community even creepier than the S&M web site that holds Diane in thrall.)
As famous by Stephen Holden in his New York Times review, “‘Demonlover’ is a movie about becoming what you watch,” not least if the viewer is a suburban teenager supposedly doing his homework. The film struck many as annoyingly stylish when it premiered at Cannes in 2002. Nearly twenty years later, its Everything-is-Now pyrotechnics have aged nicely, though it’s laborious to disregard the flip-top telephones.
Available to stream beginning Feb. 12 at Film at Lincoln Center; filmlinc.org.