(2007) dir. Olivier Assayas
Director Olivier Assayas’ latest film, Boarding Gate, got an interesting smattering of reviews when it came out, but came and went rather quickly. Featuring the intriguing though not always satisfying Asia Argento, it was described as a thriller, and having just watched Assayas’ Demonlover (2002), I was somewhat keen on seeing it.
As for Argento, I caught a glimpse of her a few years back (okay, maybe many years back at this point) and thought she was quite attractive and might make an interesting actress to follow. Unfortunately, I started with her self-directed and written Scarlet Diva (2000), which I apparently watched while not updating my diary. It was rancid. Uber rancid. Since then I’ve seen her in smaller ways in other films and really hadn’t thought a whole lot of her. And if I did, “talented” was not the word to have come to mind.
But this film is really her film. The review that I’d read in The New Yorker had been interesting, commenting on how it wasn’t her acting ability, but some sheer force of self-confidence or something that made her utterly compelling. I think I understand that comment, but actually through much of the film, she is convincing and striking, particularly in her scenes with Michael Madsen (who looks like he never tucks in his shirts to hide his growing girth).
Like Demonlover, the film is a thriller based on industry and double-crosses, pan-cultural, with sexuality and exploitation filling out its heart and fringes. The story is a bit convoluted, as is some of the back-story, which doesn’t matter a whole lot, though there would be people who would be confounded by the whole thing. At the end, for instance, I wasn’t really sure what characters were supposed to have been up to and where they were going to an extent (and it wasn’t from dozing off).
The heart of the film is Argento’s interactions with Madsen, a bitter, saddened reconnection of lovers, whose affair was one of arousal and sex on one side, deep love and passion on the other, mixed in with corporate espianage, sexual exploitation, vulnerability, and deceit. Even though the whole narrative isn’t necessarily spelled out, the emotional state seems clear, and perhaps the mystery of not knowing, not having it spelled out adds to its fragility and sadness.
As a thriller, it’s decent. It walks in steps quite similar to Demonlover, though it seems a much more emotional film. While at the same time being kind of confusing rather than thrilling. I’d commented in writing on Demonlover that I could see David Lynch working with the material. It’s true. Subject-wise, I could see Lynch in this stuff. The handling of the material is totally different. They are nothing alike as filmmakers. Maybe their eyes for the same cultural and emotional darknesses is where a kinship exists. That said, I don’t know entirely what I think of Boarding Gate. It didn’t strike me strongly, but I do feel somewhat struck. I don’t know if I’d call that a recommendation.