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(No longer in theaters)
Next to Michael Haneke, Olivier Assayas is a harmless little fetishist: He takes very attractive women, thrusts them into situations of peril (physical and psychological), and gets off (implicitly) on their efforts to wriggle their way out. He doesn’t eroticize the violence the way Brian De Palma sometimes does, but he doesn’t cut as deeply as De Palma, either. (It’s fitting that his best-known film in this country, Irma Vep, is a study of a director struggling to make a fetishistic femme-fatale movie.) Assayas’s newest thriller, Boarding Gate, stars Asia Argento at her most Asia Argento–esque—both aggressively carnal and progressively violated. (She’s the daughter of Italian splatter-maestro Dario Argento, but I can’t help thinking there was a mix-up at the hospital and her dad was Klaus Kinski.) The film is largely set in Paris and has two distinct sections. The first is a messy psychodrama in which ex-prostitute Argento does the attraction-repulsion two-step with Michael Madsen as a debt-ridden mogul. Assayas is out of his element here, and the encounters have no snap: It’s like one of those two-character plays in which the frequent pauses are filled with the audience’s coughing spasms. Then there’s a bloody murder, and Argento lams it to Hong Kong, where she finds herself knocked around by Chinese assassins, shadowy high-finance companies, and a jilted wife who drugs her and plops her down in a limo to be whisked away. (At one point, she is nearly shanghaied—to Shanghai!) Boarding Gate was evidently made quickly and cheaply, and parts of it are fun. It’s too bad there’s no real viewer equivalent—that you can’t watch a film quickly and cheaply.