Studio: Raro Video
Theatrical Release: September 8, 2009 (Italy)
Blu Ray Release: July 12, 2016
Director: Abel Ferrara
Review by James Klein
Abel Ferrara has had a strange career as a film maker. The man started out in adult films and even starred in his first directorial effort, Nine Lives of Wet Pussy. He went on to do the gory slasher film Driller Killer and the rape/revenge cult film Ms 45. From there he partnered up with Michael Mann and directed TV movies and even did a few episodes of Miami Vice until he hit his stride in the 90’s with The King of New York, Bad Lieutenant (arguably his best film) and The Funeral. From there…he has made some odd choices. He has worked with Willem Dafoe on a lot of arty dramas, most being downright bland and cheap. As of late Ferrara has directed a few documentaries with Napoli Napoli Napoli being one of them. But even this documentary is bland, uneven and at times incoherent.
Ferrara’s film is about the Italian city of Naples and how the city is in such a decline due to the amount of crime and drug deals that go on daily. Since WWII, while other cities in Italy have flourished, Naples continues to be stuck in a dire state of poverty. Ferrara interviews women that are currently serving prison sentences for drugs or prostitution. many of their stories are fascinating and heartbreaking and if the film focused on these women and their lives, Napoli Napoli Napoli would be been a winner.
However, the film strangely jumps from documentary to recreations of certain crimes that take place in the city. They aren’t recreations of any of the stories these women tell so I am unsure what the hell Ferrara was doing or thinking. Is this experimental? Is there a point? These segments are both confusing and just boring. I can only watch someone drive around on a motor scooter thru the slums of Naples for only so long. These moments stop the movie dead in its tracks. Even the performances by some of the actors are questionable and the film suddenly feels like a student movie and not something directed by the guy who gave us Bad Lieutenant. And when the film clocks in at 106 minutes, it is a choir to sit thru. Your butt will not be happy.
I don’t understand the reasoning for making this film and wish there was some sort of theme or focus that would be front and center. But for now, Napoli Napoli Napoli seems like a mish-mash of real life interviews mixed with sequences set in the city dealing with broken homes or crime. There is a good film somewhere in here but unfortunately at this state, its an incoherent mess. And the final moment of Ferrara himself singing a rap song and screaming “motherfucker” and even the dreaded “n” word, is both hilarious and embarrassing.
Raro Video’s presentation of Napoli Napoli Napoli is already at a disadvantage as it mixes both video and film that results in a picture that looks soft, grainy and something that may look like an old DVD and not a hi def blu ray. I can’t blame Raro for this transfer looking so bad although I thought the picture looked stretched a few times but was unsure if that was just shitty film making or part of the transfer. The 2.0 DTS-HD soundtrack is good and there was no problems in hearing the dialog.
As for special features, there is a 35 minute behind the scenes featurette that is actually more interesting than the feature film, showing Ferrara and his crew working with some of the actors or speaking to the interview subjects. Rounding out the special features is a trailer that is too long, much like this film. The blu ray does come with a 14 page booklet with essays about the film and of the director.
At age 66, Ferrara is still working and still shows signs of being a decent film maker but he needs someone to pull him back or get him to focus on his film’s themes because as of right now, his past several films are just all over the map and don’t possess an ounce of greatness that his films from the 90’s had. I don’t think it is time to hang up his hat yet but Napoli Napoli Napoli is not a film I would recommend by this talented film maker.
Blu Ray Rating: