This black comedy benefits from Asia Argento’s own lonely childhood and the gothic filmmaking she learned from her father.
A cautionary tale for parents who make movies and neglect their children: You’ll have children who grow up and will have learned the trade, and use it to punish you. Or so it went with horror filmmaker Dario Argento, whose daughter Asia seems to have made a career out of telling tales of childhood horror that seem bent on begging for the attention from her father that she says she always craved.
Her latest, Incompresa (Misunderstood), available from Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, is an at times quirky, at times horrific, and at times pretty funny portrait of a 9-year-old child named Aria, obviously pulled from her own childhood experiences (but let’s hope not entirely).
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg as Aria’s glamorous/oddball mother and Gabriel Garko as her dad, a narcissistic and superstitious character straight out of a Fellini movie, Incompresa walks a fine line between amusing and horrifying. Little Aria’s parents aren’t the only one letting her down, and in fact, there’s not an adult in sight that’s looking out for her.
When her parents split up, she’s the reminder of the relationship that neither of them want to remember, and get’s shuffled back and forth between households, kicked out of the house when (and this is horrible to say but it’s true) the 9-year-old is obviously asking for it. The shot of Aria trudging down the street with her adopted street cat “Dac”, heading for her Dad’s place then back to her Mom’s place, becomes a running joke. It’s an unlikely joke, that a child would be thrown out onto the street, once even forced to spend the night on a bridge with homeless people, but a little funny just the same.
I know it doesn’t sound funny, but it is, kind of, partly because of the almost heroic spirit of the child who finds her own fun and doesn’t hold her parents’ shortcomings against them. There is, however, a limit to her optimism, and none of the things that Aria does to act out are surprising.
The biggest surprise in Incompresa: Asia Argento took a story, semi-autobiographical or not, one that could have (and maybe should have) been maudlin or heartbreaking and somehow made it neither.