Combustible Celluloid
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With: Willem Dafoe, Shanyn Leigh, Natasha Lyonne
Written by: Abel Ferrara
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 85
Date: 09/07/2011

4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Apocalypse Ciao

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like Lars von Trier's Melancholia, as well as several recent sci-fi features, Abel Ferrara's 4:44 Last Day on Earth imagines the end of the world. Ferrara's twist is that the shock and surprise of this event has already come and gone, leaving only acceptance and resignation.

Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and Skye (Shanyn Leigh) are an artsy couple living in an amazing Manhattan apartment. They start the day with sex, which will presumably be their last. Skye then spends the rest of the day working on a huge painting with spiritual significance, while Cisco Skypes with some musicians, listens to the TV news, and climbs out of the apartment for a late night walk across town to visit friends. A Chinese food delivery guy shows up, and -- apparently no other place to be -- simply asks if he can use Skype to say goodbye to his mother overseas.

At first, Ferrara's film keeps many gizmos going all at once: TVs, iPads, music, Skype, etc., creating a kind of audio/visual cacophony. But as it goes on, it grows quieter. Some folks scream and cry, while others simply keep a grim countenance. In the end, Ferrara uses montages rather than effects to depict the actual apocalypse.

I can't say it's my favorite Ferrara, and it's extremely downbeat, but it's also amazingly effective for such a low-budget, maverick effort.

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