Nowadays, you read the two-sentence write-up inside the festival programme and you can assume with confidence a general sense of how the film will unfold. It’s your cinematic intuition and your repressed discomfort with formal achievements in new cinema. I got that feeling with Stesti and I was right.
Now, I liked this one very much because it surprised me.
I’m not too familiar with Ferrara but my understanding had been that he gets his kicks out of good performances. Not the case so here. Although, yes, the actors do a fine job, what really works is the way the thing is sculpted. We wonder where will the vision take us? Will it take us places we are unfamiliar with? Like Lynch?
What I call works of genius walk that fine line between familiar and unfamiliar. Lynch crosses too often for my taste, but this here hits a sweet spot. Not perfect, but almost.
As always with our man Abel, we get a movie about a movie. This time we have just that, but also a TV show, precisely about a movie (notice the three layers – movie about a tv show about a movie). But again, this is of little matter, it is vintage our man to self-reference in this manner. What we are interested in here is what people usually call ‘mood’. This is where the cinema takes place.
There is a moment where Binoche, is walking a desert road in Jerusalem. This image is superimposed seamlessly in a fade-in fade-out effect with our protagonist’s car on a New York highway at night, and a typical Ferrara skyline. My understanding is that this layering of images is vintage Abel. But in this clear multi-threaded story, the sweet essence of the film beautifully composes itself in this transitional part. How disciplined and sublime this is. It has a reverence that feels coincidentally religious.
And of course, in a movie about faith, we have the camera as God’s eye. It’s impressive the way we jump from movie, to movie-within, to TV show, without any discomfort, as though we’re in good hands. This is clearly one of the best faith movies precisely because it achieves this dancing about seamlessly.
I always thought Ferrara was an old coke addict tough guy who didn’t give a shit about continuity errors and the such and had a juvenile fixation on the crafting of cinematic gritty violence. Can’t think why I thought so. But you must see this at all costs. It is what ‘2046’ is to Wong.