It's All About Me!
In the tradition of Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, Bob Dylan's Renaldo and Clara, and Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny, Asia
Argento's Scarlet Diva is a stellar example of It's All About Me cinema. Newly available at your local Blockbuster this week on an R-rated DVD (though anyone who's remotely interested would do well to seek out the earlier, unrated edition), Scarlet Diva reveals a filmmaker who has at least one thing in common with her fellow daughter-of-a-'70s-auteur Sofia Coppola: a profound unfamiliarity with what you and I commonly know as real life.
Reeling from a magazine photo shoot where she's loaded with Special K and then raped, Argento's character Anna Battista races to the apartment of a friend who has been hog-tied in the nude and left for dead by a misbehaving beau. Within minutes (or days--the sloppy editing makes it hard to tell), Anna is nearly raped by an American movie producer while trying to read the latest Gus Van Sant script, and is then beaten and nearly raped by a delusional gay acquaintance who has what looks like a white-power flag on his wall. In the midst of all this Sabine squalor, Argento keenly locates the true heart of darkness: the IHOP on Santa Monica and LaBrea! There, at 3:00 a.m., Anna spies an iconic image of her future self: a white-trashy old battleaxe munching on chicken fingers. When asked what she plans to do with her life, Anna sagely replies, "In Italy, the actresses are all bitches. I plan on becoming a directress!"
No question that Argento herself has become a directress. Appropriating her father Dario's style for a slice of porno-biographical infotainment that gives new meaning to the term splatter movie, Argento has made an intensely autistic work of closed-circuit narcissism, a picture that's endlessly fascinating. (In one scene, Argento spends two full minutes putting on makeup, then shaving, spraying, and licking her own armpit--an extended riff that has the triumphal quality of an action scene or a cum shot.) Probably no filmmaker in history has ever been so vacuum sealed into the "write what you know" approach, but Argento finds weird pockets of humor and a pulsing intensity that the nine million other people who've taken the same tack couldn't touch. The tricky element of Scarlet Diva--around which Argento's otherwise assaultive European critics tiptoed--is that the movie is also extremely hot. Indeed, Argento's sex scenes, none of them particularly graphic (especially not in the new version), are as potent as any in recent mainstream movies.
There isn't a thought in Argento's film that couldn't be found in the diaries of 17-year-old girls all across the planet: Parents are fucked up, boyfriends can be assholes, older guys just want to molest me, and no one really cares that I'm...an artist! But Argento puts all that juvenile hurt and defensive self-love across in a manner as frenziedly decadent as her dad's. In an interview included on the DVD, Asia Argento says with a sigh, "Nobody really liked the movie. Only the freak critics like the movie." What can I say? Color me freaky-deaky!
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