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March 20, 2012

4:44 Last Day on Earth

Four_forty_four_last_day_on_earthFilmmaking legend Abel Ferrara adds his own installment to the cinema of apocalypse with a stagey reverie occuring, like Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” of the last day of human existence. At “4:44” am, global warming is set to come calling once and for all. Aside from a few suicides, Manhattan appears to take the doomsday alert in stride. Although the linear storyline is made up mainly of uncomfortable Skype conversations, lovemaking sessions between Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh, and a signature Abel Ferrara drug interlude, the movie holds a weird theatrical charm.

Usually, cameos detract from a picture, but brief appearances by Natasha Lyonne and Paz de la Huerta work wonders. Defoe plays Cisco, an East Village ex-junkie bohemian living in a penthouse loft apartment with his young painter girlfriend Skye (Leigh).

“Where are the experts?” Cisco’s burning question leads him to an energetic burst of anger as he shouts at people across the street from his rooftop vantage point. Inside the apartment Skye meditates without breaking concentration. Evidently, she’s used to such dramatic outbursts from her mate.

Abel Ferrara peaked a long time ago, but his unique cinematic take on Manhattan is always a welcome distraction. “4:44 Last Day on Earth” is enjoyable for those New York-informed or inspired audiences that can appreciate the drama for what it is, a work of cinematic art from a director whose taste we appreciate. The film won’t appeal to a broad commercial audience, but for those of us who love Abel Ferrara’s work for his own particular sense of filmic madness, it’s a welcome movie.

Not Rated. 85 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)


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