October 3, 2007

NYFF podcast. Go Go Tales.

In this podcast from the New York Film Festival, Andrew Grant and Aaron Hillis talk with Manohla Dargis of the New York Times about Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales (site). To download or listen, click here.

Go Go Tales

Screens Friday and Sunday.

"Go Go Tales is a joyful mess," writes Jürgen Fauth. "Not every gag works, not every character convinces, and most shots of the near-naked dancers are entirely gratuitous, but the film's sensory overload and exploitative mood seem entirely appropriate for the subject matter, and Ferrara's evident love for the world shines through even the most haphazardly improvised scenes."

"Using the beleaguered club as a symbol of the staff's own unrealized ambitions (a correlation that is reinforced in the club's hosting of a weekly, after hours talent showcase, mostly catering to family and friends), Ferrara creates a polarizing and blunt, yet astute and unexpectedly compassionate allegory for the inextinguishable creative spirit in all its chaos, volatility, isolation, hope and exhilaration," writes acquarello.

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore finds the film "as shaggily likable and verging on car-wreckish as the director himself."

"Works of narrative cinema rarely seem this intoxicated with every fun-loving, form-manipulating moment," writes Robert Levin at cinemaattraction. "Yet, the movie ultimately proves a bit too crazed and disjointed for its own good."

"Ferrara seems to have a good time vamping up the good old/bad old days of underworld New York, particularly when serving up more writhing ass than a donkey farm during a cholera epidemic," writes Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "But some of the riff-heavy scenes feel riff-heavy, and Ferrara seems more impressed with his satire of a dying lifestyle/New York/genre than I was."

"Financing and distribution woes have taken their toll on his body of work and yet he perseveres like a stand-up comedian whose been batted around the club scene for too long." William Speruzzi saw Ferrara at the Apple Store SoHo.

Earlier: NYFF previews and Cannes reviews.

Update, 10/4: For the Reeler, Annaliese Griffin follows Ferrara around New York as he promotes Go Go Tales and works on a documentary about the Chelsea Hotel.

Update, 10/6: "With Go Go Tales, it's once again Abel Ferrara's party, and he'll indulge in boisterous craziness if he wants to," writes Nick Schager, who finds that the "sleazy energy, sense of community, black humor and bittersweet nostalgia are infectious."

Update, 10/9: Aaron Hillis finds out more about Ferrara's Chelsea Hotel project in his interview with him for IFC News.

Update, 10/14: At culturemonkey, Ryan tells a rather sad tale of a midnight screening, and then: "[T]he absence of any real glamor or hope of financial security is really the precondition of its cheerfulness, and this is the difference between Go Go Tales and Showgirls, perhaps even between New York go-go dancing and Vegas stripping. It's telling that to avoid triggering cynical rejection in the audience Ferrara has to undercut [Willem] Dafoe's rabble-rousing manifesto with the last shot, as if we the festival audience have grown simply incapable of 'buying' a straightforwardly happy ending. Is this where three decades of irony-laden ennui and anti-human pessimism drops us off?"

Updates, 10/16: In both The Last Mistress and Go Go Tales, Argento "is at once ultra-feminine and masculine, sexy and 'scary,' in a way that maybe hasn't been seen on screen to this extent since the height of Marlene Dietrich," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "But saying that Argento plays the Dietrich role in Go Go Tales is essentially like imagining the gorilla suit number from Blonde Venus digitally inserted into the middle of 42nd Street. Ferrara's made an almost happy-go-lucky glorification of sleaze, with Argento as its dark heart."

"[R]eally, it's not very good, just a thin little wisp of a film that probably wouldn't get the attention it will inevitably receive if it didn't take place in a struggling, mom-and-pop strip club evoking the last vestiges of pre-Guiliani Manhattan vice," writes Michael Joshua Rowin at Stop Smiling.

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Posted by dwhudson at October 3, 2007 5:38 AM


What I appreciate the most about this podcast is that I finally know how to pronounce Marnhola Dargis' name.

Posted by: Adam Hartzell at October 3, 2007 8:14 AM

I also appreciate that, but even better is her acknowledgment that films-about-strippers-do-not-a-misogynist-filmmaker-make.

Posted by: David Lowery at October 3, 2007 12:43 PM

I don't like to spend too much time writing about films I loathe on my own blog, so I am getting in the habit of using "Comment" sections to vent a little, but this movie is, for me, a huge let down. That Manohla and the Benten guys would defend it as a pleasurable, sentimental trip to an older, grittier New York seems to me completely miss the point. The dialogue in this movie is clearly improvised and the range of ability among the players ranges from shrill to wooden; This is a complete rip-off of Killing of A Chinese Bookie with none of the life-and-death stakes that made Cassavetes' film so compelling and none of the difference in depth between Willem DaFoe's grinning play-it-by-numbers leading performance and Ben Gazzara's work in Bookie is immeasurable.

A ridiculous subplot about the lottery that carries all of the cinematic weight of watching someone look for a set of missing car keys, and a really leering camera that does as much to dehumanize the women in the film as possible (when not shown exclusively as torsos, the women are complaining about money and none of them features in the plot per se) makes this movie a real dud. From what I can make of the audio interview, Manohl and the gang enjoyed the movie because it created an wholly artificial world that reminds them of an authentic 1970's New York and its very sentimental story that features the pleasure of seeing young women naked and Asia (it's AH-juh) Argento french kiss a Rottweiler. Sorry, its just not enough. This condescending approach to the film sounds like they are talking about their crazy old uncle, you know, the one who is a real ass hole at family events but somehow, this Christmas, was coherent enough to make lewd remarks to the kids in-between pounding cocktails and shooting up in grandma's bathroom. You may find that charming, but it certainly doesn't make for a good movie worthy of this apologist praise.

This is by no means the movie that will draw young cinephiles back to the art houses or the NYFF; It's an amateurish mess and all the apologists and "gee isn't it sweet and gritty" nonsense won't change that.

Posted by: Tom at October 3, 2007 1:23 PM

perhaps I should pay more attention...

"and none of the difference in depth between Willem DaFoe's grinning play-it-by-numbers leading performance and Ben Gazzara's work in Bookie is immeasurable."

should read

; the difference in depth between Willem DaFoe's grinning play-it-by-numbers leading performance and Ben Gazzara's work in Bookie is immeasurable.

Also, apologies for the misspell on Manohla's name.

Posted by: Tom at October 3, 2007 3:29 PM

To each their own, Tom, but you might want to reconsider crying "apologist" or "condescending" just because we don't share your tastes.

These podcasts are meant to be as loosey-goosey as GO GO TALES itself, so there's no need to treat them like the final word on anything. It's a comedy after all, and in my mind, a pretty hilarious and heartfelt one, too. (You honestly think Ferrara is trying to do Cassavetes here? A superficial assumption, no?) I make no apologies for what I genuinely adore.

It's "AH-See-Ah," by the way.

Posted by: Aaron Hillis at October 3, 2007 8:58 PM

What Aaron said.

Posted by: STV at October 4, 2007 7:52 AM

Hey guys, it's not a matter of not sharing tastes; I do feel that when Manohla says it was one of the best movies to come out of Cannes, before everyone claims it to be both sentimental and somehow capturing something authentic, that there is an apology happening; EVERYONE is overlooking this film's massive flaws (mentioning them, and then bypassing them) in order to pat Abel Ferrara on the head and admire his pluck and gritty determination to recapture an old new York. Everyone seems to be saying that it doesn't quite work and then lavishing praise on the film's old school values, which are completely fraudulent in this film. Everyone mentions how funny Sylvia Miles is, but the entire film is shrill and one-note and all of the performances completely miss the mark; Everyone acts as if he or she is in a different movie, the improvisation is terrible and the plot is a disastrous rip-off of KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE.

As for the Cassavetes comparison, Ferrara brought it up himself at the press conference and was also asked by another journalist about the relationship to that film; I absolutely believe he got the idea from BOOKIE and that it is a pale imitation, from plot to characterizations.

Anyway, that is nothing personal against you all for having your own opinions and I'm not calling the podcast apologist and condescending for not sharing my tastes, but for apologizing for the movie's deep faults and for being condescending toward Ferrara, giving him a pass when, if it were anyone else making this film, the faults would be all that anyone discussed-- especially Manohla, who is on a tear lately, slagging off movies far superior to this one.

And, if I could, when I met her, she asked me to pronounce it AH-juh, or AH-shuh (my phonetics are limited...)

Anyway, I enjoy the podcasts... keep 'em coming. No need for the defensiveness. You put 'em out, obviously people will listen and discuss.


Posted by: Tom at October 4, 2007 9:11 AM

"a really leering camera that does as much to dehumanize the women in the film as possible (when not shown exclusively as torsos, the women are complaining about money and none of them features in the plot per se) makes this movie a real dud."

Tom --

Leering camera? Can you expound on that? That we see strippers stripping in a strip club is hardly surprising. In what way were they then dehumanized? Perhaps you would have preferred a plot à la Dancing at the Blue Iguana?

"EVERYONE is overlooking this film's massive flaws"

To quote that great thinker, Jeff Lebowski:
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Posted by: Filmbrain at October 4, 2007 1:00 PM

Hi Andrew,

Again, I hope these comments were not taken the wrong way... Obviously, everyone is entitled to their opinions and like I said, I enjoy your podcats, blogs, reviews, etc. We clearly disgaree on this one, but I apologize if I've offended you or Aaron. That was never my intent; Just passionate and confused as to why this film is getting a pass from so many critics.

As for dehumanizing, in this film, the prowling camera shots that glide past the endless parade of lap dances is not intending to add anything at all to the story; Instead, it is leering at the torsos of the nude women, cutting off their heads and faces, and the film doesn't use more than two minutes of plot time to cast any of them as characters with any storylines, save for three segments; The screenplay sale (which is ridiculous and unfunny), Matthew Modine fucking Asia Argento (which is out of nowhere) and the story of the wife who is pregnant but gets cow-towed into stripping anyway, only for her husband to find her and freak out. The women in this film are atmosphere only, existing to complicate the lives of the male characters and seemingly devoid of any dramatic purpose of their own. Throw in the fact that 99 times out of 100, we see them as faceless torsos grinding on the laps of customers or changing clothes and repeatedly asking to get paid (over and over and over again; we get it, Ray's broke already), I think that the camera removes the humanity from the nudity in this film by not being tethered to any dramatic purpose. That's because there is no dramatic purpose. I'm not opposed to cinematic nudity, nor am I opposed to stripping, but I think there is a way to shoot things and tell a story that makes the camera feel less like a lurid voyeur and more like a director's vision of complex characters interacting.

As for the plot, no, I preferred it when it was CHINESE BOOKIE and we had actual characters among the women, particularly the complicated and very moving relationship Cosmo and Rachel.

Finally, I posted these comments in this thread because, looking at the reviews and previous reviews listed above, as well as the comments in the podcast, I think the film is getting a lot of praise when it doesn't deserve it; Especially because, in most cases, when a flaw is mentioned in the story/acting/dialogue/plot, etc, it is generally being glossed-over in favor of "but it's a rollicking good time anyway". I didn't get that at all; the film's massive shortcomings made it a huge disappointment for me. I am a fan of Abel's work; I programmed the US Festival premiere of MARY at my film festival and wanted very much to like this movie. But this one's a mess.

Posted by: Tom at October 4, 2007 1:42 PM

Tom I have to agree with all of your posts. I was at the midnight screening at the festival and this is an amazing low point for the director and the festival. It's like Oceans 11 for the a bunch of D level movie stars (except for Willem of course) I mean Burt Young even makes a cameo.. How the hell did Defoe get dragged into this mess?! I can't even believe anyone is calling this a comedy... It wasn't funny and no one in the packed audience laughed except Grace Jones who was obviously jet lagged from a flight from Paris or high on glue.

It is not superficial at all to say Abel is aping Cassavettes! IT"S TRUE!

I would love to have gritty films at the festival drawing younger cinephiles but this heap of nonsensical film making is not the way to do it. I love Manhola's reviews normally so I have no idea what she is talking about!!

Posted by: daniel at October 8, 2007 7:59 AM