Asia Argento: Sexy, Scary, and Often Naked


Overwrought, volatile, belligerent and carnal—and, in truth, kind of scary even to her admirers—Asia Argento is the prodigiously lipped femme fatale people think they’re talking about when they talk about Angelina Jolie. Only 33 years old, Argento has already amassed an international filmography worthy of the seemingly premature “Sexy, Scary, and Often Naked” retrospective BAMcinématek is throwing for her this week and next. Tonight’s offering is Catherine Breillat’s The Last Mistress, in which Argento plays an anachronistic ice-cream-cone-licking 19th century French tramp; and on Saturday you can catch Mother of Tears, her first collaboration with her father, legendary Italian horror director Dario Argento. Both films were originally released here earlier this year, as was Olivier Assayas’s Boarding Gate, which plays tomorrow night and is the must-see of the series.

Like many of Assayas’s most interesting films, Boarding Gate goes off the rails—way off the rails—in its final act. But the first half of the movie is the hottest hour of non-porn cinema this year. Argento plays the former employee and lover of an American businessman in Paris (Michael Madsen) whom she visits in his office in the first scene. Although Argento and Madsen had never met before shooting this sequence, you wouldn’t guess it. Their on-screen chemistry is immediate—so palpable, frankly, as to have made Sound of the City feel uncomfortable sitting amid strangers in the dark. And that seems to be exactly what Argento, world cinema’s reigning provocateur, wants.—Benjamin Strong