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With: Willem Dafoe, Cristina Chiriac, Anna Ferrara
Written by: Abel Ferrara
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 115
Date: 06/05/2020

Tommaso (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Straight Shooter

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Veteran maverick filmmaker Abel Ferrara, who broke onto the scene with the gnarly 1979 The Driller Killer, is back with Tommaso, an astonishingly personal, mature work.

It's available through Kino Marquee, where a rental will benefit the Roxie Theater. (Fans know that Ferrara's personal appearances at the beloved local theater have always been worth the price of a ticket.)

Tommaso stars Willem Dafoe, who has worked with Ferrara many times, most recently in the very fine Pasolini, and the new movie is drawn from bits and pieces of both men's lives.

Tommaso — the movie never says if it's his first or last name — is a filmmaker living in Rome with his younger, Russian wife Nikki (Ferrara's real-life wife Cristina Chiriac) and their daughter Deedee (Ferrara and Chiriac's real-life daughter Anna).

Scenes of Tommaso teaching acting and doing yoga are likely drawn from Dafoe's private experiences, and Dafoe subsequently gives one of his finest performances here.

While trying to get funding together for another movie, Tommaso teaches, goes to AA meetings, shops for vegetables, and takes Italian language lessons, all while trying his best to mend his old, wicked ways and to be a good family man.

Unfortunately, Nikki has been growing more and more distant and disconnected, and Tommaso must wrestle with that this means.

Tommaso doesn't have the most dynamic story, but its honesty and its simmering emotional struggles still manage to develop a kind of suspenseful pull.

Additionally, Ferrara does manage to insert some of his signature, edgy, shocking weirdness into the movie, such a scene in which a naked woman serves Tommaso a drink, and scenes of imagined (and real) violence.

Certainly Tommaso won't be for casual viewers, but for fans of either Dafoe or Ferrara or both, it's an essential deep-dive into the soul.

Kino Lorber released an excellent Blu-ray edition in September of 2020. It offers optional English subtitles, and 2.0 and 5.1 audio mixes. Bonuses include a nearly hour-long Zoom interview with director Ferrara, a Zoom interview with Dafoe (about 32 minutes), and trailers for this film and for Ferrara's Pasolini.

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