Known as much for his wild lifestyle as his intense character studies such as "Bad Lieutenant" and "King of New York," filmmaker Abel Ferrara apparently has mellowed and straightened out, giving his most recent work an increasingly elegiac cast.
In his new film, "4:44 Last Day on Earth," he depicts a couple (Willem Dafoe and the filmmaker's real-life girlfriend, Shanyn Leigh) as they face down the end of the world, which has been calculated as occurring at 4:44 in the morning. In their downtown Manhattan loft, she paints, they make love, order in Chinese food and tie up loose ends with family and friends via Skype, striving to meet what's coming with dignity and acceptance.
Dafoe, who also starred in Ferrara's woefully underseen "Go Go Tales," brings a quiet grace to his role, while Leigh has a rough-hewn emotional directness.
Emerging intact from his own shady underworld of hustlers and addicts, with "4:44 Last Day on Earth" Ferrara movingly celebrates connection, cooking life down to just its barest essence: a man, a woman and a need.
"4:44 Last Day on Earth." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.