Asia Argento, the maraschino cherry atop a number of Cannes films last year, sometimes appears in movies (Marie Antoinette), occasionally directs them (Scarlet Diva), but never fades into them. Recently, she’s been coronated by those who seemingly prefer her exploitation at the hands of French auteurs rather than her own (or those of her horror maestro dad, Dario). Asia’s slurred English, her dependable uniform of black bra and panties—these are parts of her charm. But she’s far more interesting as a brazen self-mythologizer who takes herself more seriously than her cynical collaborators ever do.
Boarding Gate, like the Vin Diesel vehicle XXX, treats her with closet contempt, like some inherently exotic creature. Olivier Assayas, the director and writer, sees no need to trouble Argento with a plausible backstory or emotional through line; rather, she’s a skank-for-hire who, after some underwhelming sex with business client Michael Madsen (so poorly directed as to seem insecure in English), offs him execution-style. She then spends the rest of the film looking forlornly at his keys and fleeing from Chinese thugs.
As with his Demonlover, Assayas is held rapt by the modern jangle of cyberbusiness and texting; no one’s yet informed him you can supply that transitory mood along with such antiquated virtues as plot and suspense. And yet, Assayas also seems behind the times; his film is for those who will chuckle at Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon barking orders in fluent Cantonese. There’s something sad about the maker of Irma Vep being transfixed by such emptily stylish nonsense.