Man, what a movie. Pow! Zip! It's like an 18-act Italian opera taking place in the center ring of a three-ring circus while bears waltz and elephants stand on their heads on either side.
Every camera trick known to man or beast is put to use. If Anna Batista (Argento), the famous actress, does a line of Special K, it's only to give the camera a chance to show us more phantasmagorical horrors in lurid color. The sink into which she tries to puke turns to rubber and so forth. And there's her mother's ghost.
And it never stops. Well, not exactly. There are occasional pauses in the tumult while Anna and her friends seem to functioning normally, but the pauses are only there as lead-ins to the next bout of victimization.
I lost count of the number of times Anna is roughly assaulted by men. The most memorable (because the funniest) is "the finest writer-director in the world" who summons her to Amsterdam. She's expecting to go over her script for Cleopatra but when she opens the door to his shabby multicolored garbage-strewn room she finds him lurching about, his pants unzipped, jerking in spasms, and managing to moan: "I've been an alcoholic for four years -- and now I'm on SMACK." The poor girl turns her head away in disgust while he shoots up. Then as he flops beside her on the couch and points out his new knife scar, she suggests they talk about the script. But the world's greatest writer-director has other things on his mind. He throws himself all over her, blubbering and pulling at her black slacks, while she squeals and manages to push him away. He calls her a woman of low repute, slaps her several times, and she rushes out the door.
It must be some kind of female fantasy, or maybe it's just Asia Argento's thing, but the whole movie darts from one attempted rape to another. One is committed by some babe with surgically enhanced bosoms the size of basketballs. Another rape -- another rough one -- is attempted by some Hollywood producer of schlock films. He wears a curious beard but no underwear, and he sounds precisely like Dennis Miller.
She has only one true love, an Australian rock singer of no distinctive talent. They meet and immediately go to bed. She winces when he crawls atop her and tells Keith that she's never made love before. "Are you a virgin?" "No, I'm a whore." That one-night stand with a man who turns out to have a wife and children was a dangerous one inasmuch as it impregnates her. On this discovery she runs big-bellied through the night-time streets of Rome until she collapses before a painting of the Virgin and Child. Her lost love appears in the distance, silhouetted by a halo of bright light -- so bright that she must blink when looking into it. It's left unclear whether she'll give birth to the next Messiah or the second Buddha. End of movie.
It's a silly, low-budget piece of trash, and yet it doesn't diminish any respect I might have had for Asia Argento, the writer, director, and star. The writer and the director have thoroughly deglamorized the star. The DVD opens with Argento, sans makeup, looking wanly into the camera and telling us, "I know you might have heard some bad things about this movie. But don't be afraid. After you watch it, maybe you will get to know me a little better -- and I will get to know you." We get to know the character pretty well. For several minutes we watch her tattooed naked body before a bathroom mirror while she shaves her armpits, applies lipstick, and watches tears roll down her cheeks.
The rape scenes are not at all erotic and Argento places the camera so that her body seems less like an object of desire than a dressed cabrito hanging in a butcher shop window. I mean, there is a brief shot of her bare ass as the slime ball Hollywood producer tries to pull her dress up and it the thought this undignified camera angle prompts is not how pretty her rear end is but how vulnerable the character, Anna Batista, is.
The movie may or may not be very autobiographical, but in either case it's not a facile quest for pity from the audience. This bipolar dynamo can take care of herself. She lashes out hoarse, filthy curses at her tormentors in three different languages, a volcano of pejoration.
I wish that energy and that disgust for artificiality had somehow been used as the engine for a better story. Or for any story at all. As it is, I think Argento was right when she said we might get to know her better. We wind up with more respect for her courage and sincerity.