Diehard Abel Ferrara fans may finally get to see the indie director’s “Go Go Tales,” thanks to distributor Jay Kubassek. The screwball comedy about a Manhattan cabaret — which stars Willem Dafoe,Asia Argento, Matthew Modine, Bob Hoskinsand Sylvia Miles — was made three years ago, but it’s been tied up in court after two of Ferrara’s former partners sued him to get a writing credit. But the director recently told Kubassek, ” ‘Go Go’ is yours if you can untangle the legal mess.” Kubassek, whose Aliquot Films distributed Ferrara’s quirky Chelsea Hotel documentary, “Chelsea on the Rocks,” took up the challenge. “I have a top lawyer working on this and there is an imminent light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I’ve seen it and it’s terrific.” Kubassek and fellow producer Jen Gatien just wrapped production of “Meskada,” a creepy mystery starring Kellan Lutz, Rachel Nichols,and Nick Stahl.
Abel Ferrara is now into his fourth decade as a maker of feature films – his first credit being the irresistible-sounding Nine Lives of a Wet Pussyfrom 1976, his second being the rather better-known Driller Killer (1979). Since then Ferrara has oscillated between demented low-budget productions and forays into relatively “respectable” studio fare, achieving his greatest prominence with The King of New York(1990), Bad Lieutenant (1992) and Body Snatchers (1993). His profile in the current century has been rather lower, but with his latest provocation – Go Go Tales – he shows that he’s anything but a back number.
A deliciously dark and entertaining comedy set in a Manhattan nightclub – but filmed entirely in Rome, where Ferrara has lived since fleeing his native New York post-9/11 – it’s primarily a showcase for a phenomenal performance from Willem Dafoe, who’s in white-hot form as delusional, down-on-his-luck club-owner Ray Ruby.
Over the course of one truly wild night, Ray’s fortunes chart a vertiginous path of ecstatic highs and grinding lows – his unbreakable optimism not-so-subtly mirroring Ferrara’s own determination to put his idiosyncratic vision on the screen (“There’s a time and a place for everything,” notes the maverick auteur: “This film took me so long to make, and there’s so much gratification from it. It was something I’d really wanted to do and couldn’t but we never gave up on it, and then it came together so beautifully in Italy.”)
In a sensible world Dafoe would have an Oscar nomination for his work, and Go Go Tales would be a smash arthouse hit – but the picture has had a very rocky reception since premiering at Cannes (where “everybody hated it”, according to one expert witness). As it is, the picture is slowly establishing a copper-bottomed cult following – it’s the kind of movie that makes you paraphrase Kenneth Tynan’s comment about Look Back In Anger: I’m not alone in saying that I could probably never love anyone who didn’t like Go Go Tales.