Wednesday, January 26, 2011


With movies like 'King of New York', 'Bad Lieutenant' and 'The Funeral' under his belt, Abel Ferrara was one of the more prominent directors of the 90's American independent film renaissance. But due to his constant comparison to Martin Scorsese (which was sometimes just) and his truly independent attitude that didn't always mesh well with movie studios, he didn't transfer over well in to the next decade. Its hard to believe that a director with a roster of actors like; Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Madonna and Christopher Walken, who was also responsible for directing both Chris Penn and Harvey Kietel in their greatest performances (The Funeral and Bad Lieutenant respectively) couldn't get distribution outside of Europe anymore. Well, thanks to the retrospective at Anthology film archives we get a chance to see that just because Abel Ferrara's films haven't been hitting the theaters like they were in the past, doesn't mean he hasn't been active. In fact, he's been more active than ever. For the next couple of weeks, Anthology Film Archives will be screening all of Abel Ferrara's films from the last decade that haven't got a release in the U.S. yet. These films include; 'Mary' (2005), 'Napoli Napoli Napoli' (2009), 'Hotel Chelsea' (2009) and the movie of discussion; 'Go-Go Tales' (2007).
To Europeans, 'Go-Go Tales' is about 3 years old now but to us in America its a new release. Even before 'Go-Go Tales' was finished it got a lot of Buzz because it was originally supposed to star Harvey Keitel (which would have been the long awaited reunion between Ferrara and Kietel), but due to scheduling conflicts he had to pull out. Luckily Ferrara was able to get Willem Dafoe in what turned out to be one of his best performances in a long time. For years Dafoe has either played supporting roles (The Inside Man, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Life Aquatic) or he's been "out-shined" by his co-stars, most notably by Charlotte Gainsbourg in 'Antichrist'. In Go-Go Tales, Dafoe plays a gambling junkie and the owner of a failing strip club. He's four months behind on the rent and his strippers are on the verge of striking due to the fact that they haven't been paid in days. In order to save his club Dafoe and his accountant come up with a plan to rig the lottery. When the lottery scheme actually turns out to be successful, problems arise when they cant find the winning ticket (worth 18 million dollars) and they have until the end of the night to find it. What 'Moon' is to '2001 a space Odyssey' or what 'Black Swan' is to 'Persona' or 'Mulholland Drive', 'Go-Go Tales' is an obvious homage to Cassavetes' classic; 'The Killing of a Chinese Bookie'. Aside from Dafoe's commanding performance, the film has a colorful supporting cast of actors like; Bob Hoskins, Asia Argento (who delivers the other standout performance in the film), Burt "Paulie" Young, Pras (The Fugees) and Matthew Modine (another one of Ferrara's most commonly used Actors). Even though the film does have a great opening and great ending, some might find the middle a little troublesome and misguided.
With this on-going retrospective at anthology, 2011 could be Ferrara's comeback year. According to the director himself, he has some big plans for his next films (one of which is a biopic about controversial director; Pier Passolini).


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