Cannes seems to have a strong idea as to what a midnight movie is, and it appears to be almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the designation as we know it. The sole midnight screening we caught was of Olivier Assayas’ "Boarding Gate," which is technically a genre film, an elliptical, shellshocked thriller starring Asia Argento. "Boarding Gate" lives in the same opaque world as the needle-sharp "demonlover," an awfully unfriendly one in which globalization seems to have leached all humanity and softness from its characters, each of whom nurses a bundle of not always explicated agendas and is involved in some sort of mundane but dangerous multinational racket.
Argento’s character Sandra spends half the film in Paris verbally and then physically sparring with her former lover, a fading businessman played by Michael Madsen. She spends the second half on the lam in Hong Kong, having fled to join her new love (Carl Ng), only to be apparently betrayed and abandoned. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth has a slightly stiff role as a Cantonese-speaking expat heavy, while Hong Kong starlet Kelly Lin plays a steely, smiling businesswoman. The film is a whirlwind of dislocation, particularly in Asia, where Assayas takes winding us through exploring karaoke clubs and shady businesses tucked floors up in downtown skyscrapers, or dark back corridors that suddenly empty into crowded noodle shops. The machinations fueling the plot remain only half-graspable by the film’s end.
We’re still unsold on the distinctive charms of Ms. Argento, who looks fierce stalking around in black lingerie, spike heels and a gun, but who’s a strange and slurry presence on film. She’s a little too unhinged to play femme fatale, or maybe she’s just bent on reinventing the term — roles like this and past ones in Abel Ferrara‘s "New Rose Hotel" and Michael Radford‘s "B. Monkey" cast her as the precarious, nationless screen siren of the future circa 1998. She is, like "Boarding Gate," both compelling and off-putting.
"Boarding Gate" currently has no US distributor.