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CANNES 2019 Special Screenings

Review: Tommaso

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- CANNES 2019: In his new, almost uncomfortably personal film, Abel Ferrara talks about himself. For a change

Review: Tommaso
Willem Dafoe and Anna Ferrara in Tommaso

Shown as a Special Screening at the Cannes Film FestivalTommaso [+see also:
trailer
interview: Abel Ferrara
film profile
]
 feels like a natural continuation of some of Abel Ferrara’s recent Willem Dafoe-starring projects. Which is not necessarily a good thing, as where Pasolini [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Abel Ferrara
film profile
]
at least felt like a proper movie, this one is a collection of hastily shot scenes showing Dafoe’s filmmaker character trying to adapt to life in Rome while also caring for his baby daughter (the director’s real-life offspring Anna Ferrara) and a much younger wife (Cristina Chiriac). All the while, he is developing a mysterious project that requires him to watch YouTube videos of bears snacking on people.

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Shot in Ferrara’s own apartment – and the personal details don’t end there, as even his ill-fated remake of La Dolce Vita gets a mention – it’s hard not to read it as a confession of sorts, complete with musings on difficulties with procuring funding and stories about never-ending struggles with addiction. But rare moments that actually seem to convey something profound quickly get stomped on by pointless encounters, too opaque or tiresome to generate any real interest, or a scene from what looks like a Moldovan version of the Got Talent franchise. If there has ever been a justifiable occasion to use that clichéd “messy” adjective while describing a movie, this is surely it, and yes, somebody even utters, “What is truth?” at one point, hopefully while being ironic.

If, as stated here, performing is all about navigating between control and abandon, Ferrara obviously seems to prefer the latter, even though what it ultimately comes down to is Willem Dafoe doing yoga. But the biggest issue is just how uninvolving the entire experience turns out to be – especially given Ferrara’s forgotten talent to rub people the wrong way with content of a much more explosive nature. Here, the only issue can be taken with his female characters, because if in another Cannes title this year it was dogs that don’t wear pants, fetching ladies don’t seem to need them all that much here either. To complain about the portrayal of women in an Abel Ferrara movie seems a tad pointless, but to have them all young and naked, with the camera – forgive the expression – almost going up somebody’s behind while said behind is being complimented, because that apparently makes it ok, still comes across as a new achievement in sleaze.

Thank God he at least has an actor like Dafoe to help him find a way out of the most damning situations, although there is only so much he can do while shown scorning his wife for refusing to take a cab or (the horror!) eating dinner without him, and then complaining that “she doesn’t appreciate his experience”. The thing is, it might soon turn out to be the case that as far as Ferrara’s films are concerned, neither does anyone else. 

Written by Abel Ferrara, Tommaso was produced by Simone GattoniMichael Weber and Laura Buffoni, of Italian outfits Simila(r) and Vivo Film. Germany’s The Match Factory has the international rights.

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