Sep 20, 2014

Asia Argento and Alice Rohrwacher at the 52nd Annual New York Film Festival

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.)
This is the first in a series of posts about the 52nd Annual 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.

Gelsomina and her sister Marinella in Alice Rohrwacher's Le Miraviglie (The Wonders), a delightful movie aimed at adults, but also a rare movie about a girl's coming-of-age appropriate for adolescent children. (Photo courtesy of The New York Film Festival.)