Asia Argento in New Rose Hotel (1998)


(director/writer: Abel Ferrara; screenwriters: Christ Zois/based on the short story by William Gibson; cinematographer: Ken Kelsch; editors: Jim Moll/Anthony Redman; cast: Willem Dafoe (X), Christopher Walken (Fox), Asia Argento (Sandi), Yoshitaka Amano (Hiroshi), Annabella Sciorra (Madame Rosa), John Lurie (Man in bar conversing), Ryuichi Sakamoto (Hiroshi’s Executive), Gretchen Mol (Hiroshi’s Wife); Runtime: 92; Avalanche; 1998)
“Decadence rules the day for Abel Ferrara’s offbeat soft porn look at how the modern world has come up with a new criminal type — the international corporate raider.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Decadence rules the day for Abel Ferrara’s offbeat soft porn look at how the modern world has come up with a new criminal type — the international corporate raider. The problem with the film, as an original and diverting story as it is, is that it is too confusing to follow and suffers from a sense that it is too “hip” for its own good. But even as the film failed to be as good as it could have been, it was still entertaining, insightful, and visually engaging.

Willem Dafoe as X and a gimpy Christopher Walken as Fox play two corporate raiders who hatch this fantastic plot to kidnap a Japanese geneticist, who is involved with mutating a virus that could cure the common cold. The scientist is Hiroshi (Yoshitaka Amano-a designer of video games), who is married to a German woman (Mol) and has everything in the world that he could possibly want. But Fox views him as a fish out of water, someone who doesn’t fit in with those corporate scientist-types, someone who is always on the edge, which means that he has the guts to do the unexpected to break down clichés from the past.

The plan, which Fox calls elegant for its simplicity, is to get the scientist over on their side through one of the two things he has the hots for: sex. Though he is getting his share of nooky the corporate raiders sense that he doesn’t show passion, he is missing something in his life which they will provide. That something is an Italian prostitute named Sandi (Asia Argento-the daughter of the Italian cult horror director). She will be given a million dollars for her part by the two raiders and all she has to do is fall in love with him and make him fall in love with her so that he leaves his wife and science position to go with her and start life anew. Needless to say, Sandi has the body parts to fit the part she is playing.

The film is meant for one to get lost in its kinky sexual encounters, in its opium dream sequence, in its half-baked aphorisms constantly pouring out of Fox’s secretive mind, and for one to be enamored by a web of corporate espionage ventures into sleek offices and down dark noir passages and across unknown cities. It makes the most casual conversation between the parties seem couched in double-meaning — while in reality, everyone seems to be on video surveillance.

Fox and X, plan to sell Hiroshi to a rival corporation for $100 million dollars, though Fox as the leader, continually says he is not in it for the money- but, “That knowledge is virtue. The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I enjoyed the film more for its style than anything else. It was shot in such exacting detail, its colorful sets were made up of visions not seen in other sci-fi films; it also allowed for a certain pleasure to be induced from overhearing the odd conversations. Fox’s haiku is a good example of the meaningful nonsense the film conveyed, as he recites to X the poem he just wrote:



“A dog walks into a bardressed in a suit and a tieand orders a Scotch and a toilet water.”



Things work out too well for the two raiders: Hiroshi leaves his wife and goes with Sandi to Marrakech, and is given a science lab specially built for him. But something mysterious soon happens and the last 20 minutes of the film repeats what happened so far, but adding new details and a different way of looking at it. The murky ending will not be pleasing to most viewers, as they try to make sense of what is happening.