- Rated: SIMMERING
Abel Ferrara has a dark imagination. The director of The Funeral, Bad
Lieutenant and Body Snatchers also has a reputation as a misogynist.
But in The Funeral, it is only the dark imagination that is on show.
I saw this film in the same week as I saw The Godfather in revival. It
is a great companion-piece. The family Ferrara portrays in The Funeral
is a small-scale criminal organisation, operating at an earlier time,
in the 30s, but similar themes are explored. The role of the family,
food and religion are again intertwined, and the role of the women is
brought to the fore for part of the time (unlike in The Godfather,
where the women are rather two-dimensional). But the themes of destiny,
religion and conscience are the main ideas this film explores, and it
does so in a mature and thoughtful way, which keeps you on your toes
throughout the movie, and leaves you reflecting long afterwards.
The film is beautifully art-directed, and there are some terrific
actors doing some very good work here. Chris Penn is given plenty of
latitude and does put on a star turn, especially when singing the
blues. Christopher Walken is perfectly cast as the older brother and
head of the family who knows what it is to take on the family trade.
His dead eyes tell the story. Clearly Ferrara works well with his
actors - Isabella Rossellini is good and Annabella Sciorra is
excellent. But I found the direction itself a little wanting. There is
not much on offer in terms of framing or camera movement - Ferrara
keeps pretty much to medium shots and extreme closeup. Perhaps Ferrara
is one of the school of directors who avoid flashy camerawork. His
timing was a little off, too. At times the film drags, and you become
impatient, and then - boom! something very nasty happens.
But it is a film of great ideas and an intellectual challenge, and for
that I am always grateful.