March 27, 2012 by staff
Abel Ferrara, Abel Ferrara is a handful. With wild gestures and expertly timed jokes, he piles the digressions high, but is much sharper and in control than his legendarily hard-living persona would suggest. The sixty-one-year-old has had one of American indie cinema’s most eclectic careers.
A Bronx native, Ferrara has made his way from 42nd Street’s row of exploitation and p*rn theaters to the Croissette in Cannes. He mantains a manic, youthful energy that is both infectious and a bit terrifying, and although since he became sober over a year ago he has mellowed a bit, the toll that years of less-than-legal substances has taken has certainly not affected the filmmaker’s wit or broad-hearted sensibility.
His new film, “4:44 Last Day On Earth,” was shot early last spring and was initially slated to star Ethan Hawke. Some sources have claimed that Hawke dropped out after shooting had begun, rumors that Ferrara declined to address. Regardless, Willem Dafoe, who was astonishingly good in Ferrara’s terribly underseen “Go-Go Tales,” gives another piercing performance here, as the Ferrara surrogate of sorts, a newly sober man living out the last day of Earth’s existence due to an impending, man-made castastrophe.
Co-starring Ferrara’s girlfriend Shanyn Leigh and Natasha Lyonne, “4:44 Last Day On Earth” represents the first time in over a decade that one of Ferrara’s films has been released by a U.S. theatrical distributor. Following stops at the New York and Venice Film Festivals, IFC quickly scooped up the film for domestic release. On the eve of its release, we caught up with Ferrara for a wide-ranging discussion of the movie, his feelings about the industry and the perilous world we live in.
The Playlist: What got you thinking about the end of the world? The eighty-degree March days? Peak Oil? Or are you not someone that dwells on this stuff at all?
Abel Ferrara: Not really, but you’d have to be a maniac to not think about that stuff. I mean, it’s happened before. It has happened to more advanced civilizations than us. But the point I wanted to get across was this wasn’t a meteorite hitting the earth, you know what I mean, this is our sh*t, this is a man-made disaster over here. It’s like the Dalai Lama says, if you don’t realize you’re part of nature, that you’re not in control of nature or above anything, that you better find your own rhythm within it. We’re in for some big trouble.
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