‘4:44’ teeters at edge of oblivion 

click to enlarge Back  to America: Many Abel Ferrara films have gone unreleased in the U.S. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Back to America: Many Abel Ferrara films have gone unreleased in the U.S.

Director Abel Ferrara may be the last of the mavericks.

While his early movies — such as “The Driller Killer” and “Ms. 45” — screened in grindhouses on 42nd Street back when New York was dangerous, his latest, “4:44 Last Day on Earth,” is only his third film in 10 years to open in the Bay Area.

Although Ferrara lives and makes movies in New York, most of his funding comes from Europe, and many of his films haven’t found distribution in the U.S. But he says, “If you really want to see them, they’re there to be seen. You gotta be a pirate. I don’t want to be pushing that B.S., but they’re online.”

Like “Melancholia” and a few other recent movies, “4:44 Last Day on Earth” is about the end of the world. The twist here is that citizens have been given time to prepare.

The story focuses on a New York couple living in an enviable Manhattan loft with a view of the Williamsburg Bridge.

“When you make a movie like this, if you can’t find the right place, don’t bother. It’s a one-location deal,” says Ferrara, in The City with leading lady and girlfriend Shanyn Leigh earlier this year when “4:44 Last Day on Earth” opened the SF IndieFest.   

In the movie, Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and Skye (Leigh) spend their last day painting, making love, Skyping with family and having other small misadventures.

“Any kind of blowout, they probably already had,”  Ferrara says. “You’re going to be with someone you love. As a Buddhist, it’s something you think about and plan for. It’s not something you’re terrified of.”

While making the film, Ferrara and Leigh asked everyone they met how they might spend their last day on earth. “It was across the board,” Leigh says. “One was bungee jumping off the Empire State Building.”

Ferrara chose the time “4:44” as an easy thing to type in emails during pre-production, though it wasn’t meant to be the actual title.

“It’s the time of night where basically, if it hasn’t happened, it’s not going to happen,” he says. Leigh describes filming the intimate scenes as “funny,” while Ferrara, who has worked with, and understands, Dafoe, adds, “You don’t have to encourage Willem too much. He’s a pro. We’ve been through this already. We have confidence and trust. We can get places.”


4:44 Last Day on Earth

Starring Willem Dafoe, Shanyn Leigh, Natasha Lyonne

Written and directed by Abel Ferrara

Not rated

Running time 1 hour 25 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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