Abel Ferrara Unrated

May 1–31, 2019


Abel Ferrara in The Driller Killer. 1979. USA. Directed by Abel Ferrara. Cinematography by Ken Kelsch. Image digitally manipulated by Ryan Silveira. Courtesy American Genre Film Archive and Ryan Silveira

The nearly 50-year career of Bronx-born filmmaker Abel Ferrara took root during the dark, fertile 1970s era of fiscal crisis, amid the Downtown club scene of New York City, on scarred streets populated by impoverished immigrants, artists, musicians, and students. This urban environment, rife with threat and intoxicants, has shaped Ferrara’s sensibility, his eye for landscape, and his choice of subjects across genres and mediums. Beginning with bankable exploitation and genre films (The Driller Killer, Fear City), he moved on to studio films (Body Snatchers) and television (Crime Story) before achieving cult status with King of New York and Bad Lieutenant, and eventually taking on arthouse projects (Mary) and personal documentaries (Mulberry Street). While Ferrara’s most commonly recognized theme is addiction, this interest in the struggle between body and mind is wedded to a taste for elegiac “end of time” subjects, and grounded in more significant concerns about the inevitable failure of people and groups to make meaningful connections.

This retrospective includes the early features that established the director’s reputation (The Driller Killer, Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant, King of New York); his work in genre films (Cat Chaser, Body Snatchers, The Addiction); television projects (Crime Story, Subway Stories); and documentaries (Mulberry Street, Piazza Vittorio, Chelsea on the Rocks); along with his recent feature The Projectionist. In an effort to address issues that have complicated the release of certain films in the US, we will screen European prints and director’s cut versions when available.

Ferrara has been aided over the years by a company of important collaborators, including writer Nicholas St. John, writer-actress Zoe Lund, composers Joe Delia and Schoolly D, composer-actor Paul Hipp, cinematographers Ken Kelsch and Bojan Bazelli, actors Victor Argo, Paul Calderon, David Caruso, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Matthew Modine, Lili Taylor, Gretchen Mol, Christopher Walken, Forest Whitaker, producer Ed Pressman, and writer Chris Zois a number of whom will appear in conversation with the director over the course of the series.

Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, Department of Film.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation and Steven Tisch, with major contributions from Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), Yuval Brisker Charitable Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Karen and Gary Winnick, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.


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