This essay was originally published at Senses of Cinema.
To watch the body of Abel Ferrara’s films, as I’ve tried my best to do over the last month and a half, is to see a man wrestling obsessively — sadomasochistically, even — with the Irrational. The stylized violence, the scenery-chewing performances, the gratuitous and exploitative female nudity — all are window dressing. What’s at stake here is nothing less than the very possibility of grace.
Note: Writing an entry for an encyclopedia intended for high school and college libraries, as it turns out, is a lot like writing an undergraduate research paper: the concerns seem to be quantity rather than quality, breadth rather than depth. I found the process more than a bit maddening.