As close as Ferrara will ever get to making Big Night – almost-but-not-quite a comedy about an enthusiastic strip club manager with a gambling problem who has bet everything (including tonight’s payroll) on a lotto scheme. A happy, generous movie that delights in hanging out with the girls, the owners and other employees and patrons for a few hours without any major agenda.
Willem Dafoe is Ray the gambler, hiding in his office with Roy Dotrice (Mozart’s dad in Amadeus), the only other guy in on the scam. Bob Hoskins works for Ray, Ray’s brother Matthew Modine (star of Full Metal Jacket) is the club’s silent investor who’s pulling the plug, and loud, grating Sylvia Miles (Midnight Cowboy) is the landlady about to shut them down. Ray’s scheme works: he wins the lotto, making enough to keep the club, but can’t find the winning ticket since he and Dotrice have stashed bunches of tickets in hidey holes all over the club. I guess this plot device is what led IMDB to wrongly call the movie a screwball comedy.
Modine’s dog trick:
Asia’s dog trick:
The girls don’t get nearly as well-drawn characters as the men. Mostly they strip and dance, and even highly-billed Asia Argento (same year as Boarding Gate and The Last Mistress, renowned here for her rottweiler french-kissing scene) is absent for 90% of the film. Late thursday nights are reserved for the girls and management to put on a talent show for each other and invited friends and family, changing the image of the place from a seedy sex joint to an affectionate family business, thus raising the stakes for Ray to find that winning ticket.
D. Lim in Cinema Scope:
Go Go Tales is also an allegory: a portrait of the artist as a hustler, a gambler, a performer, a dreamer, an addict, a throwback, a holdout, and, of course, a purveyor of good old-fashioned T&A, navigating the screw-or-be-screwed questions common to all exploitative professions, indeed to modern capitalist systems. You could say this one comes from the heart.
When Ferrara was interviewed in this issue, it seems he had begun his Late Sam Fuller stage: a quintessentially American filmmaker, disrespected and underfunded at home, coerced to move to Europe to keep making his New York-style indie movies.