Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Admittedly I didn’t care much Asia Argento’s self indulgent ‘Scarlet Diva’, though girlfriend has to be admired because she has nuts the size of Kansas, this girl does. In this semi-autobiographical drama, Ms. Argento jumps behind the directors chair and grabs her digital video camera to chronicle elements of her life and loves and she wants you to know that it has been pretty damned unpleasant up that point, kid being all of twenty-five when she made this thing. Asia gives us a brief prologue before the movie starts musing that one may understand her better after watching this or that you may understand her less. This told me that she doesn’t give a rat’s ass what you think about her after watching this movie – so here it is.

Spun in a series of muddy collages, we are introduced to the successful at a far too young an age actress Anna Battista who just has trouble dealing with the trappings of fame, fans and success. She drowns herself in destructive behavior such as doing all kind of drugs, except cocaine for some reason, having sex with whomever and engaging in what ever she feels will dull the pain of her life. We see early in Anna’s life as she is chastised by her mother, played by her real life mom Daria Nicolodi, for diddling herself under the covers. Now whether or not this is the source of Anna’s pathos I suppose is up for debate, but a quick personal story. When I was five years old staying at my grandma’s me and Jeannie Smith were playing doctor on the front porch. My Grandma came out and ‘caught’ us, because if we thought we doing something wrong we wouldn’t have doing it on the front porch in broad daylight, and grandma proceeded to freak the f**k out. She beat the both of us senseless, though she probably had no right to touch Jeannie since she was the neighbor’s kid. When my mom got home from work she went ballistic when she heard what my grandma’s reaction was and literally had to be restrained from going after her own mother for beating her child for doing something her mother termed ‘nasty’ but she termed as

but mom termed as ‘being a five-year-old’. My point is though I think I’m reasonably okay from that horrific childhood trauma, Jeannie never recovered. Pregnant at fourteen, six kids by twenty-two, untold abortions and dead at 33. Is this all my grandma’s fault? Probably not, but it sure didn’t help, that’s for damn sure.

Anna’s destructive life continues on as she meets an array of drug dealers, sleazy producers, and signs on to questionable projects. One day though she sees a ray of hope when she meets and beds musician Kirk Vaines whom she is convinced is the love of her life. She soon finds herself pregnant with his child and is more convinced than ever that her life is on the turn for the better, now that she is with child and has found her soul mate, not that that this stops her from smoking three packs a day, drinking and taking drugs. Alas even that small illusion of joy in Anna’s life is shattered leaving her beaten, broken and more alone than ever.

‘Scarlet Diva’ is muddled, jumbled, incoherent jerky mess. But if we put on our little film makers beret and turn it to the side one could easily interpret these images as the ones that Argento wanted you to see. This is her life up to this point. And considering the way the movie ended, this is her life up to this point and beyond as things apparently haven’t gotten much better. Though eight years after this film being released and seeing that Asia Argento is still alive and looking well, we have to assume that things actually have improved somewhat simply because there is no way the woman could have survived living life as it was going. She seriously needs to cut back on those cigarettes though. There was nothing pleasant about ‘Scarlet Diva’, it was not enjoyable to watch on a narrative level, on an visual level or on an artistic level. One watches this film and hopes that whatever Asia Argento was trying to work out, that she succeeded in doing so because the alternative is something that no one wants to even think about. Argento is to be admired however for stripping her self completely bare, both figuratively and literally in her efforts to bring her story to life, though the results are less than satisfying.

The DVD however does provide insight through interviews with the director and her commentary in which she explains what she was trying to achieve and her motivations for certain scenes. She discusses how putting her mother in her film help mend their fractured relationship and her resentment towards director Abel Ferrara during the making of the horrible ‘New Rose Hotel’ and how it propelled her to make her own movie. Hell, I resent Abel too for that Asia. For real. HORRIBLE! Hate to go off on a tangent but ‘Scarlet Diva’ was way better than ‘New Rose Hotel’. HORRIBLE. This from the man who brought us ‘King of New York’ and ‘The Bad Lieutenant’. Horrible.

Anyway, if you want see a movie better than ‘New Rose Hotel’ and are a freak for Asia Argento then you are pretty much the only person who I can, with a good conscience, recommend this incredibly messy journey into this woman’s personal madness. I see what she was trying to do, I just didn’t enjoy watching it.

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