The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004)

This adaptation of J.T. Leroy’s purportedly autobiographical novel of the same name by director-star Asia Argento is one of the most pointless and unpleasant movies I’ve sat through. The memoir details the author’s long history of egregious, shocking child abuse in jubilant terms, and the years-later revelation that Leroy was a pseudonym for Laura Albert – an aspiring author who created the identity and the back-story on a quest for a best-seller – makes the whole thing even more baffling and bizarre. Given that Albert was seen on stage with director-star Argento along with a stand-in for Leroy during the movie’s promotional circuit, it’s obvious Argento knew the material was fictional and was an active participant in its tasteless fraud. As a result, Argento’s sole purpose with this directorial effort seems to be to disturb her audience as much as possible, but she uses extreme child abuse as nothing more than cynical agitprop masquerading as pearl-clutching concern for children’s well-being. Even without the baffling back-story, the movie itself is artistically bankrupt: It’s poorly shot and maddeningly repetitive, and seems more interested in destabilizing its audience than tell a worthwhile, effective story – that’s particularly obvious in its tiresome use of stunt casting, and it’s downright ghoulish to watch a parade of familiar faces (from Winona Ryder to Marilyn Manson to Peter Fonda, among others) participate in such an irresponsible project. There are some subjects that shouldn’t get the shock-punk treatment that Argento heaps upon her audience here, and child abuse is right up there at the top of the list.

Rating: ★ (out of 5)

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