Go Go Tales Movie Review

Go Go Tales Movie Review


In a movie clip from upcoming movie “Go Go Tales,” it is said that “heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens.” This pretty much sums up the scene at Ray Ruby’s Paradise Lounge, a tacky but beautiful little bit of heaven set in Manhattan. Paradise Lounge, in this new movie, is a strip club – old fashioned and run by a guy named Ray Ruby, wonderfully played by Willem Defoe. Defoe is trying to keep his club afloat with lots of love and little money. It’s a metaphor for Abel Ferrara’s hard times in the film industry.

Abel Ferrara is one of America’s underappreciated American filmmakers. This new movie release was filmed in 2006 and appeared at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2007. It’s an example of the unfortunate state of independent film distribution in the United States. “Go Go Tales” never got an American buyer. That’s why it’s opening in Manhattan at the Anthology Film Archives as a part of a special series. The program, including five works by Ferrara, is “Abel Ferrara in the 21st Century, “Mary” (2005 fiction about the making of a movie about Jesus), and “Chelsea on the Rocks,” Ferrara’s 2008 tour through the Chelsea Hotel.

Movie picture “Go Go Tales” was created in Rome, where Ferrara was living in 2006, at the Cinecitta Studios. Ferrara is a native of the Bronx. The Paradise Lounge is a performance space, church and circus. Bob Hoskins plays the barker, bouncer and Ray’s muscle. He’s the guy who keeps the Paradise Lounge up and running. Burt Young, Franky Cee, Sylvia Miles and others play gargoyles, attached to bar stools, unless they’re up and floating around under the lights.

There are two strange visions at the opening of the movie. One is of Ray with his eyes half shut and the other is of a woman in a pink tutu and ballet slippers. The audience wonders if Ray is having a dream. He is and he isn’t. Both the movie and the Paradise Lounge itself, with its throbbing music, shrill voices and shining skin have the feeling of a dream. As the title suggests, this movie is a kind of a fable. The title also refers to the women in the film who dance in a glaze of glitter.

There’s a nostalgic feel to the Paradise Lounge. The women wear pasties and G-strings and the men wear suits. The movie exudes a respectful yet intimate feeling. The women perform for the leering, cheering men, but there’s no touching – other than for the handing over of tips. Ferrara seems to be comfortable in this milieu and he does a good job of shooting the pole dancers without falling into the feeling of salaciousness.

There’s a story someplace in the performances and conversation. Ray and assistant Jay, played by Roy Dotrice, are hoping that a sketchy scheme involving the lottery will bring in some money. Ray hasn’t paid the rent for months and his brother Johnie, played by Matthew Modine, is keeping the place open. Modine plays a hairdresser. He’s got a big heart. But when things get to be too much, Johnie finally gives Ray a deadline and this, along with the lounge’s screechy landlady, played by Sylvia Miles, the scheme, and Willem Dafoe’s performance give the movie its tension.

Go Go Tales” demands your attention as it drifts along. It’s an inspired, loose and comic treatise on art and creation. Ferrara says it’s his “first intentional comedy.” This movie is an homage to the old city of New York.


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