“Going to the End of Being”

From: Abel Ferrara

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68 | Abel Ferrara point where God, too, finally takes on the entire burden of guilt, to the point where the universe has been taken over by that despair which is actually its secret hope.”56 We shall now see how passion in Ferrara’s cinema demands exactly this passage through guilt, in an effort to find the means not to surpass but to transgress the negative. “Going to the End of Being” Death and Its Archaic Resonances Death constitutes the principal material of Ferrara’s cinema. Giving it, taking it, giving it to oneself, giving it again to someone who is already dead (the hoods in King of New York fire on corpses, and Chez shoots a coffin)—this is the essential activity of his characters. Is it a morbid predilection ? On the contrary, it can be argued that Ferrara’s films attempt to give meaning to the irreparable nature of death. In this light, they invent fictions of abandonment, disappearance, and anxiety that work unrelentingly to find the means of symbolically conjuring physical, affective , or moral absence. Eddie (Harvey Keitel) explains to his actors in Dangerous Game: “For all of us, abandonment is death.” Solitude/Fusion  “[E]ach being is, I believe, incapable, on his own, of going to the end of being.”57 The great Ferraran figures try to go all the way to that end, to take this voyage; they never renounce this mission. They are beyond being to the point of becoming phantoms, angels, or shadows; they exhaust all forms of alteration rather than remain fixed in their identity. Such is the existential imperative: in Dangerous Game, the director demands of his actor, “I need you to dig down into fuckin’ hell!” Risking every danger, the Ferraran protagonist must venture forth alone. Profound solitude characterizes most of Ferrara’s heroes. Thana’s solitude in Ms .45 is marked by her muteness; Reno (The Driller Killer) cannot bear his neighbors and brusquely pushes away his partner; Frank is a king in New York, a unique being whose metaphysical sovereignty isolates him from everyone; L. T. in Bad Lieutenant is solely responsible for the bets he places for his colleagues and is accountable to no one, A Cinema of Negation | 69 especially not his creditors; Marti—whose surname, Malone, blends “evil” (French: mal) and “alone”—invents for herself a fable of total world destruction to rid herself of her family in Body Snatchers; Kathy in The Addiction devours her comrades and ends up being devoured by her peers (the other vampires); and in The Funeral, Johnny Tempio is dead, Chez is crazy, and Ray rules over a family from which its members only wish to escape. Eddie in Dangerous Game, who needs to destroy his family to make his film, is so unsure of his status that, before leaving for work, he whispers in the ear of his sleeping son, Tommy (Reilly Murphy, the same child from Body Snatchers): “Don’t forget me, kid, I’m your Daddy.” Matty (The Blackout) finds himself isolated due to his star status (a pagan form of sovereignty); he is abandoned (by Annie) and in turn abandons another (Susan). Fox in New Rose Hotel ends up so abandoned that he is not even sure whom he really met (the polymorphous Sandii). In 1988, for the producer Aaron Spelling, Ferrara made the pilot for a television series with a truly programmatic title: The Loner. This loner is Michael Shane (John Terry), an extremely rich and rather Oedipal New Yorker who decides to become a cop in order to mingle with villains . (He only manages to find the underground with the help of his best friend, a sort of fallen Beat poet.) Michael constitutes the upperclass , melancholic, loquacious version of L. T. Brad Stevens describes his introduction well: Approximately eleven minutes into The Loner, Ferrara’s camera tracks past a painting showing two distorted faces, one of which appears to be screaming, and finally comes to rest on Michael Shane, who is nervously shaking a wine glass. This image precisely sums up Shane, a man so torn by internal conflicts that he seems barely distinguishable from those painted faces with which he is juxtaposed. As the shot continues, Shane’s mother approaches and asks, “What is this mission you have in life to make yourself and everyone around you miserable?” to which Shane can only reply, “I don’t know.”58 ’R Xmas follows this path but reverses it: the wife cannot be alone...