Go Go Tales
Review by John Packman.
Thanks to the one-two punch of gritty Big Apple melodramas King of New York and Bad Lieutenant, Abel Ferrara was briefly touted by some critics as the heir apparent to Martin Scorsese. Since then, Ferrara has mostly flown under the radar, making a series of modestly-distributed films and relocating from the U.S. to Italy in 2002. If his new film Go Go Tales is any indication of his new direction, Ferrara needs to get back to New York with all deliberate speed. The majority of the film takes place over the course of one night in a floundering gentleman's club run by Ray Ruby (Willem Dafoe), a chronic gambler with an almost idiotic surfeit of optimism. Ruby is forced to contend with flagging attendance, low revenue, increasingly impatient dancers awaiting their paycheques, and an omnipresent landlady (Sylvia Miles) who continually threatens to sell the club if things don't pick up. What follows is a Grand Guignol tour of the least credible strip joint since Exotica, with some of the most exploitative male-gaze nudity since... well, since Ferrara's other films.
Astonishingly, some advance reviews of Go Go Tales have likened it to the work of Altman and Cassavetes; evidently all it takes to garner such comparisons is unintelligible dialogue and narrative incoherence, respectively. Ferrara's strength lies in coaxing theatrical and affected performances from iconoclasts like Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken; conversely, when it comes to making chaotic ensemble comedies, he clearly has no idea what he's doing. The film is totally shapeless and toneless, careening from attempted laughs to attempted pathos with little success. The actors involved are either given nothing to do, like Bob Hoskins and Asia Argento, or so far over the top that they seem like rejected SNL characters. Matthew Modine somehow reimagines Andy Warhol as a fey hairdresser, and Dafoe, never the most natural of actors, chews the scenery like he hasn't eaten in three days; it may be his worst performance, ever. Only the shrill, foul-mouthed Miles and ex-Fugee Pras (!) as the club's put-upon chef (!!) are able to provoke anything resembling yuks. Ferrara has called this his first "intentional comedy", but I can think of two things wrong with that description. Back to the drawing board, dude.
Abel Ferrara | France/Italy | 2007 | 105min
Thur. Oct. 11 | 9:30pm | Empire Granville Theatre
Fri. Oct. 12 | 1:00pm | Empire Granville Theatre