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The Wachowski Brothers may feature a cameo of Jean Baudrillardís book Simulacrum and Simulations in The Matrix, but Olivier Assayas actually seems to have read it. For better and worse. His new film illustrates some of the postmodern notions of intertextuality, disintegration of identity, and alienation from reality, but as a narrative itís almost as punishing as The Matrix Reloaded.

Nice to look at, though, starting with Connie Nielsen as Diane, an icy business woman first seen drugging Karen (Dominique Reymond), her superior at the megamedia corporation where she works. Is this just part of a scheme to steal Karenís job, or is it something more sinister? After her Machiavellian advancement, Diane is assigned to manage an ongoing merger with a Japanese anime company specializing in fetishistic 3-D porn, but her loyalties and aims are not what they seem, even to herself. By the time sheís morphed into a leather-clad Charlieís Angel harried by known and unknown antagonists, the story has become as arbitrary, disconnected, and unmotivated as a video game dictated by the fantasies of teenager tapping on a keyboard. Which might be the point of the film, but itís not much fun to watch despite the many shots of colored lights in reflective surfaces and the somber Sonic Youth soundtrack.

What makes Demonlover worthwhile are the muscular performances from the women in the cast, including Chloë Sevigny as a mousy subordinate who proves more formidable than she seems and Gina Gershon as a crass and cagy American dealmaker. And Assayas, like David Cronenberg in the similar Videodrome (1983), brings to this amorphous, amoral universe a keen sense of right and wrong. In the world of simulacra and simulations, where the imagination is just a commodity of trade, only Hellfire is real. In English, French, and Japanese with English subtitles. (129 minutes)

Issue Date: September 26 - October 2, 2003
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