Abel Ferrara’s collaborations with Willem Dafoe all have an apocalyptic air to them; from the explicit apocalypse of 4:44 Last Day on Earth, to the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini (played by Dafoe) in Pasolini and, most abstractly, the nearing-the-millennium cyberpunk ode to technology and personal connection—and their approaching demise — in New Rose Hotel. This all considered, it’s a small wonder that the semi-autobiographical Tommaso feels as life affirming as it does, exchanging our current world of empty city streets and a life suddenly put on hold for bustling, pre-COVID, life in Rome — which isn’t to say it’s all rainbows and roses, this is a Ferrara film after all.
Dafoe plays an American ex-pat living in Rome with his wife and daughter (played by Ferrara’s real life wife and daughter), spending his days working on a film, attending addiction recovery meetings, having sex with his wife and generally being neurotic and angry — a seeming constant clash with his nuclear family. It should come as no surprise that Tommaso is inherently self-reflexive; it may lack the outwardly fantastical touch of something like 8 1/2 or Synecdoche New York but there is still an element of fantasy to what we see here, with dream-like imagery and nightmarish visions peppered throughout that help to hit home what being in Ferrara’s head on a daily basis might actually be like.
Tommaso is an easy film to recommend for both Ferrara die-hards and newcomers; those who have been watching his films for decades will enjoy spending two hours in his head and with his real life family and those who have never seen a single one of his films will revel in Dafoe’s somber performance (where he gets to speak Italian a lot!) which is easily one of his best yet. I’m in the former camp, a devout Ferrara fan who eagerly awaits every new narrative, documentary or bizarre audio commentary that Ferrara puts out in a near constant stream of productivity that’s remarkably consistent for someone working outside of the studio system and on his own terms — and what better way to celebrate that than to see his new film premiere in the US on VOD, of all places. For too long, it was hard to see Ferrara’s films in the US due to limited (or utterly non-existent) distribution but now, with the world rendered apocalyptic, his newest film is available with ease for all to see. And it’s great.
Tommaso is now streaming via Kino Marquee.