Ferrara. Abel Ferrara is synonymous with New York City street cinema- gritty, violent -yes, but films that are also extremely moody, atmospheric as well—not just blunt force. His best work came in the early 1990’s – the one-two punch of King of New York and Bad Lieutenant in 1990 and 1992 at the cusp of the renaissance for the American Indie movement. Ferrara never crossed over like Soderbergh, Tarantino, Linklater or Spike Lee either commercially or artistically– but good or bad, never makes uninteresting films either. His strength for the purposes of this list are those two films—but I think also what separates him from some others yet to be named is his dedication to making Ferrara films- he’s never become a hired hand or compromised either. That commitment and the roughness or pulpiness of his material (and surrounding controversy) makes me think of him as sort of a De Palma-lite, but with less technical abilities and a heavier emphasis on morality.
Best film: Bad Lieutenant. I’m open to the idea of King of New York being closer than I give it credit for- I’m overdue for a rewatch—but Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant is a no holds barred, bare-knuckled allegory and meditation on sin, sacrifice and redemption. It’s a haunting film. Harvey Keitel’s raw performance is unforgettable as well—there isn’t another performance from anybody out there quite like it.
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Bad Lieutenant)
most overrated: Ferrara doesn’t have one. Bad Lieutenant is the only film that lands in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and it lands at #972—so it’s a little underrated. On the 1001-2000 list we have New Rose Hotel, Addition, and King of New York. I haven’t seen New Rose Hotel or Addiction yet sadly.
most underrated : Bad Lieutenant– it doesn’t make my top 500 but it’s not far off- so I’m at least 300 slots higher than the consensus at #972.
gem I want to spotlight : King of New York. Walken’s icy stare is a perfect for this moody dark film covered in dark natural lighting (looks like a 1970’s film more than a 1990 film) and gorgeous blue day for night.
- Violent, edgy, controversial (almost always a NC-17 controversy with Ferrara films it seems—and finding screengrabs for this page his a little tricky- haha) seedy films set in New York city
- Darky lit, natural lighting matching the evil that exists in his world
- Moral tales, allegories, often sin and redemption, sacrifice
- Uncompromising (he most admired Pasolini and that makes sense)
- Bad Lieutenant
- King of New York
- The Funeral
- Ms .45
By year and grades
|1981- Ms. 45||R|
|1990- King of New York||R|
|1992- Bad Lieutenant||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Have you seen the body snatchers (1993)?
@Janith- I have not yet. Good?
I’ve now seen 12 Ferrara films so I’m done with his film for a while. His career path is really surprising, moving into very experimental cinema as he got older and changed from Catholicism to Buddhism. I also think every time he makes a film it is at least interesting. His filmography isn’t the best but there is some depth and he’s been putting out decent (and interesting) films for a few decades now. Four of these films are with Willem Dafoe and they have more together I didn’t get to.
Bad Lieutenant (1992) – HR/MS (leaning HR)
King of New York (1990) – HR
The Addiction (1995) – HR
Ms. 45 (1981) – R/HR (leaning R)
Pasolini (2014) – R
4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011) – R
Siberia (2020) – R
Zeros and Ones (2021) – R
New Rose Hotel (1998) – 5/10, not in archives.
Dangeous Game (1993) – 5/10, not in archives
The Funeral (1996) – 4/10, not in archives.
A couple of the R’s are just fringy but I still find plenty to admire in them.
He also pulled off one of my favourite shots of 2020, a stunner with sun reflecting in a cave in a surrealistic sequence.
@Harry- 12 Ferrara films crossed off your list is more than me. Impressive!