Boarding Gate



by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I didn't really enjoy this movie much, but I did learn something interesting from the background research. I found out the reason why so many French movies suck. The writer/director of this film, Olivier Assayas, was "president of the jury at the entrance examination of La Fémis (France's national film school) in 2002."

Imagine that. France is filed with great filmmakers. Michel Gondry directed and co-wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Claude Chabrol is still alive and still directing. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) is arguably the greatest living filmmaker. The list could go on and on, but I chose three names familiar on both sides of the Atlantic. So whom did they put in charge of the admission process for the national film school? They selected the director of Demonlover, which is conceivably the worst film I've ever seen from a major director (and, mind you, I have seen Robert Altman's Popeye and Spike Lee's She Hate Me), and which would receive no better than a gentleman's D as a final project in film school. Placing Assayas in charge of a film school's admissions process is like placing Amy Winehouse in charge of a rehab clinic.

Boarding Gate is not as bad a film as Demonlover. Assayas obviously did a little research since that earlier film, in which the business presentations involved mistakes in basic arithmetic, because Boarding Gate expresses the background details of international business in plausible terms. If he got his facts essentially in order this time, he still made a mess of the actual filmmaking. In fact it's difficult to imagine an experienced director making a film this bad without doing so intentionally. While it is ostensibly an erotic thriller about double-crosses in the world of international trade, it includes what is essentially a 34 minute face-to-face talk scene in which two ex-lovers debate about whether they will get back together. I'm only exaggerating a little bit. The conversation actually takes place in two segments, one in his office (9 minutes) and the other in his apartment (25 minutes). Those two scenes are separated by a brief action scene, and the one in the apartment includes some attempts at sex as well as a surprise ending which involves some violence, but in the main my earlier description of a 34 minute conversation was not unfair.

And this is not just any 34 minute conversation.

It is possible to imagine a film scenario where 34 minutes worth of bitter lover's reminiscences might be interesting, if the actors were Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner and the dialogue were scripted by Woody Allen, although I think even that would probably not work in a thriller. In this case, however, the female participant is the Eurotrash queen Asia Argento, who mumbles every line in an energy-free whisper with no hint of emotion and no change in facial expression, as if she were a female Cylon with the volume turned too low. Although she is in danger of being declared clinically deceased, Asia seems as lively and perky as Betty Hutton compared to her male counterpart, Michael Madsen. Maybe the big guy was jet-lagged, because he seems to go through the film in a sleep-deprived stupor. He performed every scene in this film in two shirts, and he changed them in the middle of one of the scenes, so it's possible that he showed up for a day, shot his scenes, and left. I don't suppose the director had time to do a lot of re-takes because there are a couple of occasions when Madsen seems to have forgotten his lines, pauses a bit, then obviously fills in some generic verbiage. In addition to his other problems, Madsen is completely miscast in the part of a high-flying financial wizard who has fallen down on his luck. He is bloated and overweight, breathes laboriously, smokes profusely, and looks like a working-class slob. (Refusing to change his wrinkled shirt doesn't help.) He's not exactly the guy to instill confidence in the money boys in Hong Kong and Zurich.

Madsen himself has said:

"I was completely confused with that character. I really didn't know what the fuck to do. I mean, the guy is on the internet and he is stockbroker and he's a businessman and he has an office with a staff. He wears nice shirts, suits. He drives a nice car. I could not relate to it at all. I did not know what the fuck it was."

Madsen shows some real potential as a film critic!

Although he might want to learn how to use contractions first.

The really bad news is that Madsen and Argento's deadpan performances seem like the hyperkinetic work of Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh compared to the performance of Kim Gordon, Courtney Love's pal and the singer/bassist from Sonic Youth, who is cast in a minor role. She delivered her lines as if she couldn't understand English at all and had to pronounce it phonetically by spitting out memorized syllables in a monotone. Other than a lack of time in the shooting schedule, the only possible explanation for why Assayas didn't re-shoot Gordon's scenes is that his own English is not up to a standard where he could hear how badly she was reading her lines. On the other hand, Gordon also had some dialogue in Cantonese. (!!) Perhaps she is the Cantonese Meryl Streep.

The film is not completely without merit. There are a couple of fairly decent Bourne Light action scenes and the basic plot is interesting, albeit told in an utterly confusing way. Those few positives make it a better film than Demonlover, but that is faint praise indeed. Viewed in the broad perspective, Boarding Gate is a thriller in which the plot is confusing, the acting is indifferent at best, long stretches include no forward momentum, and some parts are presented in foreign languages without subtitles.

If you run a film school, I wouldn't recommend placing Assayas in charge. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend admitting him as a student, unless you have a remedial education department.

Soon Available at Amazon UK

DVD info currently unavailable.










6.6 IMDB summary (of 10)








No North American release.








  • Asia Argento shows her breasts in one sex scene, then does another more perverse scene in which she keeps her underwear on but her butt and breasts are seen when the underwear slips




Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


OK, I'm kidding. It's actually a D+ on our scene. It's not good enough to recommend to anyone, but it is not without some good moments.