Director: Abel Ferrara
Written by: Nicholas St. John
Cast: Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco
Year / Country: 1995, USA / Argentina
Running Time: 79 mins.
In Abel Ferrara’s take on the vampire genre, vampirism is a metaphor for drug addiction (and Aids). Together with regular collaborator Nicholas St. John, who wrote the screenplay, Ferrara explores the mean streets of New York once again. Amidst dope peddlers and junkies listening to Cypress Hill, the philosophy student Kathleen is bitten by the sardonic vampire Casanova (Annabella Sciorra).
Her turning into a hungry vampire is a path filled with suffering. While she is searching for relief from her addiction, she finds that her addiction is her only relief. In a memorable one-scene appearance, vampire Christopher Walken teaches here a few things about addictions (have you read ‘Naked Lunch’?). He practices abstinence and teaches Kathleen that like Tibetans, we can learn to survive on a little. But Kathleen must first go through a massive feeding frenzy at the end of the film before finally finding some relief through religion.
Besides being an unusual, but brilliantly effective genre film, this is also a work of art that deals with deeper questions. Most urgently it asks how we can resist evil. The movie features many references to historical acts of greater evil and – typical for Ferrara – deals with guilt, redemption and Catholicism. The black and white cinematography is beautiful and the cast, not in the least lead actress Lili Taylor, is impressive. But how much you will enjoy the final result will depend on your tolerance for philosophical and religious subject matter. Either way, this is one of Ferrara’s finest works to date.
Biography: Abel Ferrara (1951, New York) is a New York artist and filmmaker. He started making amateur films on Super 8 in his teens before making his mark as independent film director with bloody underground films such as The Driller Killer. Ferrara has an independent way of working, uses low budgets, but is still able to attract Hollywood talent for his movies, such as Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel. His raw, realistic style and controversial content has earned him a position as an important voice in American cult cinema.
Filmography (a selection): Nicky’s Film (1971, short) / 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy (1976) / Not Guilty: For Keith Richards (1977, short doc) / The Driller Killer (1979) / Ms. 45 (1981) / Fear City (1984) / Cat Chaser (1989) / King of New York (1990) / Bad Lieutenant (1992) / Body Snatchers (1993) / The Addiction (1995) / The Funeral (1996) / The Blackout (1997) / New Rose Hotel (1998) / ‘R Xmas (2001) / Mary (2005) / Go Go Tales (2007) / Chelsea on the Rocks (2008, doc) / Napoli, Napoli, Napoli (2009) / Welcome to New York (2014) / Pasolini (2014) / Alive in France (2017, doc) / Piazza Vittorio (2017, doc) / The Projectionist (2019, doc) / Tommaso (2019) / Siberia (2019)