In the 30's, in New York, the coffin of the leftist gangster Johnny Tempio is brought to the house of his older brother Ray for the wake of family and friends. Ray is a cold gangster that ...
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In the 30's, in New York, the coffin of the leftist gangster Johnny Tempio is brought to the house of his older brother Ray for the wake of family and friends. Ray is a cold gangster that likes to read and is married to Jean. His brother Chez is a hot head that runs a bar and is married to Clara . Ray decides to revenge the murder of his younger brother and believes the gangster Gaspare is the one who killed Johnny. Meanwhile Chez has a breakdown with tragic consequences for the Tempio brothers. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
"The Funeral" is a mind-blowing experience that demands a particular patience.
In fact, you don't need the patience to 'get' it, but to try to put yourself in the shoes of men who're nothing but criminals. But as criminals as they are, they are stuck with this last ounce of humanity giving a meaning to their lives. So let's get this straight, if you're among the kind of cinematic fans with a particular revulsion towards gangsters, this film is not for you, all it will inspire is the kind of demagogic comments such as "good riddance, all these low-life bastards deserve their fate". But if you're interested by the torments invading the souls of these underworld humans, prepare yourself for a disturbing and dark journey into Mafia's hearts of darkness.
It's interesting that the central character is played by Christopher Walken, the actor had always an extraordinary combination of mental instability and charismatic aura in his eyes, the kind of man you don't know if it's safe to approach or to avoid him, in both cases, you respect and fear him. But now, we're in this man's soul at a pivotal moment in his life, when he's trying to determine, during the funeral of his brother Johny (Vincent Gallo), not what the meaning of his life is, but how he can live with himself with his personal idea of justice and the satisfaction to do something ethical. Yeah, I see where you're coming from, how can I ever use the word 'ethic' for criminals? Well, ethics refers to a code, to some behavior that doesn't necessarily take the law as a reference, and from that point, anything is debatable. And when the movie says anything, it sure means it, as even God is concerned.
Although the movie is set during Catholic funerals, the first thing that strikes is the amount of blasphemous rants during the discussions. These men don't believe in God, but they don't sound atheists, it's just as if they had a proud reaction over a religion that casted them out anyway. So if they haven't been touched by the divine grace, which could have inspired them to be good people, so why do they have to blame themselves? If everything is due to God, why should they feel guilty? And now, if it all is a matter of free will, and decision, then what makes their acts more condemnable? Any idea of justice is no better or no worse than another the thought-provoking script invites us to feel an existential empathy toward these men, as if it tried to explicit all the dilemmas that fill the heart of criminals. After all, they have hearts, haven't they? To label them as only cold-blooded murders is another trick to avoid questioning our own approach to evil.
But whatever rationalization it tried to inspire, the counterpart of this thinking relies on the female characters, the wives, who endure the machismo of their husbands and try to figure what the purpose of all this is. Why and how have criminals, killers, fooled them? Some scenes between Annabella Sciorra and Isabella Rosselini suggest a sort of female bonding, as a reactive defensive process from the kind of fusional relationship between the brothers Christopher Walken, Vincent Gallo and Chris Penn -Rest in Peace, Chris, this was your finest performance as the most mentally instable of the three brothers- Never voyeuristic, these scenes of female intimacy where the discussions are intelligently combined with great metaphysic references, translate the lack of morality and belief innate to that cruel male world, and how it can hardly be expressed except in the confinement of a little bedroom.
The whole confinement of "The Funeral", in its setting, is crucial here. There is a cloud of lucidity floating in the air, as if the film trusted our intelligence, by not showing men trying to find excuses, but on the contrary, men extremely lucid about their fate. This is what the whole claustrophobic setting of the film is about, it's an extrapolation of the coffin, symbolizing the whole fate of the family in microcosm. These men are in a dead-end, and they know it damn well. During a heart-breaking scene between Chris Penn and a young prostitute, refusing to deprive her from her innocence, he pays her for not having sex, she asks for the double to have sex with him, provoking an incredible outburst of rage. She'll get paid twice the price then pushed against the wall and assaulted as a punishment for having sold her soul to the devil. This scene brutally reflects these men's understanding of their own conditions : they sold their soul, they know they'll never see the paradise. In other words: their lives are only a suspended sentence to hell. They don't believe in God, but they don't deny His existence either.
So, when it can't get any better, the best you can do is to make it better according to your own codes. And this is the constant disturbing feel of the film, men trying to act according to their sense of justice, their morals, trapped between their humanity and their evilness. Again, Abel Ferrara doesn't invite us to feel empathetic toward gangsters, as sometimes, the movie indecently flirts with some stereotypes to better remind us, the world lying beneath that sober and familial atmosphere. "The Funeral" reflects the affection of true funerals : a profound introspection in order to understand the value of goodness and humanity, because once you put your foot in the dark side, you can't go back, and it doesn't try to fool you with a sort of quest of redemption bullshit. They're grown-up men, and their life IS dead-end. To a point you wonder if the title "Funeral" refers to one man or three souls.
"The Funeral" is an extraordinary, dark and disturbing journey, that will simply wow you at the end so you better get ready.
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