Back in Blue Jeans and an Emperor T Shirt. Don't Get Too Excited.
Like Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt, I like drugs and child abuse. Unfortunately, the closest I can come to the latter is punching my underage girlfriend in the stomach after unprotected sex. As for the former, stomach ulcers, teeth ground down to saw-edged nubs, and a partially functional left lung leave only the intravenous variety available to me, and that’s a little pricey on a welfare-fraudster’s salary. So, I have to get my fix from watching movies like Asia Argento’s The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. And while The Heart May Be Deceitful Above All Things may not correctly simulate the dizzying heights of high school Benzedrine abuse as well as I would have hoped, it did make me feel like throwing up blood, so the comparison remains accurate.
The film is based on J.T. Leroy’s memoir of a troubled youth filled with drug abuse, a violently insane mother, and a succession of horrible father figures, each more twisted than the last. The book attempts, and largely succeeds, in transforming Leroy’s childhood into a Holocaust of horror and abuse, where each page brings a new atrocity that befell the youngster. Unfortunately, like the Holocaust, it never happened. Leroy is actually Laura Albert, an author who perpetrated a James Frey-like hoax that was unmasked in 2006 by Steven Beachy in New York magazine. Though this is irrelevant to the film, it does make the viewing experience a little less satisfying, as I have trouble ejaculating when the child throwing up in the meth lab on screen is only a fictional creation. I do find it kind of disgusting that someone would seek to profit off of an over-the-top, exaggerated persona, but that’s only because I hate myself.
Depending on what mood I’m in, Argento’s direction is either incompetent or brilliant. The film is shot in a strange mix of a documentary style, Dogma-ish realism and standard Hollywood techniques, like crane shots and Steadicam. This is either a comment on the source material’s hybridization of reality and fiction, or Argento ran out of equipment rental money halfway through the shoot. As she is the daughter of one of the greatest visual stylists/narrative incompetents in film history, I’m leaning towards the ‘idiot’ explanation, but I guess anything’s possible. Argento also takes a co-starring role in the film, as the young Leroy’s mother. Though she spends most of the movie looking like someone beat the shit out of Uma Thurman and struggling not to sound like coked out Euro Trash, she is suitably scabby and lot-lizard-ugly for the role. Jimmy Bennett as the child is a real pleasant surprise, as he manages to range from shrill to stoned quite effectively for a 10 year old, plus he’s got a pretty mouth. The cast is rounded out by Peter Fonda, Marilyn Manson, sadly, and the always good-but-uncomfortable Michael Pitt. There’s lots of AIDS, hooking, and everything else you might expect to find backstage at Rent. The film is annoying and pretension, just the sort of thing that The Village Voice would pretend to like if the transgendered community were watching, but that’s not to say there’s nothing of interest here. It’s just to say that what’s there is gay, high, and likes to hit kids.