ABEL FERRARA KEEPS, as they say, vampire hours. But when we finally reach the notoriously unpredictable director of Bad Lieutenant and The Funeral at his loft cum production office in lower Manhattan late one afternoon, he seems genuinely eager to talk. "Yeah, ready to rock," Ferrara says, having just begun his workday (he generally goes until 8 the next morning) by screening footage from his next movie, The Blackout, starring Matthew Modine and Beatrice Dalle. He proceeds to describe the scene he's just finished editing, which he calls "The Moment of 'Ah.'"
"You hear a ring at your door at the Four Seasons hotel," Ferrara says, setting the scene, "and it's the prostitute you called up to your room. She walks in, and the moment of 'Ah' is when you say, 'Ah, would you like a drink, or do you wanna just start lickin' the Coke off my dick right now?'"
Another art movie, Abel? He elaborates. "It's like Dangerous Game, it's about the film industry. It was written by myself and Marla Hansen--she's the model who got her face cut, and who was one of the editors on The Addiction. Modine plays an actor who, in an alcoholic blackout, murders a girl [played by Dalle], or so he thinks."
We mention that this plot strongly recalls Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place, but Ferrara has inexplicably vacated the conversation. He returns two minutes later, asking for a synopsis of the Ray film, which he apparently hasn't seen--even though The Blackout features Dennis Hopper as a director named "Mickey Ray."
And what about The Funeral, his brooding gangster movie that's currently in release? "It's interesting for us," Ferrara says. "The Funeral is doing well, especially in smaller, rural towns, which isn't usually our venue. I think that's because it's about family, and it's set in a period, the 1930s. More Americana, you dig? It's a continuation of what we always do, taking on certain kinds of themes."
Like redemption and forgiveness emerging from the struggle between good and evil? "The Funeral was made at a tough time in my life when I was going through some really heavy changes. Nicky [Nicholas St. John, Ferrara's screenwriter and childhood friend] wrote it in 1991 after his son died. It's no picnic. The Blackout, though, is more upbeat. We shot it in Miami and kicked out the jams, brought in Claudia Schiffer and Schoolly D, you know what I mean?"
With that, Ferrara launches into a Schoolly rap called "Eternity": "Forever is a long time," he half-croons in a raspy growl. "You think I'm just another nigga goin' nowhere, well here I am on the corner smokin' cheeba, with my homeys with their cellulas and beepas." Ferrara's La Dolce Vita, perhaps? Only time will tell. (Rob Nelson)
The Funeral starts Friday at the Uptown Theatre; see review in Film Clips, p. 29.