4:44 Last Day on Earth
Directed by Abel Ferrara
The stakes are never low in an Abel Ferrara film: if it isn’t literally the end of the world, it’s very often felt like it, or at least the end of an era (in Go Go Tales or Chelsea on the Rocks). In Ferrara’s latest entry in sidewalk metaphysics, Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and Skye (Shanyn Leigh) live out doomsday’s eve in a loft-like LES apartment before the strangely punctual environmental apocalypse. She action-paints and listens to a guru’s lecture; he Skypes, and struts and frets on the roof and down the street. The dorm-room what-if has at last come to pass, and with the final reckoning comes others—who do you love, why still make art, and do you shoot up when nothing else matters (in the recovering addict’s ultimate thought experiment)?
Addiction has been a byword for Ferrara’s teetering cinema, a handy distillation of the body-and-soul grappling—which often plays out on the vital edge of exhilarating and ridiculous—in New York settings (NY1’s Pat Kiernan mans the news desk, in perhaps the only time the In the Papers host will be credited alongside Paz de la Huerta). So too with the film’s coping at nightfall, just south of Delancey, by turns casual and stagy: chiaroscuro-shot lovemaking against void-like black, and the dramatically dead emotathons sprung out of Skype farewells; Cisco’s scattershot cris de coeur, and the far better impromptu family reunion with his ex-addict brother (with Natasha Lyonne on hand for the hang). In Ferrara’s vision of the end days, the people getting worked up are mostly seen in street crowds during global-consciousness dream-montages (which acquire an added remove in light of the mockable guru’s “this is not a pen” debunking of the material world). The ballad of Cisco and Skye is like an personal parable, a story one tells that not everyone must see.
Opens March 23