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The Funeral (January 25/97)

Abel Ferrara is one of those directors who makes either very good films (Body Snatchers), or very bad films (The Bad Lieutenant), usually without anything in between. The Funeral is in between.

The film is set in the gangster home of one of three brothers, during the wake of one of the brothers' funeral. The film is mostly flashbacks showing how all the characters got to where they are as of that day. The three brothers are played by Christpher Walken, Chris Penn, and Vincent Gallo, as the dead brother. We find out throughout the course of the film, how different each of these brothers are from one another. In addition, we meet the women in these characters lives, and how they are affected by this death.

With a cast like that, one would expect fireworks on the screen. Unfortunately, this never happens. The film has no spark whatsoever. Ferrara has chosen to film this story at a very meandering pace, which proves to be a deadly mistake. The actors are all very good in their roles (Penn won the award for best actor at the Venice Film Festival), but without any tension between their characters, the viewer is left watching a bunch of great actors run around with nothing to do.

As I said before, this film is in between. It is worthwhile seeing just for the performances, with Walken and Penn particular standouts. Gallo, who I do not remember ever seeing before, reminds me of a young Willem Dafoe. Annabella Sciorra and Isabella Rossellini present the angst involved in being the remaining brothers wives with a combination of dignity and frailty.

The Funeral, while not a great film, did haunt me with its final scene that appears to come out of nowhere. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized that the actions of the characters throughout the film made the final actions of the characters inevitable. Abel Ferrara is on the right track with The Funeral. Let's just hope he never makes another Dangerous Game.

out of

© David Nusair