Abel Ferrara

"Referred to by one critic as the 'seediest low-down renegade in American cinema', Ferrara continues to produce films marked by visceral extremity and existential confusion. However, his films can also be read as moral parables… Ferrara sets out to exploit, shock, and outrage his audience with his increasingly introspective views of the morally corrupt human condition." - Peter Homden (Contemporary North American Film Directors, 2002)

Abel Ferrara

Director / Screenwriter
(1951- ) Born July 19, The Bronx, New York, USA

Key Production Countries: USA, France, Italy
Key Genres: Drama, Crime, Crime Thriller, Horror, Crime Drama, Psychological Drama, Science Fiction, Showbiz Drama, Gangster Film, Addiction Drama, Thriller
Key Collaborators: Ken Kelsch (Cinematographer), Anthony Redman (Editor), Joe Delia (Composer), Nicholas St. John (Screenwriter), Victor Argo (Leading Character Actor), Christopher Walken (Leading Actor), Willem Dafoe (Leading Actor), Mary Kane (Producer), Frank DeCurtis (Production Designer), Paul Hipp (Character Actor) Matthew Modine (Leading Actor), Christ Zois (Screenwriter)

"A film addict from childhood, he made 8mm shorts before having his first feature released in 1979…Ferrara's work often features gory violence, but is also carefully stylized and moody." - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
"Independent filmmaker whose reputation for powerfully intense and brutal portraits of New York's mean streets has been widening beyond a cult audience. Phoebe Hoban wrote of Ferrara, "He doesn't so much push the edges of the envelope as rip it to shreds." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
Born in The Bronx and based in New York City, Abel Ferrara is that brand of New York filmmaker who creates truly unsettling, regional entertainments occasionally skipping Hollywood long enough to produce another uncompromising vision set in his native city. Having begun making Super-8 movies as a teenager, his coming-of-age film was The Driller Killer (1979). Then followed his acclaimed Ms. 45 (1981), and thereafter an apprenticeship, as he directed a string of bigger budget features such as Fear City (1984) and Cat Chaser (1989). His breakthrough came with the stylish and ultraviolet King of New York (1990)." - Garrett Chaffin-Quiray (501 Movie Directors, 2007)
"A dealer in darkness and despair. Ferrara's films, the notorious Bad Lieutenant especially, have something to offend everyone. They are also moody and blackly atmospheric, their characters cold, humourless people who fail to connect with others, or deliberately hold themselves aloof… One thing you can be sure of: you could recognise a Ferrara film after one reel; no doubt he will continue to thrill his followers and repel his detractors." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Film Directors, 1999)
"Given his in-your-face, unflinchingly brutal, yet unquestionable and still-developing sense of style, it’s not surprising to discover that the director he most admires is Pasolini (‘‘because he filmed his visions and did it without qualifications’’) and that the first film he remembers being taken to see was Douglas Sirk’s devastating, no-holds-barred melodrama Imitation of Life. Ferrara is undoubtedly one of the most notable American directors to have emerged during the 1980s. His films have aroused considerable controversy, but even those who dislike them would be hard put to deny their kinetic energy and verve, and the remarkable performances at the heart of many of them (for example, Zoe Tamerlis in Ms.45, Christopher Walken in King of New York, and above all, Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant)." - Julian Petley (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 2000)
"A prolific, driven writer-director known for his highly atmospheric, stylized portraits of an ultra-violent, crime-ridden New York City, Abel Ferrara works on a metaphorical and allegorical level exploring the battle between good and evil. Aided by his screenwriting partner Nicholas St. John (and other collaborators who comprise his filmmaking family), he depicts essentially an evil world that contains the hope for salvation." - The Hollywood.com Guide to Film Directors, 2004
“Nobody can present the streets of New York City like Abel Ferrara. Whether it's the graphic sleaze of Bad Lieutenant (1992) or the glossier King of New York (1990), he is cinema's most interesting chronicler of the Manhattan underbelly. - Steven Paul Davies (A-Z of Cult Films and Film-Makers, 2001)
"Ferrara seems determined to remain a fringe figure—and I’d guess he knows himself best. His closest to a hit, the very violent, very sexual Bad Lieutenant, did not lure him into anything like a mainstream career. (The recent New Rose Hotel—taken from a William Gibson story—is his fullest collapse into the ludicrous extreme that has always beckoned.)" - David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2010)
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
Bad Lieutenant (1992) ✖︎, The Funeral (1996)
Worth a Look
The Driller Killer (1979), Ms. 45 (1981) ✖︎, King of New York (1990) ✖︎, Body Snatchers (1993), The Addiction (1995), New Rose Hotel (1998) , Mary (2005), Pasolini (2014), Welcome to New York (2014)
Approach with Caution
Fear City (1984), Dangerous Game (1993), 'R Xmas (2001), Go Go Tales (2007), 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011)
Not Recommended
The Blackout (1997)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films Jonathan Rosenbaum Martin Scorsese
Abel Ferrara / Favourite Films
Cul-de-sac (1966) Roman Polanski, The Devils (1971) Ken Russell, The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966) Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hour of the Wolf (1968) Ingmar Bergman, Lolita (1962) Stanley Kubrick, Los Olvidados (1950) Luis Buñuel, Ran (1985) Akira Kurosawa, Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles, A Woman Under the Influence (1974) John Cassavetes, Zero for Conduct (1933) Jean Vigo.
Source: Sight & Sound (2012)
    Ms. 45
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