49th New York Film Festival (Part II)

Oy, such drama! Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh in "4:44: Last Day on Earth"

The third movie I attended at the press screening for the upcoming New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30 through October 16, at Lincoln Center, is director Abel Ferrara’s “4:44: Last Day on Earth.”  Now, since this is the New York Film Festival, and since they have selected this film to be screened in advance, for the press, one would think they would bring their “A” game, right?  In addition, when one also considers that the festival arranged for a post screening press conference with Ferrara, and lead actress Shanyn Leigh, that this must be a film of which the festival thinks very highly, right?  Well the emperor is not wearing any clothes…and, at points, neither are the film’s protagonists.

“Why is director Abel Ferrara still allowed to make movies?”  That was the thought going through my mind as I endured “4:44: Last Day on Earth.”

“4:44: Last Day on Earth,” is a slow, dull, self indulgent, pretentious waste of filmmaking resources and, dare I even dignify the film by using the word, “talent?” Even at a running length of 85 minutes it is interminable.

Much like those who were expecting the Rapture this past May, “4:44: Last Day on Earth” concerns our society knowing that all people will die, on a certain day, at around 4:44 am, but unfortunately not soon enough to end this movie any faster.  The explanation given is that Al Gore was right about the dangers of global warming and we are all now doomed.

So what would people do as they await the end?  Well, according to Mr. Ferrara, Cisco (Willem Dafoe) a fifty-something character, would walk back and forth in his Lower East Side apartment rubbing his hair and talking to himself.  Dafoe tries to wax “serious, mighty moment,” while simultaneously, and unsuccessfully, trying to ad-lib his way through scenes with his character’s attractive twenty-something girlfriend Skye (Leigh).  Yeah, right Willem.  Only in the movies.

There is some genuine humor, the dubious acting notwithstanding.  A news anchorman tells the TV audience that he is going off the air to spend the remaining time with his family.  “You don’t need me to tell you how tragic it is,” he says, rationalizing his excuse for leaving his post at such a critical time.   Cisco angrily yells at his landlord, “How’s that two and a half per cent a year feel now?”  Cisco generously over tips a Chinese food delivery boy (money having no value at a time like this) and then allows him to use his laptop to have a Skipe conversation with relatives.

We see television clips of the Dalai Lama, Al Gore, Joseph Campbell, Charlie Rose and others.  When Ferrara cannot think of anything else with which to fill the film’s running time, he has Leigh take off her clothes.  OK, so he does one thing right.

For more information on the New York Film Festival please visit http://www.filmlinc.com.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on September 27, 2011, in Feature Articles, New, New York Film Festival 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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