Scarlet Diva

dir. Argento

Opens Fri Jan 17

Clinton Street Theater

When Rolling Stone profiled xXx star Asia Argento last summer, it mentioned her directorial debut, Scarlet Diva, in very enticing terms, making the reader think that the autobiographical movie was about a tattooed, drug-zonked, sexually rapacious jet-setter who keeps her lesbian love slave hog-tied at home.

Well, Argento's directorial debut is here, and it's not what you think, though still more than it seems.

Diva recounts a few days in the life of a movie star. The first time we see her she's in Rome, in stockings and heels, taking it up the rear from a rap star in her trailer. Thereafter, she is besieged by lecherous fans and journalists, watches her best friend (Vera Gemma) get beat up and fucked by her boyfriend, falls in love with a Kurt Cobain-style pop star who impregnates her, is seduced by a mysterious blonde (porn star Luce Caponegro Selen), and chased down a hotel hallway by a crazed, nude producer (Joe Coleman) making a Gus Van Sant movie. (This means he is evil. Argento hates Van Sant: "He stinks.") Finally, she ends up in a threesome while on special k, visits a gay friend for loony adventures in Los Angeles, and meets a dissipated film director in his Parisian houseboat. When the Cobain clone passes through town again, she learns that he is married with children, which leads to the film's ambiguous ending.

It's not exactly the Citizen Kane of Fetish Night movies, but Argento did write, direct, star, and cast her real mother, Daria Nicolodi. Looking like a shorter, darker Uma Thurman, Argento has the worn, plain, harsh look of today's stars, and there's lots of nudity in this picture (during an interlude, Argento is simply shown smoking while shaving her armpits), but Diva isn't the film you think it's going to be. Rather than the confessions of a sex-obsessed prima donna, Diva is the diary of a pained individual who has seen the ravages of the movie industry up close. Her "plain" looks make her more accessible, and the film unfolds in an episodic, Fellini-esque narrative form.

Since Diva was originally released, in May of 2000, much has changed. Argento had a baby, and Rolling Stone hinted that she was seeing xXx director Rob Cohen. It sounds like the madness continues. Perhaps we'll soon see Scarlet Diva II: Motherhood Sucks.