What: Film Review
Directed and Written by: Antonino D’Ambrosio
Produced by: Antonino D’Ambrosio, James L. Reid
Featuring: Lewis Black, Billy Bragg, Shepard Fairey, Eugene Hutz, Wayne Kramer, John Sayles, Chuck D, Eve Ensler, Edwidge Danticat
Running Time (in min.): 100 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Official Selection of 2012 TriBeCa Film Festival
Let Fury Have The Hour (2012), based on the book by Antonino D’Ambrosio.
The risks involved when visual and/or sound artists transition to feature-length filmmaking are so drastic that when the Surrealist artist Luis Bunuel attempted it, he famously carried stones in his jacket to heave at the audience in the event of a riot. More recently, however, filmmakers with their backgrounds in the more abstract or short visual arts have found easier footing in full-length pictures. With the emergence of the acclaimed experimentalist-come-dramatist Steve McQueen and the multihyphenate performer Miranda July, the floodgates seem to be broken for new talent to hit the field running.
The trend encouraged by July, McQueen, and music video directors Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and David Fincher moves forward into the range of documentary with the inventive new (fairly) film by multimedia artist Antonino D’Ambrosio. An author, short filmmaker, producer, visual artist, musician, and all-around cool-sounding predecessor to the James Franco model of directing, D’Ambrosio’s first feature, Let Fury Have The Hour, borrows a title from the writer-director-producer’s own book. Yet D’Ambrosio’s documentary – if you can call it that reasonably. All one can say is that it excludes fiction – is more singular as an art artifact for its novel combination of visual and performative forms. If that seems somehow esoteric or offputting for perhaps a normal filmgoer, think again, and read on.
Let Fury Have The Hour is more of a manifesto than a film, decrying the destructive conservative values of 1980s America (under Reagan’s presidency) and 1980s Great Britain (under Maggie Thatcher.) Those values, we hear from such notable talking heads as comic Lewis Black, poet-playwright Eve Ensler, and musician Eugene Hutz, were so oppressive that they led to outright rebellion in artists of all fields. D’Ambrosio assembles for the camera (which he also operates at times, credited with Karim Lopez and producer James Reid) a collective of just these such artists who represent, in their work and their personae, the essence of Punk.
Driving D’Ambrosio’s subjects and the film itself is the urgency of the punk movements of the mid-to-late 1980’s, which he represents through mixed media. Yes, there is some stock footage of Thatcher speaking like a deep-throated dictator, typical of films with both a political and retrospective slant. But crammed against these images are totally contemporary images – such as those by famed street artist and D’Ambrosio collaborator Shepard Fairey, of the famous 2008 Obama stickers and this film’s cover art. The Haitian poet and political speaker Edwidge Danticat, who few would naturally consider a peer to Eugene Hutz or Chuck D of Public Enemy, recites a truly rousing and aggressive prose piece on the subject of revolutionary politics. D’Ambrosio’s collaborators are united by their ferocious responses to oppression; in music and political novelization, in filmmaking and poetry, there are few differences, in the film’s perspective.
For those of softer stomachs, the level of angst, criticism, and intensity can sometimes feel overwhelming. The inclusion of comic Black, and noted controversy-stirring filmmaker John Sayles, ensures a sort of pounding-in of the film’s background and politicized concepts. While D’Ambrosio must have been concerned that his subjects’ ideas would come through clearly with the film’s (slightly but almost unnoticeably) excessive editing, he’s mistaken. More often than not, Let Fury is as on-the-nose and crystal clear as a socially conscious art piece can be.
In spite of these issues, the novelty of D’Ambrosio’s multimedia use and the intense portrait of Punk’s success as a social, artistic, and political movement renders Let Fury Have The Hour striking. While the film is more of a biting entertainment than thinkpiece, as in the films of possible inspiration Errol Morris, D’Ambrosio’s pronouncement of filmmaking talent cuts through any concept of vanity or overambition that transitioning artists’ first films sometimes suggest. As if in proof, following its acclaimed performance at the 2012 TriBeCa Film Festival, his film has begun to find berths at single-run theaters across the U.S. That galleries and universities seem to appreciate the film’s document-like value in seemingly equal measure is telling of its importance in today’s social, artist, and political climates. No matter the film’s possible faults, it finds well-timed footing.