|Aria and her found cat seek a home for the night in Asia Argento's Incompressa (Misunderstood). (Photo courtesy of the New York Film Festival.)|
The New York Film Festival press screenings started on an interesting note last week with actress Asia Argento’s narrative film Incompressa (Misunderstood), which is about nine year-old Aria (Argento’s birth name) whose famous, cocaine-addicted parents—one an actor, the other a pianist—are so self-absorbed, they fail to notice when she stays out all night. The movie stars Giulia Salerno in a wonderful performance as the pixie blonde whose loneliness and despair lie at the core of Argento’s film.
In interviews, the writer-director has said that Misunderstood is not autobiographical—her father is filmmaker Dario Argento—but rather that the movie is inspired by incidents she witnessed as a child and as an adult. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Aria’s pianist-mother, grew up in circumstances similar to Argento's, in an affluent, Bohemian family. Perhaps in casting Gainsbourg, Argento felt that the actress would be a kindred spirit on-set. She adds dimension to the life of a neurotic woman juggling creative work against the exigencies of marriage and children. Both Gainsbourg and Argento are moms, actresses and singers.
Misunderstood is not for the faint-hearted; this is a Carrie-like story in which Aria endures many betrayals. Her grandmother tries to poison her cat, and her classmates are jealous of her. They also mistake Aria’s motives when she makes a last-ditch effort to garner their affection. Argento’s script is far too episodic, but she is a capable director, and elicits good performances from the entire cast, including Gabriel Garko (Callas Forever, 2002) as Aria’s father. At this writing, the film does not have a distributor and can only been seen at the New York Film Festival on September 27th and 29th. It is in Italian with English subtitles. Nota Bene: While Misunderstood is about a girl, it is a movie aimed at adults, and is inappropriate for children younger than 15 or 16 years of age.