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The Bad Lieutenant: A bad movie or cult in the making?
THE ONGOING publicity surrounding the insults being traded by Werner Herzog and Abel Ferrara over whether “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is a remake of Ferrara’s 1992 original or not, maybe of interest to the industry, and particularly to film critics, but is of little interest to movie-goers.
Both versions tell the story of a drug-addled cop trying to solve a case of murder, but the interpretation is as different as chalk from cheese.
Herzog, more highly thought of for his documentaries than for his recent feature films, doesn’t seem to be much interested in the pathos or morality of the lead character, played by Nicolas Cage, preferring to use the film as a vehicle for his sardonic sense of humour.
That he sticks so closely to the plot in the original suggests to me that he is bent on poking fun at Abel Ferrara's work. But why bother?
Bangkok last night became the third film festival in a month (Venice and Toronto were the other two) to use “The Bad Lieutenant” as their opening film, and you have to think that the programmers have selected it more for its controversial nature than for its inherent cinematic value.
Yes, there are some memorable scenes, but most of them are kind of nasty, even sick. Herzog is on record as saying he thinks this is a new type of film noir. It is certainly black but there’s really nothing new in it. Directors have been putting their own sick visions onto celluloid for many years now.
If you are one of the dwindling number of Nicolas Cage fans you will find his performance here frenetic to say the least. I can't remember when he over-acted so much. Those who wonder what Cage is trying to do with his career won’t find any answers in “The Bad Lieutenant”.
Eva Mendes, who starred with Cage in Ghost Riders (2007), gives a polished performance as a hard-done-by hooker, but the characters of the rest of the cast are either cameo – viz Shea Whigham, or barely drawn, as in Cage's alcoholic father.
Finally, you have to wonder if Herzog hasn’t actually set out to concoct a cult movie for stoners as opposed to making a movie that, in the course of time, becomes a cult movie. There’s a difference. The former becomes known as trash, the latter becomes recognised as an artistic gem.
This is the diary of a festival ambassador travelling throughout Asia and elsewhere around the world. Festivals covered include: Bangkok, Phuket, Istanbul, Antalya, Estonia, London, Calcutta, Goa, Trivandrum, Chennai, Neasden and more
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