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Asia Argento. For those familiar, Asia’s very name conjures a plethora of impressions, mostly based on her raw, uninhibited presence onscreen. Her beauty, canniness and the underlying touch of madness that transcends the screen in many of her films is responsible for a devoted cult following amongst a wide and varied demographic. For those who unfamiliar with the Italian star, the closest crossover comparison I can make with the sensual, dusky beauty is to that of an independent film version of Angelina Jolie. Straight, gay, young or old, everyone who’s seen her is intrigued by Asia.

Apparently, director Olivier Assayas feels the same way. The auteur of such arthouse classics like Demonlover, Irma Vep and Clean, has once again made a study of a woman in the midst of transformation and the repercussions of those changes. With Boarding Gate, Assayas seems more preoccupied with what he can capture Argento doing on film rather than such trifles as creating a cohesive storyline or guiding able performances out of his cast.

Here’s what I could gather, Argento plays Sandra, a woman with a fallen past trying to extract herself from one self-destructive relationship in order to be free for another lover and a new life waiting in Hong Kong. Unfortunately for relationship # 1, despite their shared propensity for S&M, the ties (N.P.I) between Sandra and Miles, her old lover/pimp (- played by Michael Madsen), can only be severed in the most permanent way - possibly under orders from relationship # 2. Sandra flees Europe for Hong Kong allegedly to rejoin her married lover boy who’s wifey doesn’t exactly take to a charmingly-tattooed concubine vying for her man’s affections. Cue attempt at Hong Kong action-style chase as Sandra runs for her life from the wife’s scary henchmen. Sandra realises that Hong Kong may not be the place for her, after all.

I think I may have given Boarding Gate more of a plot than actually exists on screen. There are long, droning bouts of dialog about nothing that I suppose are meant to link scenes together, but all Boarding Gate really does is fixate on watching Asia Argento do stuff. Look, there’s Asia in Madsen’s office being naughty on his desk. Hey, there’s Asia and Madsen having kinky sex. Boy, Asia sure looks swell running around Hong Kong with a gun. Fair enough, for some that may be a sufficient expenditure of 90 minutes, but I was looking for a bit more. Assayas’ usual beautiful, frameable imagery of his previous works gives way to muddy palettes and seedy lighting. Perhaps his visual choices were a reflection of the murky souls of his characters and perhaps it’s just uncharacteristically sloppy work. The latter would certainly explain the script that rambles in its first half and then grinds to an unsatisfying halt once the locations move to Hong Kong. Even with the frantic chase scene, the tension in the film is nil as one never gets to know the characters or their motivations enough to care what happens to any of them, Sandra included. Any exposition of character development is delivered in dull, barely-coherent mumbles that reveal the cast to be as uninterested in the script as we are. Only Kelly Lin as the vengeful wife seems to have any acuity or restraint. Boarding Gate should have been something more, this dark tale of a murderess on the run through two continents. Instead, due to Assayas’ pointless, meandering script and laissez-faire treatment of his actors, all we get is a vapid, boring mess where an edgy, modern film noir might have been.

 

~Mighty Ganesha

March 17th 2008

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Magnolia Pictures)