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With: Asia Argento, Jean Shepard, Vera Gemma, Herbert Fritsch, Gianluca Arcopinto, Joe Coleman
Written by: Asia Argento
Directed by: Asia Argento
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, language and drug content/Unrated
Language: English and Italian with English subtitles
Running Time: 91
Date: 05/26/2000

Scarlet Diva (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fame Gore

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Asia Argento splashed into showbiz as if she were born to it. Maybe she was.

The daughter of Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento, she began working in his films as a preteen, eventually moving into roles in films by other directors, such as Abel Ferrara's New Rose Hotel and Rob Cohen's XXX.

She matured into a blazing beauty, then followed her father, stepping behind the camera. Her first feature film, Scarlet Diva, opens today at the 4 Star Theater at 23rd Avenue and Clement Street. The sexy poster outside the theater alone should tempt reluctant viewers inside.

Scarlet Diva isn't exactly a Halloween movie, though it contains its share of horrors. In it, Argento shows us the world she knows best -- that of a globe-hopping, glamorous, workhorse, clotheshorse movie star.

Argento plays Anna Battista. We follow her convoluted life as she promotes a movie and does a photo shoot here, fights off advances from a sleazy producer there, and returns to her apartment to find her best friend hog-tied to her bed, having been there for two days, the victim of a sleazy, bastard boyfriend.

Though Anna doesn't have much time for love herself, she falls passionately for a singer in an arty Nick Cave-type band. They spend the night together and he leaves for the other side of the world while she spends the next several weeks pining after him. (Things get worse when she discovers that she's pregnant.)

Still, Anna's life is so crazy that she's able to forget completely about the boy for short spurts -- such as when a voluptuous Russ Meyer-type blonde enters her apartment and seduces her. The girl claims that they've met and made love before, but Anna can't remember.

Don't think that all this sex comes without drugs. In one scene, Anna picks up a bag of hash from a dangerous-looking sort who deals from under some scuzzy back alley. She sprawls on the dirty, second-hand couch he uses as his throne and sucks face with him to get the drugs.

She's fearless here, but in another scene -- a photo shoot -- an assistant gives her some weird nose candy (he spells her name out in white powder) and she goes into a harsh, panicky psychedelic nightmare, nearly drowning in the prop pool.

We've seen this story -- the naive outsider enters showbiz and is dazzled by all the sex and drugs (Boogie Nights and Rock Star come to mind) -- so many times. But Argento, at only 26, brings a youthful, out-to-change-the-world aggressiveness to the project, as if she's cut open a vein and bled the raw film stock.

She's definitely her father's daughter. With no hint of the supernatural or out-and-out gore, Argento nonetheless shows an amazing fearlessness, a willingness to wallow in real-life horrors, just as if they were the squirmy pit of creepy-crawlies from her father's 1985 film Phenomena.

She also deserves credit for stitching together a story from her own life. Even though it's not strictly autobiographical, it rings with truth. Argento instinctively knows that real life contains moments of unease, dissatisfaction and exhaustion. So when the diva arrives home, collapses on the couch and closes her eyes, the scene resounds with as much intensity as any drug binge or sex-romp.

Best Buy Co, Inc.