23 August 2008
The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, dir. Asia Argento (2004)
I said to Steve after this one -- if we're going to continue to support Asia through all these bizarre aspects of her career, she's gonna have to start giving something back. But then, I don't think it's entirely her fault that this one runs off the rails as much as it does. Perhaps she thought she was making a true-to-life film about JT LeRoy's terrible upbringing. For all she knew, and the rest of the world, LeRoy's story was true. It came out a while back that it was all bogus. JT LeRoy was really Laura Albert. And watching it with that knowledge, it's very hard to relate or sympathise with any of what goes on.
And I have just discovered that Asia was not angry with Leroy when she discovered the hoax. She is quoted: "If the literary world wanted to believe Leroy was real, it's not Laura Albert's fault. She just wanted to have her novel published."
Isn't that like saying, it's okay to perjure yourself for your own ends? Why does Laura Albert get to suck out my sympathies with these horrendous lies about this poor, neglected child just so she can be a published writer? I'm shocked an artist like Asia, who must know what it means to strive for truth and authenticity in one's art, could simply overlook Albert's deception.
And that makes the movie less of an accomplishment for me. So here's the story of these fake people doing awful things. Why do I care? By the end, Steve and I were picking out the next level of pain for the kid -- Well, now he's been abused, he'll have to get into drugs... Now, he's done drugs, he'll have to shoot someone... It was just blow-by-blow every sob story you've ever heard rolled into one big one. Snooze.
All that aside, Asia's style is tremendous. I can forgive her only because she is such an artist. Her blending of styles, her attention to detail (the images of Americana seen throughout the film are effective), her ability to fully immerse herself in a character. She is incredibly skilled. But, man, what a waste of all that this story was. The story was so awful, the characters so stupid, the situations so standard, that even the artistry could not redeem it.
The controversy of the JT LeRoy/Laura Albert thing was lost on me, I'll admit. I don't follow the literary world that closely, and what news I get is generally filtered through Nikki. I remember when this all went on, all the Oprah controversy, and I remember being mildly annoyed by it, but not enough to make a federal case out of it.
This movie, though, is something else. I don't care if it's true or not, or how many people in the film and publishing worlds were duped by the whole thing. What bothered me was how poorly constructed the story was. Cliche after cliche heaped one upon the other does not make a story.
I mean if you're going to make something up, at least make it believable.