Interview with Abel Ferrara: “We ended up on the brink of a nuclear holocaust”

Once upon a time there was a king, of New York. Today Abel Ferrarathe legendary New York director of King of New York, The bad lieutenant, Fratelli lives in Rome. From king to emperor. And his cinema has adapted a little to the renewed existential geography: the documentary Piazza Vittorio, Tommaso with his companion Willem Dafoe. “Two such different places. New York remains my city (Ferrara was born in the Bronx, seventy-one years ago ed.) Where you meet people and cultures from all over the world, who live together. In Rome, on the other hand, you can breathe history ». And in Italy the master of a dirty and violent cinema, so questioning and daring as not to leave indifferent, collects the prizes that are hiding on the other side of the ocean. TO The Milanesianathe long and itinerant cultural festival directed by Elisabetta Sgarbi (until 3 August, with offices located in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Marche And Tuscany), Abel Ferrara received the Omaggio al Maestro, already awarded among the many a Bernardo Bertolucci, Jane Campion, brothers Dardenne. The director says: «Receiving an award is always nice, it guarantees added value». A whole career – his began over forty years ago – like a single film. And Mary, Grand Prix in Venice in 2005, remains among the best of him.

At the Milanese awards ceremony, Ferrara shows up in a personal uniform, a black suit and a white shirt. There are also very young people to applaud him, the filmmaker goes beyond the generations. And not a word of Italian stands out, despite the Roman residence and the origins of Campania. To speak clearly is the whole work. Like him perhaps alone Martin Scorsese And Woody Allen they were able to tell the Big Apple (“NY takes you to another level of creativity. There, the perceived energy level is off the scale”), so well that it seems familiar – and remarkable – even to someone who has never set foot there. The next project is a film about Padre Pio, with the saint of Pietralcina played by the versatile American star Shia LaBeouf, ex Tranformers and Indiana Jones. Imaginative choice, but less than having hired Madonna for Snake eyes And Claudia Schiffer for Blackout. An autobiography is also expected, the content of which is already being talked about. The topic in question is by no means trivial. The label of “damned director”, for Ferrara is very reductive. “I had long had the idea of ​​writing a book. However, I had always lacked courage ». For Theseus’ ship, the memorial “should be out in 2023. I hope Abel delivers in days,” warns the publisher Elisabetta Sgarbi.

Mr. Ferrara, your cinema has often investigated spirituality.
An existence devoid of spirituality is a life without hope. I am Buddhist. When I first began to approach this religion, I was still a junkie and an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for ten years now. Before, life was only about me, today it’s not like that anymore. Drugs prevent you from being yourself, they make you afraid to live. According to Buddhism, no one is in this world to suffer.

What do you think of Pope Francis?
I like the way Bergoglio is changing the Church’s approach to religiosity. Explaining life and what will come after is a path that this Pope has made more understandable to all.

Religion was also a topic dear to Pier Paolo Pasolini. 2022 is the centenary of the birth of the great intellectual and artist.
There is no doubt that Pier Paolo Pasolini was a memorable man. With his art he taught many people. This gift he gave us allowed him to stay alive. Pasolini is here, among us.

In 2014 he dedicated the film “Pasolini” to him, which he recently told at the Pesaro Film Festival. In the title role is Willem Dafoe. With Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken, Dafoe is one of the performers with whom his filmography is best identified. Is it right to talk about fetish actors?
No, I don’t think that’s correct. Each of my major performers brought something different to our common experience on set. I know each of them very very well. In the presence of a key role – as happened for example to Harvey Keitel for The Bad Lieutenant -, when an actor is intimately linked to his character, what is created is magic.

And the Italian actors? Asia Argento, Chiara Caselli, Valerio Mastandrea, Stefania Rocca, Riccardo Scamarcio… he has directed many.
It was really nice to work with them. Directing artists who work with such great attention to culture greatly expands the opportunities for a director.

Among its merits, the ability to work well with often very low budgets.
Since no one has put any money into it, there is more freedom and fewer expectations when you make a zero-budget film. Shooting digitally is like being faced with a mathematical equation. Instead, for example, in The Addiction – Vampires in New York (1995 cult title with Christopher Walken, photographed in black and white by his companion Ken Kelsch ed.) We managed to create silver shadows.

To make the most of these aesthetic precautions, the use of a film in the hall remains essential. Will superheroes and authors be defending cinemas from the spread of streaming?
I myself, as a young man, loved to go and see them. Superhero films represent the first approach to the big screen for many viewers, even children of seven to eight years. As they grow up, they may enjoy other aspects of the room experience as well.

His “4:44 – Last Day on Earth” is a 2011 film, in which our planet seems to be nearing its end. Where are we at?
I have known very few people who wanted the apocalypse. When I was a child, I remember how adults taught us little ones about paranoia about the end of the world. What is happening now is a third world war. I wonder why on earth we have to find ourselves again today, on the verge of a nuclear holocaust. My solution to all of this? Here she is! (Ferrara shows a blank sheet of paper ed.). It is clear that I have no solutions.

Interview with Abel Ferrara: “We ended up on the brink of a nuclear holocaust” – Il Riformista