(director/writer: Abel Ferrara; cinematographer: Peter Zeitlinger; editor: Fabio Nunziata; music: Joe Delia; cast: Willem Dafoe (Tommaso),  Cristina Chiriac (Nikki),  Anna Ferrara (Deedee); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Laura Buffoni, Michael Weber, Simone Gattoni; Faliro House Productions; 2019-Italy/UK/USA/Greece-in English and Itaian & Russian, with English subtitles if needed)

“Shot like a documentary in the director’s apartment in Rome.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Bronx born (raised in Peekskill), aging, bad-boy director, now 67, Abel Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant”/”Pasolini”) is trying to clean-up his act, in this moving autobiographical film, shot like a documentary in the director’s apartment in Rome. This is his first fiction film in the last 5 years.

The filmmaker is played by the great Willem Dafoe (the best reason for seeing this lyrical but flawed film, shot on a shoe-string budget). It’s the sixth collaboration between Ferrara and Dafoe. This one earnestly covers the provocateur Ferrara’s reflections on his conflicted relationship in the past, his use of drugs (he was a heroin and crack addict–now supposedly drug-free for the last 6 years, an alcoholic, his religion as a lapsed guilt-ridden Catholic with a yen towards Buddhism, and as an adulterer.

Dafoe is Tommaso (probably a first name, but maybe a last name!), a Ferrara-like American artist living in Rome.

Tommaso lives with the 30 years younger Eastern European good looker Nikki (Cristina Chiriac, the director’s wife), and his 3-year-old Deedee (Anna Ferrara, the director’s infant daughter). The marital relationship alternates between being romantic and the wife becoming hostile. The film covers how Tommaso tries to adjust to living in a foreign country and maintain a domestic life centered around his daughter. We watch him take lessons in Italian, teach an acting class, go shopping, sit in a coffee shop with naked women (who might be his fantasy), watch him attend a 12-step meeting and just hang around the apartment or in the playground with his family.

The filmmaker’s reckless past life is gone into by Tommaso with much detail and pain.

It’s a melancholy but sort of spiritual film (never settling if the director really owns up to his past faults or is still in denial) about a filmmaker with much rage and dazzle, who blew it in Hollywood as a commercial filmmaker because of his inner demons and now is trying a comeback to see if the angel side sells as readily in films as the devil’s. Strangely enough the film has a live pulse, and appealed to me more than most of his past films (I was never a big fan).

I found myself rooting for him, though wishing the film was better pruned (more coherent) and that certain scenes, like the ones with the old addicts, weren’t unnecessarily repeated (a more regimented filming technique is still needed by the down but not out filmmaker).