Abel Ferrara in the 21st Century
The following article was written by David Hudson and published on The Daily, Mubi's blog, on January 7, 2011.
Even though Abel Ferrara never really went away, what he's been up to these past few weeks sure feels like a comeback. He began tweeting last month, not long after the launch of his new site, featuring dozens of clips from his films, interviews and a half-hour tribute from the 2009 edition of the Miami Film Festival. And tonight, Anthology Film Archives in New York opens its own tribute, Abel Ferrara in the 21st Century, that'll run through January 18.
J Hoberman in the Voice: "The self-taught pioneer of post-porn punxploitation — The Driller Killer (1979), Ms. 45 (1981) — Ferrara positioned himself as a lumpen Scorsese with his Little Italy–set youth gang film China Girl (1987) and relatively big-budget adult gangster King of New York (1990). He came into his own in the mid-90s with the astonishing one-two punch of Bad Lieutenant (1992) and The Addiction (1995), with Madonna's best movie — Dangerous Game (1993) — appearing in between… Ferrara's oeuvre has always juggled the sacred and the profane, although things got a bit more dicey after The Funeral (1996), his last movie to get widespread US distribution. Still, he managed to survive the millennium in style: Witness Mary (2005) and Go Go Tales (2007), the latter of which, after a midnight screening four New York Film Festivals ago, is finally getting a run as part of Anthology's tribute."
"Ferrara was, at the height of his powers, the City's most ferocious, uninhibited chronicler of its underground networks and appetites," writes Michael Joshua Rowin for Artforum. "The last decade has not been so kind to him. Just as the independent film boom of the 1990s ebbed, so did the notoriously volatile and uncompromising Ferrara find himself at the margins of distribution, with only a few of his last several films receiving limited releases in this country. This is unfortunate because Ferrara's talent and intensity remain a vital rarity within the world of independent filmmaking. Excepting the DOA 'R Xmas (2001), the turn of the millennium has brought two of his best films — Mary (2005) and Go Go Tales (2007) — each revealing new facets of his hustlers and redemption-seekers."
"Mary, his star-studded coupling of the story of Mary Magdalene with various modern spiritual intrigues, features a haunting performance by Juliette Binoche as the title character," writes Brandon Harris at Hammer to Nail. "His most recent narrative, 2009's Napoli Napoli Napoli, which has yet to have significant screenings in the States, is an episodic docudrama based on the tales of female prisoners Ferrara and his trio of screenwriters interviewed at a Napoli prison. Ferrara, who has family roots in Napoli, has made his last three narratives (including the interiors of Go-Go Tales) in Italy, but his recent docs both explore venerable New York institutions — the notorious Chelsea Hotel in Chelsea on the Rocks, and the Italian-American strip that Mr Ferrara calls home in lower Manhattan, Mulberry St. Rounding out the series is Michael M Bilandic's Happy Life, which Ferrara produced. Ferrara will be on hand, along with many of his film's various cast members, at this weekend's screenings, but if you can't make it to any of his appearances check out this video interview that HTN contributor Evan Louison did with Ferrara a few years back."
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