‘The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things’ (2004)

‘The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things’ The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things ‘ is the eponymous title of the book by fictional author JT LeRoy and the movie adapted from it by actress, writer and director, Asia Agento, the daughter of Italian horror director Dario Argento.

Based on the work of author JT LeRoy a/k/a Laura Albert and her fictional male childhood in the itinerant trailer-parks of West Virginia. Back in 1996, LeRoy became something of an overnight sensation, after the publication of several stories and two subsequent novels, ‘Sarah’ (1999) and ‘The Heart is Deceitful of All Things’ in 1999. But JT LeRoy does not exist.

Like James Frey’s ‘ A Million Little Pieces ‘, ‘Heart’ is a piece of fiction dreamed up by an author with an assumed identity , who sold her book as biography . In this case, JT LeRoy was allegedly a young man from West Virginia, the son of a negligent hooker, who somehow broke loose of his mother to peddle his ass throughout the South, before washing up in San Francisco to become the protege of writers Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop. That said, the homosexual child-rape, forced transvestism and incest in the book never happened. Argento bought the book rights in or around 2000, while JT was the toast of the hipster literati, being toasted by celebrities like Winona Ryder, Marilyn Manson and Peter Fonda, before being revealed as a hoax in the October 2005 issue of New York Magazine in an expose written by Stephen Beachy. It is unknown whether Argento and here producers were aware of the hoax during the film’s production.

That said, the fabrications and assumed identities in this film quickly become layered, whether or not one knows about the film’s provenance.

Argento as Sarah, the underaged white-trashy mother of young Jeremiah initially seemed to be something of a mistake if one were trying to sell this movie as a biopic. But as subversion, Argento’s casting choices are ingenious. As an homage to perverse and sexually confused Italian Cinema of the ’60′s and ’70′s, it works perfectly – with two dark-skinned Italian actresses in leading roles (Ornella Muti makes an appearance as Sarah’s mother), the film dovetails as an homage to Pier Paolo Pasolini ‘s body of work, one that frequently featured the struggles of teenage male prostitutes trying to make ends meet on the streets of Rome.

Whether or not Argento was aware of Abbott’s ‘JT Leroy’ deception at the time she scripted ‘Deceitful’ is almost irrelevant; ‘Deceitful’ is a thoughtful piece of work that plays as horror, tragedy and comedy – a David Lynch-meets-Pasolini sort of thing for those in search of a different kind of date-movie.

Highly recommended for those who had to suffer ‘Salo’ in either grad or undergraduate film school.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

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