Tag Archives: New French Extremity

New French Extremity at its Most violent: Inside (A l’intérieur)

If ever there were a movie so drenched in graphic violence that it could basically reduce all others that came behind it in the New French Extremity genre it would be this one. Boy is this film nasty and unafraid to carry its premise to its unbelievable, horrifying conclusion. [Then again, most French movies in this vein jump straight into the abyss, but none — not even Martyrs — with this gusto.]

Inside (A l’intérieur) touches the topic of a home invasion in a scenario that is impossible to top. One night, a few months after the death of her husband in a freak accident, Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a young expectant mother about to give birth, receives a knock on the door. It is a woman whom she doesn’t know, who would like to make a cell phone call. Sarah, already a bit edgy, refuses, tells the woman to go to another house and make her call. However, the woman refuses. And when Sarah tells her that her husband is asleep in bed, the woman flatly informs her, “Your husband is dead, Sarah. Let me in.” [To that effect; I’m not translating the quote verbatim here.]

This “What the fuck?” moment is the one that arrives with a sense of horror and dread so dense my stomach curdled. Imagine, a woman, alone, everyone whom she knows, away or at least, out of reach. Now she has a potential intruder in her home. She does call the cops after taking a photograph of the weird woman. They assure her that she has nothing to fear and will be patrolling the area. Through a previous photo she had taken, Sarah comes to realize in a moment lifted right off of Antonioni’s Blow-Up that the woman has been stalking her. Partner directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo use the claustrophobic set of Sarah’s dimly lit apartment and the presence of an invisible menace to ratchet up the tension to eleven. Truly, even before the carnage starts, the set-up is edge-of-your-seat on steroids. You are literally frightened for Sarah and her unborn baby.

Once the movie takes flight, it is, like Beatrice Dalle’s banshee performance for the ages as the woman, virtually unstoppable, and I won’t discuss more of it because frankly, it has to be seen to be fully appreciated, or at least, acknowledged. Inside is every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare. The fact that fetal abduction is a horrific reality (and some of the real-life incidents make this fictitious one look like a bad acid trip) only enhances the movie’s conceit. As almost unwatchable as this movie can be, I give the directors their kudos for sticking to their guns and delivering a blood-drenched exercise in Giallo a la française and not allowing a drop of sunshine to glimmer through the darkness of their narrative. And while I’m at it, please avoid the American remake from 2015. While the remake got directed by Jaume Balagueró, and Spain is noted for its stylish horror films, it can’t hold a candle to this extremely visceral experience that is guaranteed to give you nightmares.

Grade: B+

Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover

If there is a director whose work can’t be called repetitive, that would be Olivier Assayas. He’s been making movies since the mid-Eighties, but only become a cinematic force since the 2000s (purists will also include Irma Vep from 1996, but I haven’t yet seen it, and can’t opine). All of his more well-known films tend to dance a fine line between pop and art, intellect and trash, technology and the bucolic. Dropped in the midst of these narratives (well, many of them) are slices of East Asian glamor which can render an already murky plot even murkier or simply exist for auteur purposes.

Demonlover is, to date, Assayas’ only incursion into New French Intensity and it is a shame because his cinema, always a contrast between the cold and the warm, would be perfectly suited for the genre. You can see it splashed all over the 2002 film, restored to its former glamor and pristine, menacing visuals. He tells a rather Darwinian story of power-hungry execs with no moral compass and a taste for sadism with a coolness bordering on Cronenberg terrain that is fascinating as it is frustrating. There are moments when I knew (or thought I knew) where the plot of Demonlover was headed, and others where I just threw my hands in the air and went “Welp–here goes another one. Just watch the images, dude. Don’t start overthinking.”

So, let’s see. We have an opening sequence of Diana de Monx (frosty Danish actress Connie Nielsen, perfect for her part) coolly performing a company takeover right from under her own boss’ nose in a sequence of legerdemain that has to be seen to be believed. Soon after, once the lady-boss is dispatched and no longer a threat, Diana takes control of her software company, and soon is overseas in the Far East in a bidding war over a 3-D hentai company with another company run by Elaine Si Gibril (Gina Gershon). Floating in the middle is an internal power struggle between a male colleague (Charles Herling) and an assistant (Chloe Sevigny), both of who are not who they seem to be.

Midway through the movie, we realize that it is changing into something else entirely, and this is where Demonlover progresses from a thriller involving cyber-espionage into something even more perverse in which allegiances change at the drop of a hat, or let’s say convenience. Some of it is deserved — we get it — but others are perplexing. However, to disclose what it becomes would be a crime to a movie that is transgressive as it is bold and even repellent at times (and I can’t say that any other Assayas film has affected me this way). Suffice it be to say that power dynamics flip on a switch, and the movie that we were watching is no longer there. A neat hat trick is borne, performed partly to shock, and also to simply fuck up the viewer’s own mind as the viewer looks into an abyss of perversity.

Demonlover is still playing on virtual platforms. If you can, give it a look. Just be warned — the story is murky but ultra-sleek, and completely amoral.

Grade: B+