Where else but ‘The Auteurs’ could I start a topic like this?
Abel Ferrara – one of the most interesting, inexplicable, and downright unpredictable filmmakers out there. I love him. I love his films. Strangely I do not care for much of his ouvre prior ‘King of New York’ but all works subsequent to 1989 warrant discussion, collection and multiple viewings. He really discovered his vision around this point and has continued to be one of my favourite filmmakers since.
Puzzlingly, he is largely ignored by the critics and (most annoyingly) distributors. I have to search his films out from all over the place.
Anyone else perplexed by this attitude in regards to Mr Ferrara? And what do we think of his works?
I wouldn’t call him a genius but he is one of my favorite film-makers. As for his personal life and traits, according to those who know him, the less said the better. MS. 45 is my favorite of his. A nice mixture of grindhouse and art-house.
Neither genius (whatever that means) or degenerate. Irascible, temperamental and slightly deranged, more filmmakers could benefit from being similarly constituted. After Cassavetes, there probably isn’t another filmmaker who is more gifted at getting inside the action. You may dislike what he does but after seeing it, you know you’ve seen something. He’s not safe. Yet he’s an afterthought. That’s ok. His kind will soon pass. We won’t be troubled any further.
Come on! New Rose Hotel? The King of New York? Miami Vice?!??!?!?
The dude’s genius lies within his degeneracy!
I agree wiith KJ about Ferrara’s ability to ‘get inside the action’, and his use of mixed media in the last decade or so is extremely impressive, maybe even innovative, as is his use of dissolve. However, i’ve found that as Abel’s movies have become increasingly improvised, and less confrontational, than they were during his peak in the early to mid 90’s, his films have continued to make little to no impact on the film world at large. ‘Mary’ was a semi-return to form, and was basically an attempt to merge his recent, impressionistic work the jars and shocks of old, and the result was not exactly seamless. ‘Go Go Tails’, on the other hand, has yet to see a dvd release anywhere as far i’m aware.
Word on the ‘street’ is that Ferrara has burnt too many bridges and people are now reluctant to invest and distribute his films. It almost feels like he is blacklisted at times.
anyway, ‘The Funeral’ is one of the most complex and underrated gangster films of all time.
Genius needs instability. Ferrara is someone who needs to fight.
We, however, need to voice our opinions more and get his movies seen! This debate should be larger than just a couple posts on a forum. There should be retrospectives, easily available copies of his films, panel discussions etc.
What is it that you all love about Ferrara? I’m no expert on him to be sure, I’ve only seen Bad Lt. and New Rose Hotel, but I didn’t care for those.
He’s a decent director. I don’t think there’s a need to choose between two extremes.
-Puzzlingly, he is largely ignored by the critics and (most annoyingly) distributors. I have to search his films out from all over the place-
Have you read Brad Stevens Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision and Nicole Brenez’s book (translated into English by Adrian Martin? They’re both quite good.
Yeah, I own both of those books. I think what I would like to see is a Ferrara on Ferrara edition in the Faber Directors series. I love those publications and own them all. For me they are the best books out there that deal with their chosen subject.
Genius AND degenerate.
He’s the finest filmmaking drug addict since Philippe Garrel.
His best work: Ms. 45, The Addiction, Bad Lieutenant, New Rose Hote — and above all, Mary.
I would definitely be nice to a collection of interviews. This profile by Kent Jones is one of the better easily accessible pieces about Ferrara’s work.
Thanks for the link. Makes good reading.
Have you seen his last 3 films? Mary, Go Go Tales and Chelsea on the Rocks?
I can only find Mary on DVD in Spain (apparently the french edition is out there somewhere) but the other two have yet to see the light of day as in the way of a general release…
I haven’t, Graham. Chelsea is due out on DVD here in the US in May. I’ve seen bits and pieces of Mary, here and there.
There’s an Italian edition of Go Go Tales available — I found mine on eBay. It’s like Ferrara’s take on The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie. Worth searching out…
The Addiction on DVD just jumped from $60 to over $200 on Amazon. Its the Latin American region 1. Bummer. I am really eager to see Chelsea in May. Haven’t been able to see anything newer than ’RXmas.
review of his newest film from variety:
If the world were ending tomorrow, you’d probably want to spend your final hours with better company than the central duo in “4:44 Last Day on Earth.” A less nihilistic and far less interesting companion piece to Lars von Trier’s recent “Melancholia,” Abel Ferrara’s latest cine-doodle likewise treats a worldwide cataclysm as an occasion for two individuals to exorcise their demons, here through acts of sexual, artistic and emotional release more perplexing than edifying to witness. Ferrara’s underlying tenderness at times creeps into his raw, unruly filmmaking, but beyond his international following, this apocalyptic melodrama won’t have especially deep impact.
The rare disaster picture to hilariously sum up its doomsday scenario with the words “Al Gore was right,” “4:44 Last Day on Earth” features footage of the global-warming spokesman explaining, vaguely, how rapid ozone depletion has scheduled the Earth for a date with disaster tomorrow at 4:44 a.m. “There will be no survivors. The world will end,” another broadcast ominously announces. We see these and many other images on the many TV screens and iPads littering the Upper East Side loft where Cisco (Willem Dafoe) lives with his younger lover, Skye (Shanyn Leigh).
Pic unfolds mostly within the confines of this rectangular multimedia space, a microcosmic representation of how technology facilitates the rapid dissemination of bad news, good news (the Dalai Lama makes an appearance), fond memories, distractions and whatever else human beings seek in times of crisis. It’s also the place where Skye, a painter, feverishly attacks a sub-Jackson Pollock canvas while Cisco, an actor, spends his time watching TV and occasionally railing against passersby in the streets below.
Faced with the prospect of imminent destruction, Cisco and Skye seek refuge in sex, occasioning an extremely hands-on foreplay sequence that lasts several indulgent minutes, captured with an up-close and frankly undesired level of intimacy. By around this point, auds may question why writer-director Ferrara chose to filter the end of the world through the ravings and gropings of this particular pair; a shot of the two meditating cross-legged fails to provide an answer (and indeed signaled the cue for several journalists to hastily exit the film’s Venice press screening).
The techno-savvy twosome also spend a great deal of time on Skype, saying their farewells to loved ones. This leads to the most dramatic rupture in the film, when Skype — er, Skye — catches Cisco video-chatting with his ex-wife and daughter, prompting the young woman to go ballistic and complain to her mother (Anita Pallenberg, memorable in her brief, blurry appearance). Cisco’s sudden itch for a cocaine fix only makes matters worse, and he soon storms out of the apartment.
“4:44 Last Day on Earth” becomes more involving at this stage, as Cisco drops in on some buddies (among them Natasha Lyonne and Paul Hipp) whom he hasn’t seen in some time and, he realizes, won’t see ever again. The sight of longtime friends having a drink and shooting the breeze, laughing on the edge of the abyss, at last inspires a genuine reckoning with Ferrara’s hypothetical endtimes scenario.
The hopeful message the director seeks to leave us with, of the need to draw close to our loved ones in what is literally humanity’s darkest hour, feels entirely sincere in the delivery. But it’s too little too late, begging to be taken seriously in a way this largely alienating picture hasn’t prepared us for. Even when they’re not ranting hysterically at each other, Dafoe (reteaming with the helmer after “New Rose Hotel” and “Go Go Tales”) and first-timer Leigh (also Ferrara’s g.f.) give performances that leave the viewer firmly on the outside, looking in.
Ferrara’s fans will be heartened by this essential New York helmer’s first Gotham-shot film in more than a decade. Given the subject matter, the Manhattan ambience is rather less than triumphant; what we see of the city is largely restricted to the view from Cisco’s rooftop, where the blue-green tint of the sky, captured in limpid outdoor shots by Ferrara’s longtime d.p., Ken Kelsch, imparts a subtle sense of the otherworldly. Tech package is expectedly rough and raw but achieves some nifty, even spooky low-budget effects in the final stretch.
Camera (color, DCP/35mm), Ken Kelsch; editor, Anthony Redman; music, Francis Kuipers; production designer, Frank DeCurtis; art director, Sara K. White; set decorator, Shawn Annabel; costume designer, Moira Shaughnessy; sound, Allison Howe; sound designer, Neil Benezra; visual effects supervisor, David Isyomin; stunt coordinators, Tony Vincentl, Jared Burke; line producer, Adam Folk; assistant director, Michael Meador. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 5, 2011. (Also in New York Film Festival.) Running time: 84 MIN.
he makes crap. poopy crap
I love Ferrara, but I haven’t seen all of his films — some of them just don’t sound interesting to me, and I think that if I explore his entire filmography, I’ll find him to be a very uneven director. I’d rather think of him as the great director of sleazy, low-rent gems like Ms. 45, The Driller Killer, Bad Lieutenant, and The Addiction than someone who makes mediocre, bland films like King of New York and Fear City.
Anyways, are there any other reviews? I’m generally not much a fan of Variety’s taste (though they did like Uncle Boonmee!)
Only other review I can find is this blurb from Emanuel Levy:
“How would we spend our final hours on Earth? And what does how we choose to die say about how we have chosen to live? In the hands of the inimitable Abel Ferrara, this thought experiment takes on a visceral immediacy. With the planet on the verge of extinction, a New York couple (Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh) cycle through moments of anxiety, ecstacy, and torpor. As they sink into the havens of sex and art, and Skype last goodbyes in a Lower East Side apartment filled with screens bearing tidings of doom and salvation, the film becomes one of Ferrara’s most potent and intimate expressions of spiritual crisis. An apocalyptic trance film, 4:44 is also a mournful valentine to Ferrara’s beloved New York: the director’s first fiction feature to be filmed entirely in the city in over a decade, and coming 10 years after the September 11 attacks, a haunting vision of doom in the lower Manhattan skyline.”
This new film sounds pretty great to me. I will make a point to see it when it’s available!
Abel Ferrara directing a Dominique Strauss-Kahn inspired film starring Gerald Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani?
Wow. Just. Wow.
“Genius or Degenerate?”
Why not boht?
He’s a fascinating character. I watched him shoot “Fear City” here in L.A. Great fun. Not one of his best but I’ve never seen anything out of him that can be called"routine."
His Best: “Ms. 45,” “Bad Lietenant,” “New Rose Hotel,” “Mary.”
Looking forward to the DSK flick with GD.
I would love to watch Abel work.
Speaking of the man at work, he has “10 lessons in filmmaking” posted at Filmmaker Magazine.
Some pearls of wisdom, I think. (and he’s probably not exaggerating about the 50 beers a day).
1. New game, new rules.
“Being independent now is like being the loneliest man in the world.
I think independent was a reference to a film structure that was outside of Hollywood. I guess you could be independent in Los Angeles, but at a certain time, a certain period in the ’90s it was all about a setup where you could raise money. If they were making movies for $10-15 million, you could make movies for $500K-$3 million. There were directors and banks and distributors and the whole world you knew that existed back in the day, that I think are no longer in existence.”
2. Don’t be dependent on anyone.
“I make movies now by independently financing the films, by raising money basically outside the system. That’s the first way to go. And second of all, I mean, I joke about it, but being independent is still a small but kind of loyal group of people, mostly European.”
3. Stay away from the factory.
“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what the deal is in Hollywood. Hollywood is a factory town. It always was a factory town. And you know the idea of a director who makes the kind of films I wanted to make, they just don’t make them.
“You’re not going to make pasta fragole in fucking Dublin, you know what I mean. You’re not going to make Mexican food in Istanbul. It doesn’t work that way. In Hollywood they make a certain kind of film a certain kind of way and the director is the last person or the last thing they want.”
4. All you need is a vision.
“It’s a matter of going into a project just knowing you’re going to make a movie and just having a vision of a film. And then letting all the marbles make everything just kind of be where they end up.”
5. Just pick up the camera and go.
“You know I think we just basically just picked up the camera and started shooting. It’s funny, I’m working with some of the same guys I initially picked a camera up with. But we were like 16.
“You know we had a problem because when we were at the point when we could actually learn, and in certain situations we were around some really great people to teach us, we had the attitude that we had nothing to learn. It was a problem back then. But now I know how much there is to learn. But I would say we just learned by doing it. Filmmaking is something that is so idiosyncratic, and it’s so personal the only one who is going to teach you is yourself. The only way you’re going to learn is by doing it.”
6. Shoot From Your Heart.
“I mean, all my work is personal. You try to make a film that speaks, and the further inside you go, the more you’re speaking to other people.
“This film, it’s straight up about sobriety. I’m not going to negate the work all of us did when we weren’t sober. It’s about the films and about the characters that we’re dealing with. I mean that’s what Kenny [Kelsch, D.P.] was saying: ‘Hey, at least if we come back as cockroaches, we’re going to come back as sober cockroaches.’”
7. Get your shit together. No excuses.
“A message to my younger self? Wise up, bro. I mean like wise the fuck up. I was drinking 50 beers a day; it’s a joke. The simplest thing that I learned was that I didn’t have to drink. And if somebody told me that when I was 17… you can, but you don’t have to… I thought I had to. I had to do all that stuff. We had to be like the baddest motherfuckers in the room. And we had to be negative. We had to be every dumb fucking thing that we were. And it certainly didn’t help, working in L.A. and being there and all those values that are laid on you, you know, having a bigger car. Just a car we used to rent, I mean if we made $500, we spent $400 on the car we rented. It was like that kind of idiocy.
“So the film, we never could have made that film sober. Not that we couldn’t have made it, but none of that would have been important to us. So for us now it’s like a great light that’s opened to us.”
“Use the Internet. The Internet is a gift from God. As much as the piracy and the robbery is going on, you’ve been given a tool you can use.
“And as much as I don’t like the digital — it’s tearing my heart out not shooting on a negative — you have a way to connect to the whole world. You’re on the other side of the world now from Los Angeles, and you’re connected here like that. It is there for us to use that and show our stuff, and connect, and connect, and connect, and make the kind of films that connect.
“Put your film out there — YouTube, anywhere. Find a way and keep working.”
9. Avoid the spotlight.
“Stay off the red carpet. But if you’re on, get your clothes together. Cause you’re gonna be seen.”
10. There is only one language in cinema.
“Hitchcock said this to Truffaut back in the day. You know, when they scream in that shower they’re screaming in Tokyo the same way they’re screaming in Paris. It isn’t the language that’s making them scream. It’s not the words, man. It’s the pure cinema that is effective. And when you’re speaking with the images, and you’re putting those images together, they way they’re supposed to be put together, then you’re speaking the language. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Serbia, or in a fucking igloo with Eskimos. You’re speaking that one universal language, and that’s the language of the cinema. And that’s holy.”