Stray thoughts:

-A textured portrait of the artist as father, teacher, listener, and sinner. Ferrara’s best movies deal with men who struggle to rehabilitate from a life of transgression, and while those moments of indiscretion are uncomfortable—even unforgivable—they’ve always been there. Tommaso is largely one of his most low-key and empathetic films, and yet…Ferrara!

-The combined personae of Dafoe's neo-Grotowski choreographer and Ferrara’s filmmaker prepping storyboards for his The Revenant may not be coherent for anyone unfamiliar with their sources' real-life obsessions. But as an interdisciplinary artist himself, this film seems partly motivated by Ferrara wanting to trade places with his old friend and see what sticks, amid some personal grievances.

-Ferrara uses his chops in documenting Italian street life here to great effect. While Tommaso is part-home movie, part-"how lovely to stroll through Rome and watch Italian television...”, it takes hold primarily in the AA sequences, which feature a surprising amount of American expatriates. Ferrara and Dafoe are conscious of how maudlin the recovering-addict narrative can be, and work to make these scenes with non-professional subjects authentic, while situated in a disarming, inspired artifice of flickering light. Some of these moments—like Dafoe’s walk home after the meeting—feel borne from private experience and are among the best things Ferrara has done.

-Ferrara’s flights of surrealism have always been hit-or-miss, and those are definitely the least successful moments here. I will say that I find Ferrara’s fears of being cucked by a Rhys Ifans lookalike extremely funny.

-Notes toward a definition of “late boomer art”—movies from the 21st century that earnestly engage with Eastern spirituality, Catholic guilt, experimental theater and Madonna-whore complexes in sub-hi-def digital video. It makes sense that this was mostly ignored by festivals, but even minor-key Ferrara still aches for a world outside of his ever-troubled protagonists.

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