'Tommaso' And '7500' Are New Streaming Options
Films showcase actors Willem Dafoe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Mainstream cinemas are talking of reopening but in the meantime here are a pair of new films now streaming: Abel Ferrara's "Tommaso" and the Joseph Gordon-Levitt-starrer "7500."
Drive-ins are open but serving up a lot of kiddie fare and horror films that mostly would have never made it to a cinema. Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills just reopened but is screening classic film titles. So if you are looking for art house or indie fare that is new you have to turn to streaming options.
"Ms. 45" (1981)
"King of New York" (1990)
"Dangerous Game" (1993)
"Bad Lieutenant" (1992)
"The Addiction" (1995)
"Tomasso" is the latest film by perpetual bad boy Abel Ferrara. I have been hooked on Ferrara's films since I saw "Ms. 45" back in 1981 and he has never disappointed. Even when his films are flawed there is just so much intensity and pushing the envelope that I find them irresistible.
The press kit describes "Tommaso" as “A work concerning imagination.” For director Abel Ferrara it’s about imagining a film that blurs the line between his life and that of his alter ego Tommaso played by Willem Dafoe.
Tommaso is an American filmmaker living in Rome with his young European wife and their three-year-old daughter. The characters are played by Ferrara's real life wife Christina Chiriac and daughter Dee Dee Ferrara and the film is shot in Ferrara's own Rome apartment. The film begins with what seems like a rather idyllic life. Tommaso takes Italian lessons, chats with locals at a cafe, picks up food to cook, and comes home to his lovely family. It's a tone that fans of Ferrara's may not be used to seeing. But there's a scene at an AA meeting where Tommaso recounts a violent memory from his past where alcohol led to him destroying a relationship. Now that he's sober he doesn't want to let that happen again. But that memory is the kind of story Ferrara usually tells in his films such as "Dangerous Game" or "Bad Lieutenant." So we know the potential for things to go bad are still present.
The film serves up a slow burn study of how imagination can be the source of great, passionate art but it can also produce paranoid delusions for Tommaso that threaten his marriage. So the film plays a game blurring the line between the fact and fiction of Ferrara's life and between reality and fantasy in Tommaso's head. The film reveals a mellowing and maturing of Ferrara's style and the change of pace is refreshing and exciting. But there is such a ferocious intensity burning in this collaboration between Ferrara and Dafoe that it proves riveting.
I will add, however, that the film is probably better appreciated by longtime fans of Ferrara's work because it is in part fascinating as part of the evolution of an artist. But anyone can appreciate Dafoe's multi-faceted performance that rings true in every anguished note.
"Taking of the Pelham One Two Three" (1974)
"Mysterious Skin" (2004)
"United 93" (2006)
I never paid heed to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who began as a child actor on TV, until he made the shattering "Mysterious Skin" for Greg Araki in 2004. Since then I have enjoyed his work and his sometimes daring choices like "Brick," "The Lookout," "Looper," and "Don Jon" (which he also wrote and directed).
"7500" (now streaming on Amazon) at first appears to be a standard thriller involving a hijacking with Gordon-Levitt as the co-pilot who's called upon to do more than he was ever trained to expect. But the clever novelty of the film is that everything plays out from the cockpit. The hijacking is only seen on the video camera inside the cockpit and we only get additional characters when they gain entrance.
The result is a film that is well-acted and executed with a definite stylish flair for claustrophobic action but the main failing is a weak script. A plane hijacked by Muslims feels rather dated as we see the world struggling through a pandemic and rocked by social protest. This feels like a story that could have played better during the Bush administration. It relies on stock characters as villains, even allowing one hijacker to get a maudlin call from his mom. It neither offers new insights into terrorism nor creates a thriller original enough to dazzle us with style over content.
I like the fact that the director is a young German filmmaker with only shorts to his credit prior to helming this feature. Patrick Vollrath has a good feel for building tension and using a confined space well. But his script leaves much to be desired. But if you are eager to watch something new, "7500" is entertaining and gripping in a predictable way.