Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Asia Argento Video Diary

Concurrent with her promotion of a new film, Asia Argento is doing a video diary, making entries three times a day about various stuff that's happening to her. There's eight up so far, and they play as a fascinating piece of evolving video art, giving you a picture of the interior life of this successful, somewhat famous actress.

The videos are shot in a very haphazard way and seem designed to draw you into Asia's inner world, completely breaking down the barrier between viewer and subject. Appropriately, the first begins with her sitting in a bathroom stall, and subsequent ones observe her sprawled out in a darkened hotel room and taxi cab. She doesn't seem guarded at all, frequently filming while naked, but even more striking is the emotional rawness. I'm somewhat familiar with her work, and it's interesting to see someone who's been generally successful expressing such malaise about her life. The second video has a really striking composition in which she's cradling a TV, showing footage of her talking to her daughter about going on a trip. She turns away when her daughter expresses no particular interest in the fact that her mother's leaving. So, the TV becomes a visual representation of what's on her subconscious, that which she's trying to shut out.

That one's the most effective, though 3-5 really set a mood. She's just sprawled out in bed, talking about stuff, including a funny story about scalding her foot.

While these all look spontaneous and 'real,' it's possible that they were designed to feel that way, and everything she's saying is a put on. In one of the later videos, she addresses this issue by talking about the way that the qualities she's known for in the media are actually a persona, one she decided to put on when she was younger, but she's been living that persona so long, it's indistinguishable for who she really was. So, yes, what she's saying is contrived in some way, but it's an extension of this persona that she's already cultivated. People wouldn't watch the Asia Argento video diary to see her having happy times at home, they want this outre troubled person, and she must fulfill the obligation that her persona has created.

I'm sure most celebrities create these divisions between their personal life and the image they present on screen and in public. This was most apparent in the old Hollywood star system, where a gay man in real life could be dating women every night according to the gossip columns. Her adoption of this persona goes further because she has convinced herself that it's who she actually is.

Or at least that's what she's saying. It's difficult to separate the line between fiction and reality here. However, considering she grew up as a director's daughter, she was probably always accustomed to a smooth transition between fiction and reality, to the point that fiction can easily become reality. I get the sense that she's expressing her actual feelings here, though they may be a bit exaggerated. However, even if she's not, her 'persona' is, and for most viewers, that persona is more real than the actual person.

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