The Film Buff West has just carved out new Ferrara section in the directors wall, in which my eyes spotted the Bad Lieutenant…a film I shamefully had yet to watch. My first exposure to Ferrara was a short French doc that followed him around NY (Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty). He seems carry mania wherever he goes in the city. It is surprising that he could ever be coherent and sober enough to make an order at Denny’s, never mind making a film. To put it simply, he charmed the pants off me.
I have since watched Ms. 45, New Rose Hotel and now Bad Lieutenant. The latter is definitely the sleakest, and most engaging. All of them seem to have a similar vibe to them though. There is something of a “moral” that is attempting to bubble to the surface, but it never quite gets there. I think it is drowned in, for lack of a less prudish word, pornography. The ethics are almost a side order accompanying the main dish of intense, sexualized violence. A sort of confession after the binge (Ferrara is a Catholic, and Catholicism plays a big role in the Bad Lieutenant). Hypermasculine melodrama is what I would call it, if anyone’s asking (good band name?). I think I like the man better than his work…there are a few directors I feel this way about (Herzog and Cassavetes being the two that come to mind). It is interesting that Ferrara seems to be heavily influenced by Cassavetes (and wishes a death in Hell on Herzog–who lately kind of deserves it). But Cassavetes has Husbands, Herzog has Stroszek, Bells from the Deep, and a dozen other gems. At times those filmmakers’ works live up to the man, but I have yet to see that from Ferrara.