An Interview with Abel Ferrara

From: Abel Ferrara

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An Interview with Abel Ferrara The following is the transcription of a question-and-answer session following a screening of ’R Xmas at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris on 9 April 2003. Ferrara appeared with his producer and frequent collaborator , Frank DeCurtis. Jean-François Rauger is the director of the Programation Department. abel ferrara: All right, so, I hope everyone enjoyed the film. So, speak, talk, somebody . . . jean-françois rauger: May I start? I think that the film is very close to Bad Lieutenant, because it’s about good and evil, and the fact that you may do wrong things, but you cannot know that you are wrong. Am I right? af: Right! [Gestures to the lights in his face.] Kill it, man, please! [Lights go off.] All right, yeah, what does everybody think? Does anybody have a reaction to that? Don’t be shy! Somebody, somebody break the ice! 166 | Abel Ferrara spectator 1: I would disagree with Jean-François’s comment . . . af: Stand up so we can hear you! What’s your name? Talk to everybody . Don’t be shy. Speak in French, somebody can translate. s1: What struck me in this film is that you’re coming much closer to the reality of social life. af: And how does that make it cinema? I mean, if we’re filming . . . s1: No, no. What you are doing here, what strikes me rewatching it, are the continuous dissolves and fades, which bring the film closer to The Addiction, with its theme of vampirism. But I’m not a critic. af: It’s okay, we’re all critics. Well, the point is, this is the other side of King of New York. Here, one gunshot goes off and he shoots the basketball, as opposed to God knows how many gunshots were fired in King of New York. We make these films, all these people getting killed, and maybe we’re not feeling what we should be feeling. It’s not a film about gunshots but about the reality. If a gun went off, in the reality of this situation, everybody would be hiding under their cars and not coming out of their houses for weeks. Friends of mine couldn’t stand the film because the hero of the film, Lillo Brancato, was afraid. He was scared. He gave up the information right off the bat. Which is somebody I could relate to a lot more than I can to Larry Fishburne or Frank White in King of New York. That makes sense, but is it cinema? So, what do you guys feel about the film? Would you rather see King of New York, or this, or something different? s1: May I go on? af: Keep going, baby! Please, please. We’re here for four or five hours. I’ve got a two-hour speech. s1: I would like to compare the film to Body Snatchers in their approach to consumerism and society. But also, you’re focusing on the emotions between the principal characters. af: Right! Very good! frank decurtis: Very well put! af: [Picks up the microphone.] Yo! HOW’S EVERYBODY DOING? ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE GHETTO! [Laughs, puts microphone back.] So, somebody in the back, ’cause I know people in the back always have the most wonderful things to say. spectator 2: Are your films about redemption? af: Well . . . redemption is a twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week process, I mean, who wants to be redeemed? I think these people . . . we put “to be continued,” or “to be cunt” [laughs], “cont. . . .” [He points at DeCurtis.] That was his choice of words. In the end, I think these people needed to be educated before they could be redeemed. jfr: But there is no difference between good and evil in your films. God is not watching, he’s blind. af: God is blind! God wears sunglasses! [Laughs.] God’s not blind! He’s all-seeing and He’s all-knowing. And He made the trees. . . . For Ice-T there is a God, that’s what he feels, he’s telling her [Drea de Matteo ] she’s feeding drugs to children. I think he is speaking for a very . . . you know . . . moral high ground. He’s saying that what you’re doing is a hundred percent wrong. She’s confronted with the fact that she’s doing wrong. She’s trying to deny what she even does. Nobody even takes drugs in...