Scarlet Diva Blu-ray Review
I usually have a mental template when writing a review, but sometimes a movie chips away at the template and causes me to throw it all out. SCARLET DIVA is one of those movies because I feel like I can’t talk about it like I would any other film. I can’t have an opening salvo to help punctuate my feelings and I can’t follow it up with a short summary of what the film is about. SCARLET DIVA is an autobiographical film that lacks a narrative, structure and sometimes a direction. Writer/Director/Star Asia Argento did this on purpose (I hope). Because of that, it’s equally profound and frustrating, and equally engaging and dull.
Argento, the daughter of iconic horror director, Dario Argento, doesn’t delve much into her childhood, other than a few brief scenes highlighting that it was one filled with loneliness and neglect. It’s a fact that doesn’t feel odd until the end of the film, when you see her dear ol’ dad’s name as a producer on her film. I guess you could call it penance. Asia doesn’t blame her father though for a young life wrought with drugs, depression and bizarre sexual encounters. A part of her seems to hold on to her carefree and dangerous youth as she encounters more adult scenarios and love. In the beginning, she uses a handful of the film’s adventures and excursions to punctuate her fun rebellious nature. But the film transitions to a life of regret and mistakes as Argento, behind the lense, taps into her father’s haunting visuals by showing the dark side of drug induced benders and emotional burdens of womanhood.
Hindsight has made one scene in particular, very telling in SCARLET DIVA. There’s no tiptoeing around it anymore, but one scene in particular involves her personal real-life encounter with Harvey Weinstein. Where SCARLET DIVA shows her escaping unscathed, the truth is more horrifying and tragic. With that in mind, it’s hard to tell what exactly on screen is based in reality. We’re unsure what was manipulated in an effort to highlight how she wishes it had panned out as opposed to how it actually did play out. Even then, Argento gets lost in her own gonzo direction, sacrificing basic storytelling for disturbing visuals and conversational tangents that don’t fit any narrative form.
In good conscience, I couldn’t recommend SCARLET DIVA to the general moviegoer. It’d be like recommending 2018’s HEREDITARY for a devout Christian to watch on a Sunday afternoon. I could only recommend this film to cinephiles and admirers of amateur art formats. The film shows signs of visual strength, but Argento sometimes has the camera and editing skills of a high school A/V club. That being said, she has talent and a keen eye. I’m sure her other films and TV shows that she has directed have shown the baby steps taken in this film have become huge creative strides.
SCARLET DIVA is a therapy session. Asia Argento paints in broad strokes the emotions she’s going through at the time she made this. The audience is merely the therapist, but we can’t give advice, we can only sit and watch. For some, that’s too uncomfortable and boring, but for others viewers, they’ll gladly lend that thoughtful ear. I fall squarely in the middle, enjoying moments of it, while checking to see how much time is left during others.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:85:1) Because of the director’s choice, and because it’s on MiniDV, it looks amateurish and sometimes visually cruddy. This isn’t a film that benefits from a Blu-ray release, but I could be wrong because this film is a restoration. This may in fact be lightyears ahead of what was released ages ago on DVD and in theaters.
Audio: (English LPCM 2.0) Just like the video, the audio is spotty. Once again, I can’t critique a first-time director too much for the stylistic choices made, as well as how it may have originally sounded.
Two Audio Commentaries with Writer/Director/Star Asia Argento: One of these commentaries is contemporary (2018) while the other is on the heels of the release of the film. Because I go in order when watching/listening to these special features, I listened to the 2018 one first. The older commentary didn’t grip me as much as the 2018 commentary for a number of reasons. The newer commentary is a lot more reflective and introspective, now that she is a mother and that her abuser, Weinstein, has been exposed. Both commentaries tap into similar topics of what the film means and the creative process. But if I had to sway the viewers towards one commentary, it would be the 2018 commentary because it’s a lot more raw and emotional, like her film.
Looking into the Eye of the Cyclops with Joel Coleman (8:01): This is a feature with Coleman, who plays the Weinstein characters in the film. Before talking about his “character” in the film, he talks about his latest art installation, “Eye of the Cyclops.” I’m sure he’s a beloved painter and sculptor, but I was more interested in what it was like playing Weinstein without being Weinstein.
Asia Argento Original Release Interview (16:58): This is an interview with Argento several years after the film’s release. There’s nothing new or revealing here in terms of the creative process and making of the film.
Making of SCARLET DIVA (8:28): This feature was most likely included in the film’s EPK because of its scripted nature in revealing very few details and focusing on the film’s use of digital cameras.
2018 Theatrical Trailer
Original Release One Minute Promo
Original Release Eight Minute Promo