(This blog goes out to Toby who saw this film a month ago.)

Demonlover is a website which provides adult anime to a large US audience. Working via a French company Volk, who have just bought a large share in JapanAnime, they hope to corner the market in erotic and adult anime content. However their main rivals MangaTronic are not willing to let this happen, and luckily they have a very cool operative Diane within Volk who they hope will scupper the deal, by revealing the link between Demonlover and The Hellfire Club, a secret but lucrative online torture site.

This is the fundamental plot of Demonlover, though it is often unclear that this is the case. Equally the machinations of a corporate cyberthriller are much less interesting than the assets they are fighting over. Olivier Assayas’s film is aware of this and sometime arts it up a little bit too much for his own good. There are characters whose motivations and actual roles remain unclear at the end of the film, while the hows and whys of the overall plot seems subsumed in the big message about powerthe film has.

That said though Demonlover is a compelling film, not just for the possibly hypocritcal occasional snaps of erotic anime (2D, 3D and the rest). Most of the characters are emotionally blank, Connie Nielsen as Diane is unreadable until her power is completely stripped from her. The ominous strands of Sonic Youth’s feedback (they don’t really score the film as lean a few guitars against their amps) often heighten the tension for very little reason and much of the film is made up of vignettes which are thoughtful in themselves but do not add up to a whole. The dehumanisation of pornography box is checked which is also extended to other power relationships (sex, office politics). The Prisoner like ending would probably have been stronger if the film had not had its coda – do you see all of this torture is being done for the benefit of fourteen year old boys.

Not a wholly satisfying film, for every clever plot reversal or alegorical twist there are some bits of bad acting and massive plot non-sequiteurs. But a fascinating film to watch: the last minute introduction of the lack of originality in the Demonlover users is very clever. Any film about prnography and violence has to be self-reflexive and in many ways Demonlover tries to side step this issue with its bombastic ending. But after five weeks of trying to see it, I am glad I did.