Go Go Tales, 2007

During the Q&A for Go Go Tales, native New Yorker Abel Ferrara indicated that although the film’s main setting, Ray Ruby’s Paradise Lounge looks like something straight out of the city’s seedier sections, the authentically gaudy look of the cabaret was actually inspired by an interchangeable array of fly-by-night strip clubs that used to operate around Union Square and painstakingly reconstructed as one continuous set at the famed Cinecittà Studios in Rome. In hindsight, the association with Cinecittà, the legendary studio that also served as the blank canvas for Federico Fellini’s imagined worlds (including such masterworks as La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2), proves conducive to channeling the carnivalesque atmosphere of Fellini’s cinema towards Ferrara’s own risqué, disorienting, and perversely funny comedy. Framed as a loose, 24 hour chronicle of life at a run down strip club that is anything but paradise, the film follows the chaos surrounding the singular personality that is Ray Ruby, a smarmy, charismatic, Rupert Pupkin-styled club owner, master of ceremonies, perennial dreamer, and self-admitted lottery addict as he struggles to find a way to bring in more customers and keep the club afloat, continues to (re)negotiate with his increasingly disgruntled staff of unpaid exotic dancers (and who, in turn, are constantly being incited to strike by a seductive, new dancer/performance artist from Eastern Europe named Monroe (Asia Argento)), tries to placate his curmudgeonly landlady (Anita Pallenberg) who unexpectedly pays a visit to revoke his tenancy so that she can lease the space to Bed, Bath and Beyond, and argues with his silent partner, younger brother Johnie (Matthew Modine) – the most successful hairdresser in Staten Island – who wants to pull his financial support from Ray’s money draining venture. Ferrara’s penchant for organic structure, over-the-top imagery, and twisted, if innately humanist, morality especially suit the film’s rich ensemble casting and intersecting storylines that provide texture and authenticity to Ferrara’s unfiltered commentary on the plight of the poor, often immigrant, working class who take on these humbling, unseemly jobs in the pursuit of the American dream. Using the beleaguered club as a symbol of the staff’s own unrealized ambitions (a correlation that is reinforced in the club’s hosting of a weekly, after hours talent showcase, mostly catering to family and friends), Ferrara creates a polarizing and blunt, yet astute and unexpectedly compassionate allegory for the inextinguishable creative spirit in all its chaos, volatility, isolation, hope, and exhilaration.

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