(France - 2007; US release 2008)
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas. Cast: Asia Argento, Michael Madsen, Kelly Lin, Carl Ng, Kim Gordon, Alex Descas, Joana Preiss, Raymond Tsang, Boss Mok. (R, 106 mins)
French filmmaker Olivier Assayas' sleek and glossy thriller BOARDING GATE was met with shrugs at best to outright hostility at worst when it opened in Europe in 2007 and then in the US in 2008. It shares certain similarities with Assayas' impenetrable corporate espionage thriller DEMONLOVER (2003), but is much more streamlined, straightforward work, even with all of its arthouse bells and whistles. Indeed, it wouldn't take much tweaking to turn BOARDING GATE into a commercial chase actioner, but that would be too easy for Assayas, the acclaimed auteur behind the deconstructionist filmmaking satire IRMA VEP (1996), the little seen addiction/recovery drama CLEAN (2004), the keenly insightful family saga SUMMER HOURS (2008), and the incredibly ambitious CARLOS (2010). BOARDING GATE was roundly criticized as Assayas feebly attempting to make a trashy erotic thriller, but such a labeling does it a huge disservice. Yes, it has tawdry and silly elements, but it's far too well-made and beautiful to look at to be so easily dismissed. It may be a tawdry and silly erotic thriller at its core, but BOARDING GATE does its damnedest to be the most hypnotic and compulsively watchable one you'll ever see.
provocateur and enfant terrible seems to at least partially be a youthful attempt to establish herself beyond being Dario Argento's daughter (it's worth noting that she's fast-approaching 40 and has settled down quite a bit in recent years), it's also done her a disservice even this far into her nearly 30-year career by still eclipsing her acting talent. Away from the drawn-out and depressingly funereal decline of her father's films and his strange habit of putting his daughter in nude scenes that's always left a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste, not to mention her ill-advised attempts to break into Hollywood (Vin Diesel's XXX was a huge hit, but it did nothing for her in America), Argento probably has her career-best role in BOARDING GATE. Sure, the poster art plays on her hellraising, wild-child persona ("She's losing control again"), and Sandra at first seems like another variation on Argento's similar corporate seductress (named "Sandii") in Abel Ferrara's cyberpunk misfire NEW ROSE HOTEL (1999). But she has an alluring, edgy. and intense screen presence that Assayas uses for maximum effect, whether she's parading around in skimpy underwear, touching herself in Rennberg's office, glaring intensely while pulling a trigger, or letting emotion get the best of her in her final meeting with Rennberg. Judging from her work in BOARDING GATE, somebody really missed the boat by not casting Argento as a cold, ruthless, badass Bond femme fatale of the Luciana Paluzzi variety during the Pierce Brosnan era.
RESERVOIR DOGS, and depressing in that today, he's lumped in with fellow promising actors-turned-mercenaries Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, Eric Roberts, Tom Sizemore, and John Savage, guys who simply can't turn down a gig, no matter how dubious it is, especially if they're on and off the set in a day or less. Other than SIN CITY and an occasional CSI or BLUE BLOODS guest spot, the last decade of Madsen's IMDb page is infested with the likes of NOT ANOTHER NOT ANOTHER MOVIE, FOREST OF THE LIVING DEAD, PIRANHACONDA, and tons of other instantly obscure and unreleased YouTube-quality titles that barely qualify as films. Watching BOARDING GATE again now, it's almost as if Assayas created Miles Rennberg as a sort-of intervention for Madsen about where his career was heading. The parallels between Rennberg and Madsen are impossible to ignore: a buzzed-about shooting star years earlier, now looking for quick cash and clinging to the fringes of his industry thanks to name recognition and past accomplishments, and with, as Sandra points out, "a body gone to seed." A pasty, schlubby-looking Madsen sells it perfectly with his slumped shoulders, his middle-aged paunch, and a lurching gait that makes him look like he's babying a chronically nagging back injury. The actor does appear in Quentin Tarantino's currently in-production western THE HATEFUL EIGHT, but until that's released, BOARDING GATE stands as the last documented example of Michael Madsen giving a shit onscreen.
"Lizard Point" and "Music for Airports 2/2," and "The Heavenly Music Corporation," by Eno and King Crimson's Robert Fripp. It all reaches a stunning crescendo in a finale that's heavy on the complicated camera moves and long tracking shots as Sandra follows Lester with the intent of exacting revenge for hanging her out to dry and cutting her out of their club deal. As Eno's music drones and throbs, Assayas comes up just a split-screen and a split-diopter shy of going into all-out Brian De Palma worship. Nevertheless, Sandra's tailing of Lester brings to mind fond memories of similar De Palma sequences like Angie Dickinson following her anonymous hook-up through the art museum in DRESSED TO KILL or Craig Wasson's lovestruck pursuit of his doomed neighbor through an L.A. shopping mall and to the beach in BODY DOUBLE.