This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

1May/19

ABEL FERRARA — UNRATED: PASOLINI / MS. 45

Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe stars as Pier Paolo Pasolini on the last day of his life in Abel Ferrara film

PASOLINI (Abel Ferrara, 2014)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Friday, May 3, 7:00
Series runs May 1-31
212-708-9400
www.moma.org

Director Abel Ferrara packs a whole lot into controversial Italian writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last day on earth in the multinational coproduction Pasolini. Unfortunately, it all ends up a rather confusing jumble, with Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, The Addiction) and screenwriter Maurizio Braucci (Gomorrah, Black Souls) squeezing too much into too little. Willem Dafoe stars as Pasolini on November 2, 1975, as the director is interviewed by a journalist, reads the newspaper on the couch, sits down at his typewriter to work on his novel Petrolio, edits what would be his final film (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom), and goes cruising to pick up a young stud. Ferrara adds enactments of scenes from the never-realized Porno-Teo-Kolossal, with Pasolini’s real-life lover, Ninetto Davoli, playing the fictional character Epifanio. (Davoli was supposed to play the younger Nunzio in the hallucinatory tale, about a search for faith and the messiah. Davoli is played by Riccardo Scamarcio in Ferrara’s film.) Ferrara never really delves into the internal makeup of Pasolini (The Gospel According to Matthew, Teorema), an openly gay outspoken social and political activist, poet, Marxist, Christian, and documentarian, instead using brief episodes that only touch the surface, as if Dafoe is playing a character based on Pasolini rather than the complex man who was indeed Pasolini. But Ferrara does get very specific about Pasolini’s mysterious, brutal death. Pasolini is screening May 3 at 7:00 in the MoMA series “Abel Ferrara: Unrated” and will be followed by a Q&A with the director and Dafoe.

MS. 45

A mute rape victim (Zoë Tamerlis Lund) seeks revenge Death Wish–style in Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45

MS. 45 (Abel Ferrara, 1981)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday, May 7, 7:00, and Saturday, May 11, 7:00
Series runs May 1-31
212-708-9400
www.moma.org

Abel Ferrara’s third film, following the 1976 pornographic 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy Cat and the 1979 gorefest The Driller Killer, is a low-budget grindhouse female revenge fantasy set on the gritty streets of New York City. In Ms. 45 (also known as Angel of Vengeance), Zoë Tamerlis Lund makes her screen debut as Thana, a mute woman working as a seamstress in the Garment District. After being raped twice in one day on separate occasions, she soon goes all Death Wish / Taxi Driver on men seeking a little more from women. Thana — named after Freud’s death instinct, Thanatos, the opposite of the sex instinct, Eros — grabs herself a .45 and quickly proves she is one helluva shot as she goes out in search of potential victims in Chinatown, Central Park, and the very place where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sat on a bench, romantically looking out at the Queensboro Bridge in an iconic moment from Manhattan. Ferrara, who plays the masked rapist, captures the nightmarish feel of the city at the time, where danger could be lurking around any corner, with the help of James Lemmo’s lurid, pornlike cinematography and Joe Delia’s jazz-disco soundtrack. Lund would go on to cowrite Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, in which she plays a junkie named Zoë, before drugs killed her in 1999 at the age of thirty-seven. Ms. 45 is a cult classic that keeps getting better with age — and yes, that is a man dressed as Mr. Met at the Halloween party. A new digital restoration will be screening May 7 and 11 in the MoMA series “Abel Ferrara: Unrated,” which runs May 1-31 and includes such other Ferrara works as The Addiction, Welcome to New York, Body Snatchers, King of New York, Fear City, Bad Lieutenant, The Funeral, and his latest, The Projectionist. Ferrara will be at MoMA to participate in discussions following several screenings the first week.

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