Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Boarding Gate takes the hard livin' fable of working the red light district for a quick buck (...and a quick exit out of poverty), and turns it into a solemn, global-market action flick. However, since it's director Olivier Assayas we're dealing with here, the action in action needs to be put in double quotation marks with an asterisk qualifier behind it for good measure. Following the excellent, Paris,Texas-lite do good drama of Clean, Assayas has reverted back to seedier tales of ambitious women under the gun. Indeed, the first clear image we see after an out-of-focus title sequence is a pistol shooting off a round.

Asia Agrento plays Sandra, a former executive suite prostitute aiming to open a club in Beijing and live the lavish life of an entrepreneur that she learned from her mentor/lover/pimp Miles (Michael Madsen ... not acting, just making that face he makes and doing his trademark mannerism of running index finger across his upper lip). She's a woman that gets off on danger and dangerous games. Running drugs and seducing thugs, all under the newly established guise of importing third world rugs.

Assayas' mixed message seems to be that under the rock of every successful venture lies criminal activity. This is not so much an anti-capitalist rant but rather distrust about an individual's achievement once they've reached the top of that golden ladder. If you take that as simplistic hogwash, no worries, because you still have Asia Argento to stare at. And I don't mean in a lustful way (though there is no shortage of black erotica in Boarding Gate...). Argento's performance skips around from the intoxicating to the irritating. She's got "something", an undeniable presence, but she relies too much on sexual pouting during scenes of dramatic importance; in scenes where Assayas has obviously given her room to invent. For an actress that is already known for being somewhat of a libidinous hellcat, that (in)ability may prove to pigeonhole her more.

However, following his railings against the online profiteering of female objectification in the 2003 film demonlover, one questions the intentions and decision of Olivier Assayas to over-sexualize Argento the way he does in Boarding Gate. When the film takes off two-thirds of the way through with its Hong Kong sequences, the earlier, elongated scenes between Sandra and Miles feel less about content and context and more about empty titillation.

In Hong Kong, among the narrow alleys and crowded streets, Argento's European sexuality stands out. In her strong-heeled confidence she's an erotic vision much more preferable to the weak-kneed puss that quivers at the foot of Miles' bed. The Hong Kong Sandra busts through windows, skids her shin on the cement, and shoots some dudes, all the while remembering to lift some lipstick from a gift shop in order to keep her kisser candy-apple red. That's the kind of action hero I'd like to root for... the Eurotrash Wonder Woman.

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