Anna Battsita (Asia Argento) is Italy's most famous movie starlet, but her life off-screen isn't going nearly as well as her career. Driven by a destructive urge to engage in a never-ending series of one-night (or quicker) stands and surrounding herself with a dubious bunch of drug-taking, self-centered 'friends', Anna describes herself as the 'loneliest girl in the world'. That is until she meets Kirk (Jean Shepard), the singer in a moody rock band, with whom she feels an immediate connection. Kirk leaves her the next morning to continue his tour, but Anna believes she has found her true love.
Dario Argento's tearaway daughter Asia has never been shy – witness her kit-off shenanigans in Dario's The Stendhal Syndrome and Phantom of the Opera – but Scarlet Diva, her writing/directing debut, is about as raw a slice of self-confessional indulgence as you're likely to find. The first time we see Anna, it's knickers-down, being given a rough seeing-to in her trailer by her co-star; what follows is 85 minutes of shagging, drug-taking, shrieking and self-analysis in a manner that even Abel Ferrara might deem over-the-top.
Argento worked with Ferrara on his little seen New Rose Hotel, and it's his influence that is much more keenly felt than Argento sr (although Dario and brother Claudio produce, and there's a cameo from Asia's mother Daria Nicolodi). But despite her determination to bare her soul (and body) on-screen, much of Scarlet Diva comes across as Ferrara-lite. Too many scenes that should be harrowing are given a hysterical, almost camp edge that threaten to throw the tone of the whole film, and virtually all the supporting cast are either cardboard cut-outs or caricatures, from Anna's abused best friend to performance artist Joe Coleman's lecherous Hollywood exec. That's not to say the performances are bad – most, with the exception of Jean Shepard's boringly enigmatic rock star Kirk, are pretty good. It's just that the material doesn't always serve them well.
That said, Argento shows real style as a director, and let's face it, story has never been her old man's strong point either. Shot on digital video, the film has an edgy, restless quality and many of the montages portraying the frequent mundanity of Anna's jet-setting lifestyle are superbly shot and edited. She uses music well too – there's a predominant smoky trip-hop score, although Nina Simone's rendition of 'Wild is the Wind' is used twice to haunting effect.
In the end, Anna seems to learn nothing from her experiences, and the film has little to say other than maybe 'famous people are vulnerable too', but there's more than enough promise here to suggest that as a director Argento should one day step out of her father's shadow. Oh, and fans of Michele Soavi's seminal slasher Stage Fright should watch for a cameo from David Brandon, who played the nasty director in that film, and reprises the exact same character here.
Italian actress/director/writer/model and daughter of horror auteur Dario Argento. Made her debut as a director in 2000 with the semi-autobiographical Scarlet Diva, in which she also starred, which was followed in 2004 by the child abuse drama The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. Argento has acted in films such as her father’s Phantom of the Opera, Abel Ferrara's New Rose Hotel, big budget actioneer xXx and George A. Romero's Land of the Dead