Not long to go until the end of life on Earth as we know it, and it was all because we failed to heed the warnings of the scientists and environmental commentators who told us in no uncertain terms that if we continued behaving the way we did we would destroy the planet's ecosystem, thus spelling our extinction. And so that has come to pass, and in a few short hours the ozone layer will burn off, then the atmosphere will turn toxic, killing everyone and everything that is alive. With nobody quite sure how to react, the globe's population curiously, even numbly, go about their lives much as they always have...
For writer Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and artist Skye (Shanyn Leigh), a romantically involved couple, that means he continues to write and she continues to paint, only breaking off to make love and call up people on the internet video phone service which seemed to be getting a hefty dose of advertising by dint of its inclusion in director Abel Ferrara's end of the world scenario. For a lot of the running time 4:44 was a two-hander, or at least it would seem that way until you noticed they both spent a lot of time on this internet service chatting to those they could not be with at the finale, for whatever reason.
And then after an argument Cisco leaves to wander the streets, so the couple aren't even together for a stretch of what was a very short feature (around an hour and a quarter if you didbn't count the end credits), and a lot of that, some would say that bit too much, was taken up with stock footage edited into the action. Be it a poetic scene of nature, some street in crisis somewhere, or a dollop of an archived interview with the likes of Al Gore or the Dalai Lama, for a supposedly dramatic work this didn't half look like a collage of found footage interspersed with Dafoe and Leigh breaking up and getting back together again, then having sex with each other to keep the audience interested.
In spite of a sequence where Cisco witnesses a neighbour stepping off a fire escape to his suicide there was not an abundance of drama here, no matter the subject which you would think would be the biggest cataclysm in history but here is oddly shrugged off. It's not as if they were wrong about what was happening, but the budget was too low for a special effects bonanza so what you got was yet another montage sleepily playing out over images of the two leads looking contemplative. It was almost as if Ferrara had a forty minute movie but was forced by finances to expand it to a feature and the only way he could find to do so was to bulk it out with whatever he found to hand.
Not forgetting favours from a small selection of celebrity pals, so Anita Pallenberg showed up on a laptop to ramble about smoking to her screen daughter Leigh when you might have thought bidding each other farewell, tearfully or otherwise, could have been a more appropriate use of their their time. Natasha Lyonne was at a gathering Cisco winds up at, and Paz de la Huerta kept her clothes on as a passerby in the street, but more or less it was Dafoe and Leigh we were intended to concentrate on, which was tricky when the overall message appeared to be that if the end does arrive, there will be no proper response, and the futility of doing anything will quash any ideas of significance since there is no posterity to leave anything to. The tragedy of the younger characters seeing their potential snuffed out wasn't highlighted to any great extent, which left you watching Dafoe chuntering away to himself to no purpose, with only oblique references to religion to suggest this might lead somewhere. But it probably won't. Music by Francis Kuipers (who also appears).
1990's King of New York was a return to form, while the searing Bad Lieutenant quickly became the most notorious, and perhaps best, film of Ferrara's career. The nineties proved to be the director's busiest decade, as he dabbled in intense psycho-drama (Dangerous Game, The Blackout), gangster movies (The Funeral), sci-fi (Body Snatchers, New Rose Hotel) and horror (The Addiction). He continued to turn in little-seen but interesting work, such as the urban drug drama 'R Xmas and the religious allegory Mary until his higher profile returned with the likes of Welcome to New York and Pasolini.