Sunday, August 02, 2015
Seamy. Sordid. Scuzzy. Sweaty. All adjectives that could easily describe August in New York City as well as the works of this month's divisive spotlight director...Bronx-born Abel Ferrara. You could probably use those words to describe the man himself at times (just take a peek at this '90s Conan O'Brien appearance). Ferrara's best films take pleasure in stewing in the city's underbelly, mixing with the riff-raff...junkies, gangsters, vigilantes, psychopaths. When you see an interview with him or listen to one his commentaries, you get the sense that he knows these characters intimately, maybe because he's one or all of them. Say what you will about his filmography's weaker points (the lasciviousness, the over-the-top Catholicism, the wallowing in druggy decadence), there's one thing that cannot be argued: an Abel film brings with it the feel of AUTHENTICITY.
I remember the first time I was introduced to the man behind the movies. There was a director's panel at NYU after a screening (I believe it was 1993's Dangerous Game). Generally, these panels were polite, scholarly affairs, "colloquiums" run by a sycophantic faculty member who had been in one or two Warhol movies and generally sucked up to his celebrity guests. The director, Ferrara, showed up late with actor James Russo in tow, both of them looking like they had just been roused from all-night coke bender or teleported in directly from the nearest heroin den. Ferrara proceeded to smack down every one of his host's pretension-baiting questions, bad-mouthing Madonna, praising Keitel, then alternately bad-mouthing and praising the movie in question, "talking smack" basically like an audience member who'd just seen his own film and not like the person who actually directed it. He also scratched a persistent itch on his neck for the duration, as if he had a thousand spiders crawling under his skin, but that's another tale. The man obviously couldn't give a lick about promoting the film or himself to a bunch of (mostly rich kid) film students but supplied the "real dope" about the slings and arrows of low-budget filmmaking and the B.S. inherent in film biz. Of all the wasted hours (and dollars) I spent during four years of film school, this one hour no-bullshit session with Abel was probably the best education (and entertainment) I received. The movie may have sucked balls, but I definitely got my tuition's worth that day.
That said, I tend to be a cautious defender of Ferrara. The "Scuzzmeister" has definitely made his fair share of dreck. For every Bad Lieutenant, The King of New York, The Driller Killer, Ms. 45 there's a Fear City or a New Rose Hotel, a Body Snatchers, perhaps an 'R Xmas (from what I hear). It should come as no surprise that his first film was a porno. But in every Ferrara film I've seen, the good and the bad, there's always some moment of directorial fearlessness, a willingness to go over the top and try something crazy and new for the sake of Art or the sake of Fuck-It-Why-Not. Other than last year's Welcome to New York, I haven't seen most of his aughts output...probably because he's had increasing difficulty since the late '90s to get theatrical distribution. But the Europeans still seem to love him. So does Willem Dafoe. And both of those are good enough revisitation reasons for me. August's viewing will be about catching up with Abel's more recent work and some of the old, early '80s stuff before his '90s indie heyday. If I can find a copy of his latest, Pasolini, I will give it a look-see. In the interest of comprehensiveness, I may even have to dig up that career-christening porno...
Friday, July 24, 2015
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Last month's film selections got a little dark there towards the end, a little too "rapey" maybe. I apologize. As mentioned, the revenging theme was research for a related writing project. To make amends, July's theme will focus on lighter fare (mostly). I've done many a month centered around a particular director, actor, genre, sub-genre or random theme, but I have yet to do one based solely on location. "Location, location, location!" as they say. And so this month all the movie selections will take place at amusement parks of some sort. Why not? It's the summer, people are on vacation, and the number one grossing movie in America (I think, I don't keep up on the trades) is about a dinosaur-laden amusement park.
And speaking of Vacations, there's that remake coming down the pipe at the end of the month. From the trailer, I'm guessing it will be horrible, but the original National Lampoon's Vacation did hold a special place in my heart. I always wanted to go to Wally World with the Griswolds, even if it ended up being closed. Especially if it was closed. No lines! This was definitely not the case at my own local childhood amusement park.
Since there's little quality control involved in picking movies based purely on location, I'm guessing this month will feature some of the worst selections in Cashiers history. I'm entirely OK with that. Sometimes you just need some mindless summer fun. Like a roller coaster. Or a movie called Rollercoaster. There will probably be a handful of bad sequels in the mix too. After all, there is one of the Vacation sequels I didn't see. Not to mention one of the Beverly Hills Cops. I'm figuring the reviews will be brief and postcard size, if not written on actual postcards.
Wally World might be closed for the summer, but, for some ungodly reason, this blog still isn't after nearly 10 years. Let's sing some Lindsey Buckingham together. Bring on the amusing flicks...