444: LAST DAYS ON EARTH (2011)
The End comes Quietly in Abel Ferrara’s Latest
Movie Review by Nick Cato
From 1979′s notorious DRILLER KILLER to 1990s KING OF NEW YORK, right up to 2007′s GO GO TALES, director Abel Ferrara has never been afraid to give his own spin on things. That fine tradition continues in 4:44: LAST DAY ON EARTH (2011), a laid-back yet deep look at the apocalypse through the eyes of a Manhattan couple.
Skye (played by Ferrara’s real life girlfriend, Shanyn Leigh) is a young artist who shares her lower east side loft with boyfriend Cisco (Willem DaFoe). Their loft features laptop computers and a flat screen TV broadcasting news reports and religious programs regarding earth’s fate: according to a local news station, the ozone layer has been damaged far worse than anyone had thought, and at precisely 4:44 a.m. the next morning, the entire world will end.
Skye deals with the news through her latest painting, which at first seems like a Jackson Pollock-inspired piece, but eventually turns into her own view of the circle-of-life. Cisco manages to contact his teenage daughter via Skype, only to have a final argument with his ex-wife which leads to a fight with Skye. A former junkie, Cisco then risks his two years of sobriety by visiting his former dealer and an old drug buddy (Paul Hipp). It’s a heart-felt moment and features a cameo by Natasha Leonne.
Cisco and Skye are Buddhists, and we see clips of the Dali Lama and other Buddhist teachers on their TV, providing comfort in the face of death. Ferrara’s use of TV clips (especially a Charlie Rose interview with Al Gore) have the feel of propaganda, but they eventually work fine in telling us what’s going on.
The film’s best sequence comes when Cicso and Skye have Chinese food delivered. The young Chinese delivery boy is apparently scared and depressed, and when asked if he needs anything, he asks for Skype. Cisco lends him his laptop, and the delivery boy contacts his mother and family for the last time, and although they speak in Chinese, it’s easy to figure out their feelings. As he leaves the loft, Skye—herself without family in New York—hugs him and thanks him for being part of her life. It’s a desperate, touching, and quirky moment that’s rarely seen in modern cinema.
4:44: LAST DAY ON EARTH, like Lars Von Trier’s MELONCHOLIA (2011), is another offering in a recent trend of independent, quiet-minded end-of-the-world films. In place of big budget special effects and noisy explosions, Ferrara slowly exposes his character’s lives, letting the audience experience what they do in subtle layers. The most disturbing thing in Ferrara’s apocalypse is the seemingly routine way most people take things: cabs still run, street people go about their old ways, and it seems as if only a handful of New Yorkers are aware of just how close to the end they are.
With it’s positive messages of acceptance and forgiveness, 4:44 is a colorful take on the end times, featuring fine performances and much food for thought.
3 out of 4 knives.
(Currently in limited theatrical release and available on select Pay Per View channels)
© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato