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110 | Abel Ferrara manipulated by intelligence agencies.71 Ferrara’s films are symbolic bombs. They are not devices that, in an unjust, false world, respond to death by adding further death; they are surreptitious machines that dynamite the shadows in an effort to hollow out a space for love. Self-Consciousness: The Visionaries The Political Necessity of Inebriation Immersed Cinema and Ferraran Prototypes Can Ferrara’s approach be called “American” in the sense that the individual—precarious and problematic as that category is—nonetheless remains the classical depositary of consciousness? Or is his approach an inevitable displacement in relation to the 1960s and 1970s in the sense that our current historical horizon no longer offers any possibility of collective hope? Or does his approach signal a cultural evolution in the sense that the popularization of psychoanalytic knowledge leads us to automatically relate every thought and action back to its drive-origins? Probably all three factors are at work simultaneously. Ferrara’s cinema arouses critical passion, articulating at once polemical analysis and sensory joy, formal exaltation and concrete protest. Its ethical exigency does not, in fact, open up the material possibility of another world; such a world is designated only indirectly. Ferrara’s cinema requires a reversal of the psychic resources available to the human creature in order to grasp this world that is intolerable. Typically, King of New York transforms a story of greed into an investigation of the ideal. Ferrara’s passionate films offer an inexhaustible repertory of torments (obsession, trauma, guilt, anguish, disgust, abandonment neuroses, and melancholy) that are depicted through states of trance, inebriation, and exaltation, whether cold (Frank in King of New York) or hot (Mickey in The Blackout). The event here is psychic (L. T.’s forgiveness in Bad Lieutenant, Kathy’s discovery of images in The Addiction), the drama consists of having ideas (“I have ideas!” cries Jean in The Funeral), and the characters are moved by intuitions, visions, and hallucinations. Thus, to understand what has happened to him, Matty in The Blackout needs every kind of dream-specialist: Mickey the video artist, a psychoanalyst, a drug dealer, and, in the original script, he even seeks out a psychic. A Cinema of Negation | 111 If the connection established by Ferrara between psychic investigation and a critical relation to the world were in doubt, it would suffice to consult the script of The Blackout. This film, which is ostensibly strictly intimate and beyond history, expresses in narrative terms the banal, ordinary nature of crimes by individuals against other individuals. In front of an automated bank teller, a crook explains to Matty: “Every hour a person is murdered, every minute a woman is raped, there are six million victims of crime a year.”72 It is clear that The Blackout represents, in relation to such everyday crimes on the daily television news, what The Addiction represents in relation to collective crime and historical fact: a reactivation of the suffering that is ingested, retained, and normalized by our imaginary. It is equally clear that the suppression of an explanatory scene like this testifies to Ferrara’s absolute refusal to offer a sociological account of reality. Why? Perhaps because his cinema refuses to take any distance from the real. It wants to be a symptom, entirely dependent on the world, like L. T. at the nightclub, immersed in it to the point of asphyxia. In contrast to the other filmmakers who filmed episodes in Subway Stories (1997) set at night, thus allowing a handy emptying of public space, Ferrara jumps on the train in the daytime and builds his fable completely on flesh and its movements. Likewise, in contrast to those readers who chose the silence of the recording studio to recite a text for the 1998 performance and CD project Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, Ferrara was recorded inside a church and performing in public. Ferrara needs the crowd, the street, and human commerce. His critique does not use the weapons of objectivity ; it responds to the real like a sigh responds to a kiss, or a cry answers a blow: in absolute proximity and in an organically proportionate way. Faced with concrete violence, Ferrara’s cinema invents two prototypes : figures who possess no defenses and identify totally with evil (Thana in Ms .45, Matt in Fear City, Frank in King of New York, Kathy in The Addiction, Fox in New Rose Hotel, and the heroine of Mary, all invaded...


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