What do we learn about the director, his style and how he works, his background, his influences, the film making process and about him in general in this documentary from French film maker?
My initial reaction to viewing this documentary from 2003 made by Rafi Pitts was we don’t learn very much at all from watching ‘Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty’ but on second viewing there are pointers, signposts to what Ferrara is like as a film maker from what he is like in this documentary:
- Ferrara plays piano and guitar. If there is an instrument around, he might just pick it up and burst into song, maybe one he has written about inner city life.
- He is admired by those around him for his ability to perform many task at once, hold a cell phone, look at a script.
- He talks a lot, maybe even all the time. During periods of rest, when the film shows him lying on a bed or a sofa, Ferrara continues to talk albeit at a slower pace. I am left wondering if he sleeps at all for pro-longed period.
- He’s a nightbird, after filming a music video for Abenaa we see him make it out onto the New York streets at 07.00, he seems very comfortable late at night and early morning throughout the film.
- He’s something of a raconteur, always a story, always something to say, quick witted. If asked he may even talk about the film making process, the budget, the set up for a car chase in ‘King of New York’, how the actors said their lines in ‘New Rose Hotel’ and the locations in the meat packing district and how they were used in ‘Bad Lieutenant’. He tells us how Sean Penn apologised after the producers didn’t want Ferrara to make the US segment on ‘11’09’01 – September 11’.
- Maybe because of his appearance but more likely because of his nature the guitar shop assistant threw him out first time he visited.
- For the most part his preferred mode of transport is taxi, if the film is any indication of real life he lives half of his time in taxis. We also see him strolling through the streets looking for this place or that place.
‘Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty’ does not use voice over narration, interviews with other film makers or peers, multiple clips from films (although clips of ‘Bad Lieutenant’ and ‘New Rose Hotel’ are briefly shown) interviews with critics or even interviews in general are not used as such. Pitts simply follows Ferrara over a period that I estimate to be a couple of days and we learn what happens during those days only. What we do see of the film maker is a brief audition, first at an apartment, later continued it seems at a restaurant and toward the end of the film a rehearsal, it’s not much but for me at least it gives me a sense of who he is.
IMDB link for 'Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty'.
Footnote. I didn’t have images to use but if I had I would have run a dream double bill - Ferrara’s ‘The Addiction’ with George A. Romero’s ‘Martin: The Vampire’ as two of the more interesting modern day vampire films.
For more on Ferrara go to Girish's post and list, link.