"Boarding Gate," a casually beautiful, preposterously plotted, elliptical thriller, earned little love last year when it played at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was shown out of competition. It didn't do much for Mr. Assayas's reputation, at least among some critics, who had been just as eager to dismiss his other recent films, among them "Clean" (2004) and the much-maligned "demonlover" (2002). What "Boarding Gate" did do was reconfirm Ms. Argento as one of contemporary cinema's most fascinating creatures. Her on-screen ferocity is now generating as much interest as her tattoos -- an angel hovers above her pubic bone, and an eye stares out from one shoulder -- or the ease with which she sheds her clothes, which explains why I can describe those tattoos with confidence.
In truth, thriller is a convenient but imprecise descriptor for "Boarding Gate," which resists categorization despite Mr. Assayas's stated insistence that he was trying (really) to make a B movie in English. Much like "demonlover" this new film plays with various genre codes and conventions -- the femme fatale, violence, murder, an atmosphere of danger and dread -- but plays with them very differently than most run-of-the-mill modern thrillers. Indeed both films depend on your having at least a passing familiarity with the kind of anonymously produced slick flicks -- slickly packaged, slicked with blood -- that are an industry staple from Hollywood to Hong Kong. You may not remember the names of these industrial entertainments, but they're invariably playing on a screen near you.
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