The Film is Deceitful Above All Things

Originally posted here: Fylmic Glory at Fylmz.com

I just tried to watch Asia Argento’s film “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things .” There’s no doubt that this is filmmaking with passion and a desire to obey the Muse. However, the unsettling subject matter is unceasing and simply leaves the viewer without air or even space to squirm.

The performances are bold and fearless, but that does as much to make me worry about the young actors as it makes me awe at the filmmaking. Sure, editing can be done, and a close eye can see this protective editing and camera placement at work. In Roger Ebert’s review, he laments in regards to the young actors, “…I feel no confidence that the experience left them untouched. ” This makes the viewer complicit in the very cycle of abuse that the heart of J.T. Leroy’s short story, on which the film is based, fights so boldly against.

J.T. Leroy is in itself a bothersome topic. Yes, I said “it.” It seems now that J.T. Leroy is merely the fabrication of an author and her lover. In addition, the supposedly autobiographical story is apparently entire false. This echoes James Frey’s falsehoods , of “A Million Pieces” fame, but it is even more disingenuous because Frey was doing a little embellishing. Leroy is an entire fiction.

This is problematic because the context of the stories is a great deal of the readers experience. Should this be simple fiction, it comes off as exploitative and cruel. In an autobiographical milieu, it comes off as a story of the resilient human spirit and a desire to survive.

So, if the source material is so problematic, why not just change it in the film? Well, that’s one of the few kudos that Argento and crew can happily gather. They are absolutely true to the source material and do nothing to make the story more palatable for the American film audience.

In the end though, none of this mattered. I simply couldn’t watch it. It was too perfect and too real. This is the same feeling I had watching Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream,” which must have influenced Argento’s direction. I simply do not need this darkness. Others may be able to find a salvation in the film, but it must come after the halfway mark, because I never saw it.

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