"4:44 Last Days on Earth": How We Lived at the End

In writer/director Abel Ferrara's vision of the apocalypse, Chinese joints deliver right up until the end. The media's "live coverage" continues almost as long. Sorry, haters: "Al Gore was right," says NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan, playing himself. The ozone layer, Pat tells us, has dissipated "far more rapidly than even the worst doomsayer could have imagined," and now life on earth is certain to end for good at 4:44 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. In Ferrara's 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and his much-younger girlfriend Skye (Shanyn Leigh) begin the last night in their Lower East Side loft with their attention divided between TV and computer screens, simultaneous iPhone and Skype calls. In this moment of highest anxiety, Ferrara's characters fall back on the stale running dramas of their lives: Will ex-junkie Cisco blow a couple years' sobriety by cooking up one last time? Is this middle-age father really over the ex he left, as his daughter's mother puts it on Skype, to "run off with the teenager"? Ferrara relies heavily on appropriated media (Al Gore explaining the human role in climate change on Charlie Rose, video of the Dalai Lama speaking on man's responsibility to the natural world) to provide context and subtext to its disaster fiction. Much more impressive is the way he uses his own footage of the city — the steady stream of cabs, the fully occupied row of ellipticals in the gym above a 24-hour Duane Reade — and transforms it, imbuing real images of "normal" life with supernatural dread.

 
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