Blu-ray Review: Tommaso

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Abel Ferrara | CAST: Willem Dafoe, Christina Chiriac, Anna Ferrara
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 15, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $19.99
BONUSES: interviews with Ferrara and Dafoe
SPECS: NR | 116 min. | Drama | 2.39:1 widescreen | stereo | English and Italian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13) | Audio 3Dishes.jpg (40×13) | Video  | Overall 3Dishes.jpg (40×13)

Once recognized as one of New York’s most ferocious homegrown filmmakers, Abel Ferrara has lived in Rome for more than a decade now, where he’s married an Italian actress (his second marriage), had a baby girl, got sober and embraced Buddhism. Over that time, Ferrara’s film output has remained steady and diverse, though recent years have not seen him traffic in the kind of sordid and controversial moviemaking that yielded such calling cards as Ms. 45, King of New York and Bad Lieutenant. Yeah, it’s fair to say that the 69-year-old Ferrara has mellowed. But just a bit.

Ferrara’s latest—following, notably, a couple of recent documentaries (2017’s Piazza Vittorio, 2019’s The Projectionist) and a strange, fictionalized take on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case starring Gerard Depardieu (2014’s Welcome to New York)—is Tommaso, his first dramatic feature since the 2014 bio-pic Pasolini, which reteams Ferrara with that film’s star and his frequent leading actor, Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse).

A movie that “came together” (Dafoe’s words) while the filmmaker and his team waited for financing to come through for Ferrara and Dafoe’s now-completed dream-horror drama Siberia, Tommaso finds Dafoe serving as Ferrara’s avatar in a tale of an older American expat filmmaker living in Rome with his young wife and their daughter as he ponders both his past behavior and an unsure future while preparing for his next film. An addled and occasionally creepy guy (teaching an acting class, he includes kissing scene in his work with one pretty student), Tommaso begins to lose his grasp on reality as the story progresses—not from drugs or booze or illness, but rather from his own inner impressions of himself as an existentially “tortured” artist. An aging one, at that. How else to explain an image of himself being crucified on a street lamp at a busy Roman street corner.

Co-starring his real-life wife and real-life daughter as Dafoe’s movie wife and movie daughter and frequently shot in his own apartment, Ferrara offers some serious self-mythologizing here. He’s been to hell and back in a previous life, and every frame of this film reinforces that he’s still here to remind us that, well, he’s still here. Dafoe is the savior here, largely improvising as a half-Dafoe/half-Ferrara hyrid and appearing in every scene, his chiseled face and overall weariness underlining the message. And that he was crucified once before in a certain film by Martin Scorsese back in 1988 doesn’t hurt either.

Included in Kino Lorber’s editions of Tommaso are a glitchy interview conducted with Ferrara via Zoom last spring from his home in Rome. When asked how he comes up with his stories, a smirking Ferrara mumbles, “Where do the ideas come from? You start with images, you start thinking of things…”

In other words, I think, you come up with your own ideas. I’ll take care of mine.

Buy or Rent Tommaso

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.