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How would you spend your last days on Earth if you knew the world was
going to be destroyed in the morning? That's the premise in Abel
Ferrara's (King of New York, Bad Lieutenant) claustrophobic new movie,
starring Willem Dafoe and newcomer Shanyn Leigh in where the two play a
Manhattan couple coming to terms with their final moments of existence.
Ferrara's choice to shoot the majority of the film in one setting with a minimal amount of takes made me feel as if I were watching a play - not at all a bad thing, especially when the lead actor is Dafoe. This play setting, along with the 'the sky is falling' scenario practically begs for fueled performances to which both Dafoe and Leigh delivered. The actors made the most of their surroundings and turned their emoting skills on high, only occasionally finding themselves being caught in fits of overacting. This is where the movie falters, when the attention pays too much to the acting and not the scenario. Still, the little bursts of over-the- top moments weren't enough to detract me from the movie as a whole.
Fans of both doomsday scenario movies and movies that show close-ups of Willem Dafoe's pubic region should walk away eerily pleased from this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Ugh!" What a way to start a review; but in all honesty I cannot come
up with a better word to use to express my thoughts on 4:44 Last Day on
Earth, a rather dreadful indie film about "the last day on earth" as
experienced by a successful actor played by Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man,
The English Patient, Finding Nemo). He lives in a large/sprawling NYC
high rise apartment with his much-younger artist girlfriend, Skye (an
unknown Shanyn Leigh). The two spend their last day together making
love, squabbling, using their computers a lot (as there is a LOT of
Skype-ing we must be in the very NEAR future!), sleeping and eating
(she also paints while wearing evening gowns - a LOT, which doesn't fit
into the time scale of the film as they dry awfully quick(ly)!).
The film set-up is that at 4:44 the following morning life WILL end. It is the announced time of the end of the earth and therefore ALL life as we know it will be coming to an end! The film never goes into the definitive specifics of it all; but it has apparently been "proven" by science and so EVERYone has accepted this as fact (it is the general acceptance by all that is actually much-more outlandish than the end-of-the-earth scenario presented here). As one political party is beginning to pride themselves on the premise that they deny all-things-science this film is NOT allowed to work as is.
According to the film, Al Gore was right about global deterioration although he was horribly wrong forecasting how long our planet had before it would all come to an end (Gore is yet another reason this would be considered "hogwash!"). The ice caps aren't the problem in 4:44 -- the fully depleted ozone layer is! It will completely disappear at 4:44 Eastern Standard time (around the world all at ONCE as the film just uses the LOCAL time for the title --which is more conceivable than Harold Camping's implication that God needed 24 one-hour slots to end the world as we know it as He apparently isn't all-powerful!).
As you can tell, 4:44 tries to be heavy and meaningful (using many good/wise clips of the Dalai Lama shows how "serious" the film wants to be) but the film means nothing because it is outlandish and the characters aren't believable. I AM one who believes that eight billion (+) people on the planet with X-amount of them driving vehicles (meaning billions) does most-likely cause some kind of damage; but I do NOT buy the main premise presented here -- that of the ozone depleting ALL AT ONCE! It isn't the Rapture, an alien invasion, a nuclear meltdown or a planetary collision (see Melancholia) that brings about the end of humankind. ... and that the EXACT time is known makes it all the more IMplausible -- puh-lease! As for the story, Dafoe plays an actor named Cisco who is sooo worried about the end of everything he spends his final day with his young love but he also ventures out a few times to see some old friends. There are MANY problems with these visits such as Cisco never greeting one "friend" whose house he goes to because he coincidentally bumps into an old friend there and the scene turns into a fate/cosmic destiny speak-scene which rendered the initial flat-inhabitant (the actual visit-ee if you please) unnecessary. Another HUGE problem (probably my BIGGEST) I had with 4:44 is that I am assuming mankind had been given a head's up on "the end" and yet Cisco has decided that a three-minute Skype conversation with much-loved relatives is adequate to to say goodbye and that he loves them. IF this is how much he truly cares it is a good representation of how much I didn't care for anybody in 4:44 either.
The streets of NYC are always full of traffic and the sidewalks are well-populated ... and there seems to be no chaos! Dafoe does see a man plummet to his death; but that appears to be the only despair on display in 4:44. This is seriously ALL the film is about ... another ridiculous scene has the couple order Chinese food for delivery. If it is someone's favorite, I'd understand wanting it to be one's last meal; but would restaurants really be open a few mere hours before the END of ALL LIFE? And -- if they did deliver, what is the point of waiting around to get paid?! What is one going to do with that money TOMORROW? I oftentimes found myself chuckling and/or talking to the screen because so much of the film doesn't work and everyone on screen doesn't appear to understand this. Leigh is one of the worst actresses I have seen lately -- her faux giggles and scowls were irritating. Dafoe was dense and spoke in circles. And -- I didn't care about either of them. How BAD is it that one wishes they could fast-forward to the end of a film because he/she'd rather see MASS DEATH than experience any more of these two characters' mundane lives?! Ugh.
This is one of those movies that requires rapt attention to the screen
and the ability to "just get into it" and accept it for what it is.
After about 20 minutes it grew on me. You need to try to put yourself
in their position, not just watch it as an observer.
Yes, it could have been done better or differently, and could have covered a lot more psychological ground, but it worked for me in its own context. The director had a consistent vision, even if some viewers will never get it.
The attitudes of some external characters seemed oddly upbeat and that wasn't explained, but maybe that's how it would be for some. The casters may have studied people in the real world who knew they were going to die, so the world essentially ends for them anyhow. That may be worse than knowing everyone else is coming with you. There are endless psychological angles to this plot.
The vague technical explanation for the world's condition reminded me of "The Road" but little else about it resembled that film. I thought the acting was plenty good and the sparseness of characters and dialog (except for numerous Skype scenes) fit the mood that was created.
Just give a try and don't watch it with shallow, loudmouth people interrupting (I can't see it doing well in a typical theater setting). You may find it quite compelling and it could make you appreciate life more. That's the main effect it had on me.
Not with a bang but with a whimper...
The story is about how two particular people would spend their last hours on earth if they new the world was coming to and end at a specific time. The story contains little fanfare and no special effects. It did remind me of a play more than a movie, as was mentioned by another reviewer. The story of the two main actors is interspersed with a variety of spiritual leaders weighing in on such weighty matters as good, evil and the meaning of life. Hard to convey much depth given the brevity of these interviews.
At one point one of the characters decides to visit an old friend and his walk thru the city reminds us all that people are still drinking, hookers are still hooking and most importantly lounge singers are still singing. Nice to know that we would all stay in character right till the end. I guess I better go see that new movie today since the world is going to end tomorrow... It all just seems a little improbable and hollow.
The acting was good but would have been better with a much more well thought out script.
This film must have been pure profit for the makers. I think about 20 percent of it must have been archived footage from around the world. The biggest problem I had with this movie is that it reminded me of a mediocre film school project at best. It tried to be artsy but failed. It tried to be philosophical but failed. It tried to be an emotional tale of a shared ending and failed. It tried to tie all these together with the worst music and sound effects that I have heard in some time. My ears are still ringing. Do yourself a favor and stay away from this one unless you happen to be in the mood to be severely underwhelmed.
No bang, no whimper, just kind of a fizzle...
End of times and the last day on earth with Cisco and Skye. A promising
notion for a good movie, yet it was drawn to slow death with a tedious
and slow screenplay enough to ruin the movie and bore the audience.
I found myself annoyed and frustrated with Dafoe's character Cisco as he went through the movie in his selfish and morass way. There were some scenes setup for promising dialog and emotion, like when he was saying goodbye to his daughter, yet turned out plastic and annoying. There was, however, two scenes I thought were well acted and the best part of the movie; when Cisco sat with his brother and his brother shared some wise words (which Cisco did not heed) while the other friends partied with booze and drugs. The other decent scene was when the delivery boy said goodbye to his family via Skype. (I think Skype paid for the movie)
Overall the movie left an empty feeling as the end approached with what seemed like a junior high school first film attempt with various and ridiculous cuts from films and news clips, none of which really tied anything together. I found the movie boring and besides a couple of decent scenes that were well acted or at least approached what one would expect toward the end, overall it was poorly written and haphazardly put together.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Anyone who believes in infinite economic growth on a finite planet is
either a madman or an economist." - Attenborough
Mankind works its way toward extinction in Abel Ferrara's "4:44 Last Day on Earth". The film made it onto several Cahiers Du Cinema "best film" lists, but is otherwise widely hated.
"Earth" opens in a spacious New York apartment, home to Ciso (Willem Dafoe) and Skye (Shanyn Leigh), a couple of bohemian artists. As the world is going to end at 4:44am the following morning, our duo are in a state of anxiety. He mumbles to himself, she paints a gloomy Ouroboros snake on their living room floor, a dark, gaping maw at its serpentine centre.
The film's first act watches as our couple squabble, make love and nervously await termination. Then they have more sex. Ferrara films these "romantic" sequences with raw closeups, lingering on flesh and open pores; bodies touch bodies, perhaps for the very last time.
Counterpointing this "literal" connection is a colder form of digital connection. Loved ones "meet" on web-cams, talk on computer screens, including a Vietnamese delivery boy, who borrows a laptop to hastily chat with his family. Then it's back to work. Even on the eve of Armageddon, the poor seem busy. Cisco ashamedly gives the kid wads of now-useless cash.
Ferrara tries to get political. Like Godard on a bad day, he cuts to TV screens and desktops, most of which show trees falling, fires burning or feature newscasters ruminating about ozone depletion. Al Gore, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela....they all make an appearance, public figureheads who chastise man and herald extinction. "Where are the experts?" Ciso fumes, beside the fake trees stencilled on his rooftop. "How's that 2 and a half percent feel now?! We're all gonna die! We're already dead!"
Ferrara's "Body Snatchers" touched upon, vaguely, the linkages between capitalism, militarism and pollution. His later films would develop these themes further. "4:44 Last Day on Earth", however, is content to wallow in futility. The time's up. You reap what you sow. Karma has come for mankind, tenfold. A Buddhist monk offers a new course ("Plant a different image in your mind and you can stop death!") as does Cisco ("Take what you need, think of the others!"), but it's too late now. The tipping point has been reached.
Ferrara's climactic annihilation is due to both the "ozone layer being destroyed" and some sort of "solar surge", but the film is uninterested in such details. Ferrara's climactic event is symbolic, not literal. In the real world, there is itself no single extinction day. As economist Bernard Manning says, "every day is another Armageddon". 100 species go extinct daily, biodiversity decreases and the poor die. Capitalism strangles slowly, breaks down, then starts again. Armageddon is continuous, uninterrupted, and well hidden.
In one scene, Cisco watches as the Dalai Lama discusses greed and money. "Money is not the ultimate evil," His Holiness says (surprising for a staunch Marxist like himself), but greed. This is a common sentiment, but it can also be argued that contemporary money is "literally evil", as many (the dictionary definition of "evil" is: "ruinous", "harmful" and "causing of future misfortune") radical economists and even scientists (Soddy, Einstein, Edison) show: as all money is issued as debt at interest, it can only exponentially increase debts, it can only increase poverty/inequality, and contemporary money by its very design exists to redistribute energy from the bottom of society to the top regardless of individual morality, individual behaviour or its "type" of usage. Money is not an innocuous thing (or as Friedmanites say, "superneutral"). It is an engine which exerts its own forces. Recent computer simulations (Peter Victor et al), or even mathematical representations (Adrian Dragulescu, Victor Yakovenko) are themselves able to map money. They show that money, like energy, heeds the laws of conservation. Fast forward these simulations, and only two outcomes are reached: our economic system has to either plunge deeper into debt, or its source (usually central banks) ends up accumulating all money. Ceaseless consumption, production, death and expansion forestall these outcomes. Such things have led to even NASA jumping on-board the doom-and-gloom bandwagon. In 2014, Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centere, led by mathematician Safa Motesharrei, predicted "irreversible collapse" due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution. Their report was ignored.
"Earth" ends with snippets from "The Hairy Ape", an expressionist play (which starred Dafoe) about a brutish labourer continually bamboozled by the rich. Ferrara's Cisco is in a way a modern update of "Ape's" lead, living a self-obsessed (he's shaving hours before the world dies?), passive existence. If the film poses the question "What do you do when you know the world is going to end?", Cisco's answer is "wait in isolated privilege". His daughter plays video games as 4 o clock nears.
"Earth's" last act contains a subplot in which Cisco confronts his past drug addictions. Ferrara was himself an addict, and casts his own real life partner (Leigh) as Cisco's mate, lending the film an autobiographical quality, Ferrara contemplating his own mortality, and perhaps also New York's.
Ferrara's New York is itself strangely quiet, recalling her tranquil 2003 blackouts. The city's inhabitants are alone, isolated, reduced to electronic ghosts talking on screen, and seem to accept death with calm and serenity. Last words: "All we have is each other, our time has come. We are all angels now."
7.9/10 Worth two viewings.
The ecologically devastated world will end at 4:44 h of the next day.
In New York, the fifty and something year-old Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and
his younger wife Skye (Shanyn Leigh) spend their last day together in
their apartment, waiting for the coming doomsday.
"4:44 Last Day on Earth" is a boring and dramatic movie by Abel Ferrara disclosing the last day on Earth of a couple of lovers in New York. The movie seems to be sponsored by the Skype with many calls from their apartment using this software. The uninteresting plot is basically a filmed storyline with the usual use of religious images by Ferrara and nothing else. My vote is three.
Title (Brazil): "4:44 - O Fim do Mundo" ("4:44 - Last Day on Earth")
New York's bad boy Director is back with another artsy, avant-Garde,
personal picture that is surely nothing if not a cranky creation aimed
against the mainstream and the Hollywood system. An ultra-low budget
display for all the film-school and frustrated filmmakers to show them
how to get it done without corporate backing and studio sucking up.
In this film he takes on, no less, the end of the world with a nod to Al Gore, the Dalai Lama, and Buddhism, and other peace-nick people. A left wing shout out to sensitive souls who might just have seen it all coming.
The movie has some beautiful cinematography (not usually one of the Director's traits) and the small cast is on the mark and it makes for a meditation on the madness of our times. There are some indulgences that are unnecessary and distracting (long close ups of sex) that adds nothing and subtracts somewhat, although it fits the theme: loss of lovely things. But overall it is a thoughtful and timely thesis that is an understated, overwhelming passion play. The passion for what is about to be no more.
If, for some unfortunate reason, you're about to die, here's an advice: do not watch this movie... it's a complete waste of time, even for someone healthy, new born, or just someone with a long life ahead. I was hoping something between Melancholia and The Road... but it turns out to be sad FLOP with lame acting, a poor script, where the actors seem to drift from one line to another with no feeling at all. There's a scene when Willem Dafoe get's to cry some unbelievable crocodile tears... You've been warn! If it's your last day on earth due to health or environmental reasons, you might want to consider in putting an end to your misery before watching this unbearable picture!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
By the time this feet-dragging, slow film comes to an end together
with the World - boredom and disappointment almost have the viewer at
the point of welcoming the last day on Earth. Why? Well, the last day
of this couple in its meticulous recording does not scare you, it
doesn't really make you feel empathic with those characters or anyone,
it does not even make you wonder about the hows and whys. That alone
wouldn't be too bad, for if the film's premise is to take doomsday at
4:44 next day as a fact, fine. But neither the actions of people around
nor anything happening on the screen seems to indicate that anything is
wrong with the world. That's what you get when you record an ordinary
day from the rooftop of an ordinary American city (one might call such
movie the long and never ending death of civilisation!) introducing
later the factual notion that this is the last day on Earth. While the
basic idea of the screenplay seemed perfectly plausible, the way this
idea is being delivered in the film definitely makes its viewing
awkward in a very uninspiring manner. Dafoe's wooden acting appears to
play a huge role in this.
The outstanding role of communication devices in the film seemed to be purposeful, showing how the character's inner isolation somehow is rather increased than diminished by such communication, at least with regard to the use, Dafoe's character Cisco makes of it. Maybe it is truly symptomatic for our time that people would say farewell to their other loved ones via online communication programs and gadgets before they perish. A Vietnamese delivery boy does the same, asking for the use of Cisco's laptop to "see" his far away family for a last time. His silent note plays a strong cord for certain as does Skye's farewell to her mother! The beautiful premise of 4:44 Last Day on Earth of a couple: mature actor (Cisco) and young painter (Skye) spending Earth's last day together could have delivered so much I imagine, and in a few scenes it actually does. Skye's vulnerability and her clinging to her art are such expressive and tender moments. But most of the time the wooden acting by Dafoe, something I had not expected from him, and suspended emptiness in that "wait" for the last moment, that's what you mostly get from the film.
For Science Fiction enthusiasts the flick should still be on their list, but with very limited expectations I warn. From me it gets a lukewarm half a thumb up, one and a half down.
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