'R Xmas

'R Xmas ★★★★

Ferrara's ultimate stylistic and ideological concoction, too limited for its own sake, prolongs realism and authenticity in every frame of this exceptional exercise in cinematic formalism. The true king of New York brings to remembrance the underground life of the streets of the city that never sleeps under a pivotal time of the year: Christmas. It is more pivotal for Ferrara than it is for consumerism or family dynamics in the Western civilization.

What I mean is, Ferrara is consistent. His concern for internal predatory racism results, paradoxically, in a violence that doesn't discriminate. Stylistically, this is a throwback to 80s filmmaking, but once the plot point happens, it becomes as realistic as something tangible, beautifully minimalistic at key moments (like The Wife coming back to her mother's house for the first time just after the plot point, where Ferrara shows an unprecedented talent for directing family dynamics in a dysfunctional family with prolonged shots) and strikingly poetic at others, like the scene where The Wife walks through a dark hallway while dissonant music plays.

It is Ferrara's most honest film and, as mentioned, his topics remain constant: human frailty, racism, universal violence, self interest and the spiritual emptiness he experienced with Catholicism (he'd rather call himself as a Buddhist). Religious iconography permeates the majority of the shots and still there is no spiritual redemption; even Harvey Keitel in The Bad Lieutenant (1992) never found it despite facing an unspeakable catharsis in one of the best scenes ever filmed in the history of film.

This kind of introspective and detailed cinema is the one that counts, the one that resonates. How Ferrara balances "good" and "evil", terms that are possibly subjective terms for him given that he always applies a double agenda, is utmost impressive, submerging the viewers in desperation, situations of menace, and playing Christmas carols while preparing cocaine with the highest detail.

Speaking of spiritual redemption, I take it that the title is not a stylistic decision. Ferrara might claim otherwise (who am I to question the master himself?), but just like this film lacks peace and a functional family, the title misses the "Christ" part from his essence just like Ferrara never found Christ in Catholicism.

And it figures. It's logical.

There are no saints; we are all evil, and like in 1995, "Evil is our addiction".


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