demonlover

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oh yeah
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demonlover

#1 Post by oh yeah » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:38 pm

I finally watched this for the first time two to three weeks ago, and it continues to haunt my mind. Previously, from Assayas I had only seen Boarding Gate, which although it could use a second viewing now in light of Demonlover, strikes me as a fascinating but somewhat undercooked re-hash of the same themes of the previous film.

Anyway, I was utterly blown away by this. Aesthetically, it's hypnotic to the max, with some of the most exquisite long-lens, soft-focus compositions, the background always blurred, the camera usually in close on the characters, leaving places and spaces often fuzzy and hard to determine. The overall effect of the insistently zoomed-in camerawork is not just a sense of claustrophobia, but myopia of the outside world; these characters, chilled to the bone inside their solipsistic techno-capitalist bubbles, have no care for how their behavior affects others or their environment. Overall, this film is certainly one of the most brilliant and scathing pictures of globalized, 21st century capitalism I've ever seen.

The film also strikes me as one of the defining works of a favorite little "genre" of mine, which I would term global-noir or postmodern noir. The genre had a kick-start with Abel Ferrara's underrated masterpiece New Rose Hotel (to which Assayas' film no doubt owes a thing or two), and was practically defined by the post-Mohicans work of Michael Mann, particularly Miami Vice, to my mind the masterpiece of this sub-genre along with Demonlover. Without getting too tangential, this genre is a postmodern form of noir which drops the sense of big-city rooted-ness and cookie cutter plots that define the old noirs (as well as the regurgitation of retro tropes which defines "neo-noirs" a la L.A. Confidential), and turns instead to the globalization of crime, and often the invisibility of or impossibility of locating the "criminal"... the collapsing of domestic, or interior and exterior space and the proliferation of what French anthropologist Marc Augé calls "non-places": highly transient and temporary, sterile, lifeless public spaces such as hotel rooms, airports, freeways, bus stops, restaurants/diners, escalators, shopping malls, alleyways and hospitals.

Demonlover is largely set in such impersonal spaces, and unsurprisingly it's a soulless feeling film to the core, even when matters of sex and violence are involved (and they are, often). I'm not very good at describing the who's and what's of a film's plot, so I'll just stop here by saying that this is one of the most gorgeously hypnotic and trance-inducing works of art I've had the pleasure of viewing, while also being an intelligent and cutting takedown of the vapid competitive consumer hell-scape that comprises so much of 21st century life in the West.

Above all, I experienced it as a pure sensory bliss, with one of the most seductively tactile yet dangerous surfaces of any film; it looks like a drifting opium-dream cut through with shards of glass. With each scene, the film becomes more and more perplexing, culminating in a Southwest desert nightmare that calls to mind Lynch's Lost Highway -- and indeed, the film loops around on itself in a similar manner to that 1997 Möbius strip masterpiece. For me, it's up there with Yi Yi, Miami Vice and The Story of Marie and Julien as the finest of the 2000's.

Oh yeah, and Sonic Youth's soundtrack is ethereal and gorgeous, perfectly suited to the detached dreaminess of the images.

Anyone else have a weakness for this totally fucked up gem?
Last edited by oh yeah on Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#2 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:40 pm

A quick board search would reveal many many of us are fans, yes. It's a great film and worthy of a devoted thread though

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#3 Post by jindianajonz » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:44 pm

But is it worthy of a properly capitalized thread?

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#4 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:45 pm

The film's proper case is lower case and I'm the one who corrected it, so

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#5 Post by jindianajonz » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:46 pm

:oops: consider me corrected

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Re: Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#6 Post by oh yeah » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:53 pm

domino harvey wrote:A quick board search would reveal many many of us are fans, yes. It's a great film and worthy of a devoted thread though
Whoops, I just googled instead of searching properly here but I couldn't find much discussion (Je suis tres lazy). Glad to know I'm not alone out there, though, and to kick off the official thread :D The film has gotten a rather mixed reception in most places, to say the least! Seems like another one of those cases where a film with explicit sexual content is damned if it does (titilate), damned if it doesn't (it didn't, I'm sure).

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:02 am

Here's our previous discussion from the 2000s list thread back in 2009:
zedz wrote:Assayas’ Demonlover is a marvellous mindfuck of a movie, and he’s such a seductive and fluid filmmaker that it’s a delight following his camera-eye even if you have no idea where it’s heading (I know this film isn’t for everyone, but he won me over as soon as Neu’s ‘Hero’ blasted out over the credits, turned up to 11).
colinr0380 wrote:And it has the gorgeous Connie Nielsen injecting a co-worker's bottled water with sedatives in an airplane bathroom, taking bribes on the subway (in the other best scene set in the Metro of the decade (after Code Unknown, though the three way chat about sex in Irreversible should probably feature as well!), playing cat and mouse paranoic games with nebulous rival corporations over who gets the rights to release some premium anime tentacle porn in the US (though the 3D films that are said to be the future of the medium during the studio tour look absolutely terrible!), and getting Irma Vep'd up for some cat burglary which escalates into a rough and tumble no holds barred fight with Gina Gershon...after which point things get really weird!
zedz wrote:
domino harvey wrote:
zedz wrote:But do check out Demonlover (an acquired taste)
It is a problematic film, but one that fascinates as much as it frustrates and will make my list. It all falls off the rails in the last third, but even then the film achieves a level of discomfort in its ellipses that manages to be disturbing without becoming exploitative
Just thinking about it makes me want to watch it again. It's a narrative rollercoaster ride, so the 'coming off the rails' metaphor is highly appropriate. The last time I watched it, though, it seemed as though if you took the apparent plot at face value, it actually made sense (reading several of the radical ellipses as artificially induced).
colinr0380 wrote:Here's a fuller version of Hero by Neu! Poor quality YouTube video, but a toe tapping beat nevertheless!

I like that feeling of the film too and those slips in and out of consciousness (or persona) as the world suddenly twists around characters who have been 'bumped off the rails' of proscribed behaviour and they end up 'paralysed' (the most obvious example being the early drugging!) while the world remakes itself into something darker and more threatening around them - then the characters are thrown back into this new configuration. The re-orientation they continually have to do after each of these breaks and reconstitutions (recontextualisations?) is part of what I find so entertaining about the film.

And it also makes the use of the gun in a pivotal scene near the end all the more shocking as I was expecting that action to have been omitted somehow, yet this sort of becomes the exception that proves the rule, and a final sanity destroying break with the possibility of contact with a 'normal world', except through a computer screen.
Murdoch wrote:I just watched this and would agree with colin's assessment as well. I found it interesting how each of the three primary characters - Diane, Herve, and Elise - become much darker as the film progresses and what starts out as a tale of corporate espionage with undertones of the relationship of sex and technology eventually puts the sex and technology relationship to the central focus of the film.
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I think ther most important line of the film comes during Diane's dinner with Herve, where she says that nobody sees anybody, they only watch them. I'm still twisting my head around its meaning within the film. It seems rather apparent since with the subject of pornography, but also ties into Diane being unaware of how much more in control Hevri and Elise were - much more so in terms of Elise.

As for the ending, I think people will disagree with me here, but I loved how it took the Hell Fire Club and put it in full view - it was shown and hinted at throughout the film but never in an overt way until the last fifteen or so minutes, by which I mean while there is a scene where Diane does go to the site it is done so in a sort of teasing way and once Karen appears the film changes its focus back to Diane and Karen, but that scene offers a glimpse of the end and plays well into Diane's quote about watching/seeing.
A film I think that will reward rewatching it, something I hope to do soon. It will certainly appear on my list. However, question about the Palm release, I bought it on clearance at an fye ($8!) but is there some booklet that comes with it since mine didn't have one and it must have been pretty substantial to fill that case!
colinr0380 wrote:Sadly I can't answer the question about the Palm disc - I have the older, poorer quality Lionsgate one.

Demonlover would also make an excellent companion piece to something like Videodrome. Both are films about people having to 'recontextualise' themselves within the worlds in which they find themselves. Mulholland Drive is perhaps slightly different in that it is more about an ego-driven, self-created facade crumbling, while these other films are about people who seem cool, collected and in control seeing their worlds spiral out of control through the actions of nebulous outside forces. (Though Demonlover has parallels with Mulholland Drive in the critiquing of 'submissive' and 'dominant' versions of feminity, with Diane and Elaine being equated together in combat, while eventually Diane eventually gets dominated by the mousy assistant Elise)

Watching it again I’m struck by all the references to voyeurism (especially in those moments where we have seemingly unimportant cutaways to characters waiting for lifts and so on where we the audience are the only ones watching them. It plays into a CCTV'd world as well I suppose, where even the most uninteresting transitional moments of life are now captured on video monitors) and that throughout the film we the audience are also put in an uncomfortable position of watching others put on various ‘performances’ (from business meeting civility through to dress up S&M) but do not really care to understand their motivations or feelings, only what they can do for us.

Some scenes that I particularly liked were that the druggings in the final act as Diane is transported further on in (or to the next level of) the 'game' tie in nicely with the early chat between Karen and Elise after the first plane ride about taking Valerian pills to get through the long trip. Everyone’s drugging themselves just to get by even before it becomes part of a nefarious organisation’s entry procedure!

It would also seem to be a film paean to the glorious but cold hotel lobby. There are a number of extreme wide shots of characters walking through various high class hotels, transitioning from one space to another and leaving few physical traces behind them.

Perhaps my favourite sequence is the final one in Japan, when the Japanese assistant Kaori is shown showering in the bathtub after a night spent with Herve against the early morning Tokyo backdrop. Then she again walks out through the hotel lobby and off into the new day. It is both a sordid and strangely empowering moment, the most blatant acknowledgement between wining and dining important business clients and prostituting yourself in order to ensure the success of your negotiations

That seems to be the central theme of the film: powerful versus submissive depictions of women, and the idea the obvious dominant trappings of power (powers suits and various other forms of uniform; the use of weapons) may actually conceal more passive versions of women, while quieter seemingly more submissive and fragile types have a greater hidden strength.
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It is interesting to note that Diane herself watches the two different types of anime – the first ‘old school’ 2D one is full of classical ‘young girl’ characters screaming out as they get tied up or tentacle raped, tears streaming from their eyes as they have various orifices probed. Of course Herve responds most strongly to that one!

Then there is the ‘new style’ 3D anime, which has little to do with sex in conventional (or even tentacle based!) terms but instead features a feisty, more grown up figure using a sword to cut zombies in half, all while in lingerie with obviously far more attention paid to the breast bouncing physics than on any other part of the animation! This then segues into various other ‘empowering’ versions of women, but empowering within an extremely narrow, and kind of patronising, range. Diane is given a reaction shot in which she responds seemingly more favourably to this second type of animation.

Interestingly Diane seems to be bouncing between these two superficial modes of representation: submissive and defensive or feisty and powerful. Neither role seems to quite fit her, which is perhaps the most telling aspect. But she is trapped far more than any other character is – they continue to reveal hidden depths, while she just seems more at sea with every new twist.

Which brings us to the ending – people (or more correctly the marketers of products) do not want purely submissive women any more. There needs to be a little fight before they are taken, which makes the pleasure of the taking greater. Which is why all the women getting tortured on the website are clothed as powerful females like Storm from the X-Men or Lara Croft. I couldn’t quite see the photos Diane looks at when she eventually gets leather clad but they seemed like they could be Diana Rigg in The Avengers.

So we want her to escape and have an exciting, empowering chase, but at the same time we do not really want her to truly escape because that would be the end of our fun. She still has to be under our control.

Then there is that brilliant coda where we finally get to see the fabled consumer that all of this energy, shady business dealing and murderous activity has been performed in the service of – and he’s a teenage suburban kid just fooling around half watching the screen while he does his homework at the same time! But he's got his father's Gold Card, so what the heck, money's money and the show must go on!
Murdoch wrote:The entire time I watched this I was thinking of Videodrome, however I think Assayas approaches the subject with bemusement and more condemnation:
SpoilerShow
Notice how the only sex scene in the film is the violent rape, and also when both Diane and Elise appear naked in the film they are either covered by bedsheets or shown at a camera angle so as not to "reveal" anything, while the nudity in the animated pornography is shown in full graphic display. Assayas seems to be teasing the audience who after seeing the animated porn expect a good sex scene between actual people to take place, but instead we are given a rape that ends with Diane killing Herve. While Herve and Diane stroke and gently rub one another while clothed and act the part of loving partners, Herve becomes violent once they are nude and forces himself on Diane, while in Videodrome the sex scenes are only violent to fulfill the fantasies of both parties involved - Nikki asking Max to burn her with the cigarette.

I like what you said about powerful versus submissive depictions of women, and Assayas plays with this idea in a great way. Elise, at first the frustrated secretary becomes the dominant manipulator, while Diane goes from powerful company executive to the pawn of both Elise and Karen, while Karen asks as a mysterious figure who disappears in the first segment only to appear sparingly throughout the film as a sort of all-seeing ghost.

As for Kaori, Assayas uses her to act as another powerplay between Diane and Herve, Diane uses her to assert control over Herve when Diane says she slept with Kaori, and Kaori thus becomes part of the play for power that has been going on throughout the film even though she isn't even present in the scene.

And the photos on the floor were of Diana Rigg, which added this perverse humor to the film of seeing her run away dressed as one of the Avengers and steal a truck, something right out of an action movie featuring a sexed-up femme fatale!

In the end Diane is shown as the Storm or Lara Croft of the film, she is presented as the strong female heroine who maneuvers herself through the realms of corporate espionage, even shoots someone, steals a car, gets into a car chase! So she herself plays the part of the independent heroine who could act as a fantasy for those who visit Hell Fire Club.
Wow, writing about the film has just made this film grown on me even more, and I already liked it! Splitting this off into its own thread may be a good idea if this discussion continues.

edit: thanks, domino. Jeez, what a ludicrous package then!

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#8 Post by James » Sun May 25, 2014 9:17 pm

How was this film received when it was premiered at Cannes? This leads me to believe reaction was pretty much evenly divided.

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#9 Post by jindianajonz » Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:58 am

Are there any decent releases of this film on disc?

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#10 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 09, 2016 12:28 pm

It's my understanding that this is the best version available, but perhaps there is a superior version from outside the U.S.?

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#11 Post by bdsweeney » Fri Mar 31, 2017 9:36 pm

It's been a while since I've seen this. Is it all spoken in the English language? I'm trying to track down a DVD copy and wondering how important having English language subtitles is.

Jeez does this require a decent release.

A collection of early or obscure Assayas would be even better!

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#12 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 31, 2017 9:55 pm

There's a lot of French and maybe some Japanese as well?

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:17 pm

Yes really the main English language portions are the scenes where the characters are in Japan, where English is a shared middle-ground language for business, and the scenes with Gina Gershon as the US executive on a flying visit. Other than that the rest as far as I can recall is in French.

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Re: demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)

#14 Post by domino harvey » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:22 am

Coming from Arrow UK in May!

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Re: demonlover

#15 Post by dda1996a » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:44 am

Having read the posts above I'm very interested in seeing this. Out of curiosity, can someone organize Assayas' filmography for me? Was early reaction to stuff like Cold Water got him the cache to make Irma Vep and Demonlover? He also has a three hour period film that I never heard anyone talking about?

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Re: demonlover

#16 Post by Aunt Peg » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:56 am

I think it was Irma Vep that put him on the international map and that it starred Maggie Cheung helped a great deal with that.

The 3 hour period drama you mention is Les destinées sentimentales (2000). Excellent film (in my view) and hopefully with the interest in his earlier work it along with Fin août, début septembre (1998) will receive the attention (and Blu Ray treatment) they deserve.

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Re: demonlover

#17 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:24 pm

The thing that really strikes me about Assayas's films, from the epic period pieces or recounting of historical events to the ensemble family dramas to teenage love stories and even the more modern tales of rock stars and actors, and this one involving escalating paranoia and backstabbing boardroom shenanigans, is the sense of generations passing from one to the other. There are always new people coming up (or fading away at the other end) and a lot of the conflicts revolve around that sense of anxiety around clashing eras, even when people are not actively antagonistic against each other! (Though they are actively antagonistic in this film!)

It might not be possible for Arrow to release Les destinées sentimentales in the UK, as it was previously released on DVD by Pathé. I also don't seem to recall anyone releasing demonlover in the UK before this. Which is surprising as I would have imagined that the cast and soundtrack (including Goldfrapp's Lovely Head and Sonic Youth), let alone the thriller-style content should have made it particularly marketable!

(It also works well in a double bill with Brian De Palma's Passion!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: demonlover

#18 Post by zedz » Mon Feb 11, 2019 3:18 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:24 pm
The thing that really strikes me about Assayas's films, from the epic period pieces or recounting of historical events to the ensemble family dramas to teenage love stories and even the more modern tales of rock stars and actors, and this one involving escalating paranoia and backstabbing boardroom shenanigans, is the sense of generations passing from one to the other. There are always new people coming up (or fading away at the other end) and a lot of the conflicts revolve around that sense of anxiety around clashing eras, even when people are not actively antagonistic against each other! (Though they are actively antagonistic in this film!)
That's a really useful observation about a lot of his films. The other theme that manifests itself in most of his films in some form or another is globalization. There's a national fluidity inherent in almost all his plots / subjects. Characters casually cross multiple borders in his last four films, and the family in Summer Hours is geographically fractured (largely for career / economic reasons), or else there are international collaborations, global conspiracies or large-scale geopolitical events impacting directly on the lives of the protagonists (Irma Vep, Les Destinees Sentimentales, Demonlover, Clean, Boarding Gate etc.) Even in as 'local' a film as Cold Water this theme is expressed in the global diversity of pop music that animates the film and Gilles' Hungarian background.

Oh, and it should probably be noted that this theme has never (to the best of my recollection) been simplistically manifested as 'culture clash', and Assayas often ends up exploring global 'cultures' that are trans-national (such as pop music, video games, big business, pornography, terrorism)

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Re: demonlover

#19 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:45 pm

You can even see the sense of eras passing with the 'old fashioned' 2D material apparently being superceded by the 'cutting edge' 3D animation. Though the 3D doesn't look half as interesting as the old school anime! By the way I did some, ahem, research into the subject and found out that very brief clips from the 2D hentai tentacle anime come from an actual 1994 series Twin Angels, which gets this write up in The Anime Encyclopedia: A Century of Japanese Animation by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy:
The Anime Encyclopedia wrote:Twin Dolls
1994. JPN: Seijuden Twin Dolls; Inju Seisen Twin Angels. AKA: Holy Beast Story Twin Dolls; Lust Beast Crusade Twin Angels. Video. DIR: Kan Fukumoto. SCR: Oji Miyako. DES: Rin Shin. ANI: Akira Ojo. MUS: Teruo Takahama. PRD: Dandelion. 45 mins x 2 eps (Dolls), 30 mins x 4 eps (Angels).

The one thing you can be pretty sure of in anime is that people who look like ordinary high school girls rarely are. Mai and Ai are professional demon hunters, descended from an immortal being, dedicated to defending mankind (and, in particular, high school grrrl-kind) from the demons of the Pleasure Underworld. They are appointed guardians of the infant Messiah who will save the world. For once tentacles aren't used as penis substitutes - instead the crew animates optimistic renditions of the real thing. This openness doesn't last long as the story introduces one of the most meretricious of all plot devices, the "orb of orgasm"; pop it in a woman's mouth and she'll enjoy being raped. Historical and mythical figures are used as set dressing in the background of an unpleasant exercise in taking money for old rope.

For reasons we've never been quite able to fathom, the franchise not only changed its Japanese title to Twin Angels, but also gained itself a new U.S. distributor, moving from Softcel to Anime 18 for the distribution of the 1995 sequel. In Angels the sorceror-nuns must defend their charge, Lord Onimaro (who is 21, allegedly), from another demon assault, when Kama and Sutra, the King and Queen of Seduction, drag him off to a ritual orgy. Onimaro's guardian Dekinobu worries that if he succumbs to his demonic heritage, he will become the Demon King and his legion of sex-crazed monsters will subdue the world. He makes a predictable choice and has the twins stripped and tortured for his pleasure, planning to have them sacrificed. But Dekinobu is determined to rescure Onimaro from his destiny, even if it costs him his life.

Angels adds staggering naïveté to its other offenses - what hormonally normal male, offered the career choice of ordinary human or Demon King with ultimate power, is going to be persuaded into the paths of righteousness by two "19-year-old" bimbos who can't even find sensible underwear? It is difficult, however, to completely write off any show that has immortal dialogue like, "Commence creation of an evil sex barrier!" and a scene featuring two miniskirted girls on a stormy school roof trying to hang onto a magic staff while lightning transforms it into a giant penis.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: demonlover

#20 Post by Calvin » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:07 pm

I've never seen this one, but I'm really looking forward to it and am glad that Arrow are expanding their Assayas catalog even further. I wonder if the extras that were nixed from their Early Assayas double bill will ever surface?
colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:24 pm
(It also works well in a double bill with Brian De Palma's Passion!)
Which is another film I've been hoping Arrow will release, seeing as it was with the now-defunct Metrodome who never released it on Blu-Ray anyway.

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Re: demonlover

#21 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:55 pm

Something that I did not note the last time that I saw this but Nao Ômori turns up during the Japan section, who at the time had just been in the title role of Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer (where he more than manages to make an impression even opposite Tabanobu Asano and Shinya Tsukamoto) and this was the same year he appeared in Takeshi Kitano's Dolls.

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