Scarlet Diva (2000, directed by Asia Argento, 91 minutes, Italy)
Rape (1969, directed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 79 minutes, U.K.)
Blonde Ice (1948. directed by Jack Bernhard, 74 minutes, U.S.)
Expanding the definition of what makes a “chick flick,” Andrew’s Video Vault brings to the big screen of The Rotunda a trio of women who are profane, murderous and just plain creepy. First up is Asia Argento’s directorial debut, 2000’s Scarlet Diva. A guaranteed audience divider (its Rotten Tomatoes rating currently at an even 50%) the actress/director stars in a thinly-veiled autobiographical opus as Anna, a movie star self-described as “the most lonely girl in the world,” who is struggling to finish her first film script while a carnival-like parade of rock stars, horny producers and strung-out roommates dangle unsteadily in her orbit like a grotesque mobile. Argento, daughter of Italian Giallo giant Dario, was 25 and had been acting in films for nearly a decade when she directed this 8 1/2-like debut, and it crackles with anger and black humor, showing both the self-absorption that’s an occupational hazard for young starlets and a striking eye for location and character detail. Written off as the ramblings of privileged kid when it was released, Argento’s trajectory as the “It’ Girl” of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival has seemingly justified the Scarlet Diva’s supporters, who recognized a reckless and exciting talent underneath the film’s self-involved exterior. Philly’s proto-gangster rapper SchoollyD and artist Joe Coleman are among the the drooling cast continually pawing at the troubled young Argento. Lindsay Lohan would do herself wise to sign out of rehab tonight to check this out.
The extreme woman is behind the camera in the second film, John and Yoko’s much-described but seldom seen 1969 film Rape. Based on an premise Yoko had written years earlier, the camera finds a young Hungarian woman in a graveyard and begins to silently follow her doggedly across London, unresponsive to her questions and pleas. Made after a year when John and Yoko were themselves under constant scrutiny, Rape makes the viewer into the stalker of this vulnerable young woman, its questionable moral act sullying ourselves while telegraphing the P.O.V. killers of the following decade’s slasher genre. Attending a film this provocative in public adds to the giddy thrill — someone is almost guaranteed to shout out their disgust as they vainly try to absolve themselves of the crime of seeing.
After the victim-hood of the first two films, it’s nice to close with a woman striking back in the 1948 Poverty Row noir Blonde Ice. Classy dame Leslie Brooks is Claire Cummings, a society page editor whose greed and ambition leads her to murder. With its talky script and scant action, Blonde Ice is a bit of a plod (even at 74 minutes) and Brooks as the femme fatale gives a one-dimensional performance that fails to suggest her character is anything but programmed for evil. Otherwise, the film is filled with solid character actors whose competence lifts this B-movie up a notch. Although the patriarchy ultimately punishes this businesswoman for her pathological ambition, there is a feminist spark in the fact that until the film’s final moments, the calculating murderess has all those fedora-wearing saps ducking for cover.
MEET THE PHAWKER: Tonight, Dan Buskirk will be filling in for the vacationing Andrew Repasky McElhinney as host of Andrew’s Video Vault at The Rotunda (4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA.) Tonight’s triple feature is FREE!