American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Demonlover" begins in the cutthroat world of big business, and descends as quickly as it can to just plain cutting throats. It's a high-gloss corporate thriller that watches a group of vicious women executives as they battle for control of lucrative new 3-D Internet porn technology. One of the sites in question offers real-time torture and death, leading us to wonder: (1) Can such a dangerously illegal site actually generate the fortune that seems to be involved? and (2) Are any of these women queasy about selling human suffering at retail? The movie's answers are apparently yes and no.
My description makes the movie sound like a sleazy bottom-feeder, but this is an ambitious production by director Olivier Assayas, whose last film, "Les Destinees" (2000), was about a struggle for control of a family firm that manufactures Limoges china. Yes. Now we have another corporate struggle, but in a corporation with no values, no scruples, and apparently no employees, since all we see are executives.
The movie is set in the chilly world of high-gloss offices, international hotels and private jets. French, English and Japanese are spoken interchangeably. The story opens with Henri-Pierre Volf (Jean-Baptise Malartre), Internet millionaire, flying to Tokyo to close a deal with TokyoAnime to buy new 3-D imagining software. which will make online porn unbelievably profitable. Also on board is his ruthless assistant Diane (Connie Nielsen), who slips drugs into the Evian of her rival, Karen (Dominique Reymond). Karen passes out in the airport, her briefcase is stolen, and Diane is promoted to her job.
Until this point the movie has had the look and feel of your average corporate thriller; Michael Douglas could turn up at any moment. Then it takes a sudden drop into some really nasty business. We see demos of cutting-edge Internet porn (not graphic, but close), and we glimpse the first hints that beneath the surface an even more demented level lurks, at which users in real time are able to suggest tortures for the women they see on the screen.