So Al Gore was right. We have destroyed the earth. He tried to tell us and we wouldn’t listen, or at least that’s the central premise to Abel Ferrara’s latest film 4:44 Last Day On Earth (Icon). It’s a doomsday flick from one of the most depressive filmmakers you could imagine, the sleazebag behind Bad Lieutenant (The good one), Dangerous Game (Harvey Keitel and Madonna) and The King Of New York. His films have always been seedy as hell, and for a while in the early 90’s he was ‘seedy it guy.’ But times have changed, and his budgets have shrunk, because apparently people don’t want to see Harvey Keitel molesting teenage motorists anymore.
Which leads us back to 4:44 Last Day on Earth. Early on we know that at 4:44am the world will end, now we just have to work out what to do in the interim. If you know Ferarra you’d be expecting a savage dose of violent sexual wrongness, perhaps a spot of looting. But no, at the age of 60 the former terror of New York is acting somewhat restrained. We follow actor and reformed drug addict Cisco (a craggily looking Willem Defoe) and his much younger artist girlfriend Skye, as they attempt to make sense of their lives as the clock is ticking. Skye is determined to finish her art, while Cisco is a mess, trying to score dope and futilely reconnect with his ex wife, daughter and friends via skype. In fact technology plays an important role in Cisco’s life, their New York loft resembles a media unit, with newscasters, a new age guru, and baseball games playing out endlessly. Connections occur via technology, yet it still feels real. There’s a beautiful scene where they let the guy who delivers their Chinese take out skype his family. When he says goodbye he closes the computer and leans down and kisses it. In between they screw, bicker and meander in some kind of existential fog.
But no mistake Abel Ferarra is a sleazy old bastard. Or at least he was in 2007. What 55 year old is so porn starved he decides to write and direct a film set in a strip club, purely to film naked strippers? And then what 55 year old could be so delusional as to make it a warm hearted nostalgic, somewhat quirky almost comedy? Because everyone knows strip clubs are just one big happy family right?
Ferarra has always been idiosyncratic, marching to he beat of his own drum. But surely there’s a limit. And Go Go Tales (Eagle) is it. Willem Defoe again plays Ray, a lotto addicted manager of a strip club that’s slowly going down the tubes. It’s a fantastical vision, Ray engages in cabaret, singing sad songs between strips, Asia Argento tongue kisses a dog, a chef supplies organic hot dogs to patrons. There’s even a stripper talent show where Matthew Modine inexplicably turns up playing a miniature piano, with a miniature dog. It’s an unfocussed film with a real lacklustre quality. Ferrara seems disinterested, perhaps understandably so, only rousing himself when filming the gratuitous nudity. When people aren’t flashing their fleshy bits they’re screaming at each other. Why?