Saturday, June 28, 2008

Asia Argento's style of un-acting

Over the past year I’ve been introduced to a unique performing style by the actress Asia Argento. Daughter of cult Italian horror maestro Dario Argento (Susperia among others), Asia has been performing in lots of b-films since she was in Demons 2 (1986) as a 10 year old. She’s shown up a few times on the edges of serious fare such as Queen Margot (1994) and Marie Antoinette (2006).

Infamous for her large, winged tattoo that takes up a good sized portion of her stomach above her pubic bone (see photo), Argento is starting to get leads in pictures and to be frank, I’m not sure this bodes well for the film because of her style of acting. She seems to tap into some kind of primal quality while delivering a performance. It’s not good (or is it?) yet it’s somehow too raw and animalistic to turn away as you watch her on screen. Argento pouts, rages, stares and delivers these hyper-brooding looks at the camera that I can’t put my finger on—is this good or the worst thing I’ve seen all year?

I watched her in the not very good Boarding Gate (2007) a couple of months ago and what a train wreck this French film from Olivier Assayas is. Argento delivers one of her most vexing, unhinged performances that consists of her wildly over or under acting (often in the same scene!), stripping most of her clothes off repeatedly (and showing off that tattoo) and basically just bewildering me time and time again. It’s terrible—yet I can not look away.

Mother of Tears (2007) is her latest bit of “acting” for her father and she gets to say some of the goofiest dialogue in a silly horror film that you are likely to see. There’s a reason these are called b-films (I’m not being mean-spirited as I happen to like B and C films) after all. In Mother of Tears she’s mostly scared as she’s chased by demonic witches or creatures out to do her ill. Although, a few minutes after almost being killed by some otherworldly thing she’s completely calm, as if out for an afternoon stroll. It's the Argento range in full effect.

The word “un-acting” seems to fit what Argento does because her performances are so confused, meandering and all over the map—I wonder if she is taking direction from anyone at all? It’s possibly a new form of acting altogether: un-acting. There’s a numb quality to her performances for long durations, and then there’s an explosion of rage or fear or emotion that kind of jolts you awake.

I'm going to have to see more films to figure it out I guess--Tony Gatlif's Transylvania is one I'm aching to see but it's not out on DVD yet. Until then, I'll just be captivated by Argento's bad/good style of un-acting. Maybe it's just one of these cinematic puzzles that you can never figure out?

1 comment:

bb said...

You can catch her un-acting in XXX with Vin Diesel, who I know you just love...