Review: Scarlet Diva

Not unlike the New York of Ferrara’s many films, Asia’s very tangible world is one that seemingly welcomes self-destruction.

Scarlet Diva
Photo: Media Blasters

Asia Argento’s Scarlet Diva is every bit the film one might expect from the daughter of director Dario Argento or, more accurately, someone whose worked with the undervalued Abel Ferrara. In this semi-autobiographical, straight-from-the-id confessional, the sultry Asia authors herself as Anna Battista, an Italian superstar and aspiring directress who just happens to be her own worst enemy. The reflexivity of the piece (Anna currently works on her first screenplay, Scarlet Diva) is an obvious one yet nonetheless fascinating. That the film’s finale remains open-ended calls fabulous attention to the film as an evolving text turning in on itself, much in the same way that the ad infinitum reflections from a barber’s mirror manages to lead us down a corridor of distorted truths and straight into our subconscious.

“I’m an oblique personality, directly proportional to the world around me,” says Anna to a rock star who fucks her and leaves her. Lines like these are easy to take because Anna/Asia scoffs at such heady self-reflections. More whore than virgin, Anna falls hard for the first man to “love” her. She takes rejection around a self-imploding world (from Amsterdam to Los Angeles). The details are sketchy (who does lines of K?) but the K-holes are anything but. A pregnant Anna’s drug trip inside a hotel bathroom evokes a similar sequence from papa Argento’s Suspiria but, more importantly, Asia uses this episode as a means of skewing Anna’s reality and, in turn, calls attention to her self-destructiveness and all that she has come to deny.

Though disgusted by a whorish, well-oiled Hollywood, Anna is nonetheless enamored by the success it promises; she admonishes her gay best friend for trading creativity for prostitution and, in the end, Asia seems to ask: Is there a difference? In this respect, Scarlet Diva shows signs of someone tutored on the films of Abel Ferrara (Asia herself starred in Ferrara’s über-sci-fi New Rose Hotel). Not unlike the New York of Ferrara’s many films, Asia’s very tangible world is one that seemingly welcomes self-destruction. Where Ferrara’s detachment from his material emphasizes a character’s redemption, Asia struggles to disengage herself from her ego. In turn, there are less ambiguities (moral and otherwise) to tease out from Scarlet Diva than there are from Ferrara’s King of New York or Bad Lieutenant.

 Cast: Asia Argento, Jean Shepard, Vera Gemma, Fabio Camilli, Joe Coleman, Luce Caponegro Selen, Herbert Fritsch, Vanessa Crane, Daria Nicolodi  Director: Asia Argento  Screenwriter: Asia Argento  Distributor: Media Blasters  Running Time: 91 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2000  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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