Nov 13, 2013
Although a rather absurd and patently pathetic thing to think about and surely symbolic of the decline of great Guido cinema, ever since Italian actress Asia Argento (New Rose Hotel, Last Days) began directing her own films almost two decades ago when she contributed a segment to the goombah horror anthology DeGenerazione (1994), she has become a much more interesting, provocative, artful, and mature auteur filmmaker than her formerly more famous father, giallo maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera). Indeed, while Dario’s filmmaking career has degenerated to the point of unintentionally parodying his previous and infinitely superior cinematic efforts, even directing a film entitled Giallo starring Hebraic hack actor Adrien Brody (who infamously sued the filmmaker and his cohorts for not receiving his full salary for acting in the film), Asia has opted for breaking with the family tradition of directing horror genre flicks and valiantly entered the world of aberrant-garde arthouse cinema, with her semi-autobiographical work Scarlet Diva (2000) aka A Diva Escarlate, which was the first Italian feature-length film shot entirely on digital video. On top of being the prodigal daughter of Dario Argento—a rather dubious dude who filmed his daughter getting raped in his work The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)—Asia also happens to be the granddaughter of ‘Italian Leni Riefenstahl’ Elio Luxardo and the great-granddaughter of Italian fascist composer Alfredo Casella, but one would hardly suspect that from watching Scarlet Diva, a decidedly degenerate digital video ‘diary’ of sorts from a deeply wounded soul that, among other things, features an unsimulated sex scene of the seemingly self-destructive actress being penetrated doggy-style by a negro named Tyrone (played by the actress' ex-boyfriend) while having her hair pulled. Despite that fact, Dario Argento, who also quasi-incestuously filmed his daughter naked in his anorexia-themed (Dario’s stepdaughter/Asia’s ½ sister Anna Ceroli suffered from the eating disorder before tragically dying in a car accident a year after the film was released) horror flick Trauma (1993), also acted as the producer of Scarlet Diva and a video cassette of the film can even be seen in the director’s shockingly terrible pseudo-Hitchcockian TV movie Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005). Starring Asia Argento herself in the lunatic lead role as an exceedingly lonely and nihilistically self-destructive Italian actress who wants to shed her international sex symbol status and become a serious arthouse filmmaker, Scarlet Diva is, if nothing else, a uniquely unflattering example of life imitating art and vice versa. Indeed, if Scarlet Diva and her subsequent Korine-esque feature-length flick The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004) are in any way indicative of where Asia Argento is heading in the future as a filmmaker, she indubitably one day might become the most infamous female auteur since Leni Riefenstahl.
24-year-old Italian-born (but of 1/4 Brazilian extraction) International superstar actress Anna Battista (Asia Argento) had already starred in 20 films by the age of 20 and is regarded as “the year’s best actress” in her homeland, yet she feels like “the most lonely person in the world,” which judging by her handful of bat-shit-crazy friends and dubious relationship with her discernibly fucked show business family, does not seem like that big of an exaggeration. In between being sexually pillaged by buck negroes on film sets and quitting films after being verbally reamed by directors for failing to learn her lines due to being too inebriated, Anna has a patently pathetic social life that involves doing hard drugs bought from American negro dealers and having meaningless sex with total strangers, including lunatic lesbos who she 'allows' to 'rape' her. Even Anna’s pseudo-blond bimbo best friend Veronica Lanza (Vera Gemma) has a boyfriend, though the fellow is known to keep his girlfriend hogtied naked for two days and slaps her around, but seeing as she is a major masochist, she loves it and even tells him so after he bloodies her lip. One night, Asia goes to a rock concert and falls in love at first sight with the singer of the band, Kirk Vaines (played by Jean Shepard in a role originally created for Vincent Gallo)—a very vain philistine and horrible hack musician whose lack of musical talent is only transcended by his Elvish Presley fetishism and pseudo-hip hippy arrogance—and the two inevitably have sex after the concert, with the actress remarking regarding their brief erotic excursion, “This is the first time in my life I’m making love.” Of course, decadent diva Anna has had sex more times than she can remember, but it is the first time she has felt an emotional connection with someone of the opposite sex as a lonely woman who has no problem confessing, “It’s very hard for me to love someone.” Of course, vainglorious Vaines, who at one point egomaniacally remarks “I won’t let you forget me,” abandons Anna the next morning and forgetting to take her morning-after pill, the lovelorn actress becomes pregnant. Not surprisingly, Anna has been pregnant before, but this is the first time she has not decided to abort her unborn child as she loves its father and has rather grandiose pipedreams about starting a family with the hyper hedonistic rocker. Meanwhile, Anna is attempting to change her image and become a serious artist, so she starts peddling an idea for an autobiographical film entitled ‘Scarlet Diva’ to American producers, including a fiercely foul fellow named Mr. Paar (played by serial killer obsessed painter/performance artist Joe Coleman), who attempts but fails to get the desperate (but not too desperate) would-be-director to “lick his balls.” Anna tries in vain to reunite with her bastard beloved Vaines, even offering to spontaneously fly to Australia to see him, but he repeatedly blows her off. When Anna finally has the opportunity to reunite with Vaines at a concert, she is rather heartbroken to learn that the seemingly half-retarded rocker already has a wife and child, who are also at the concert, and he does not want to see her. In a horribly hysterical stake of heartsickness, Anna runs out of the venue into the dark night and eventually down a flight of stairs, ultimately falling on her stomach and losing her unborn child in the process, thus bringing a completely cataclysmic and miserably melancholy conclusion to Scarlet Diva.
Equally amateurishly assembled as it is audaciously autobiographical, Scarlet Diva is an auteur flick from a sort of penetratingly personal purgatory that makes a pretty good case that Asia Argento is quite possibly the most unhinged female filmmaker who has ever lived, as well as one of the most interesting and incendiary Italian filmmakers working today. As Asia makes quite clear in a DVD audio commentary for the film, every shot and second of Scarlet Diva is of personal significance, including the character of rocker Kurt Vaines (the director refuses to reveal who the real man is), as well as real unsimulated sex scenes with ex-boyfriends and the buying of drugs from real drug dealers. Quite humorously, in a scene early on in the film, Asia steps on a magazine featuring Sicilian-American Renaissance man Vincent Gallo (Buffalo 66, Brown Bunny) in what is a sort of ‘cinematic revenge’ from the director because the iconoclastic actor/filmmaker bailed out on playing the role of Kurt Vaines as he apparently wanted more money for playing the role. It also should be noted that Asia dedicated Scarlet Diva to her deceased ½ sister Anna Ceroli who died tragically in 1994 in a car accident and who is strangely portrayed in flashback scenes in Scarlet Diva by a young boy (Asia felt the actor looked a lot like her sis, so she ‘transsexualized’ her sis cinematically). Since she was working on a budget of next to nil, Asia shot Scarlet Diva in a guerilla style, illegally “stealing scenes” (as she calls it) at airports and various European capitals, including Rome and Paris, and even used the real untouched bedroom (which she called “aesthetically perfect”) she lived in from age 13-17. Written while Asia was suffering from such severe agoraphobia that she could not leave her apartment for months, stating, “I was afraid to go out of my apartment for a long time; I could only go out to work,” Scarlet Diva is naked manic and hyper histrionic psychodrama from a discernibly damaged soul who used digital video as a therapeutic outlet like no auteuress before nor after her. Featuring such unholy acts as Asia unclad shaving her hairy hightalian armpits in a flagrantly unflattering manner while her big black beaver is exposed (apparently, she grew her pubes out for the film in the hopes it would be a hit in Japan, which it was), telling her first true love she is “a whore,” being quasi-raped by a big breasted lesbo (played by Italian porn star ‘Selen’), and buying hash from a Yank Negro, Scarlet Diva is auteur aberrance and movie masochism at its finest uncompromisingly delivered by a director who made a point to include the quote “any artist is a prostitute” in her film. Interestingly, early on in Scarlet Diva, the protagonist is asked by a reporter, “Do you think Italian cinema is dying?,” which it seems to be, especially considering there is no modern day Fellini, Pasolini, or even Fulci, yet Asia Argento has certainly helped fill the void by creating works that epitomize what Italians do best: artful exploitation and stylized sleaze.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 10:08 PM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.