Just as one begins to despair of the American cinema’s ever more rapid descent into emotional, intellectual, and creative senility, along comes Thomas Fucci with a fresh eye (and ear), an insouciant thumbing of his nose at what’s expected in tone and style, and a sense of the humorously absurd which almost hides his sensitivity to pain.
He obviously knows his film noir, but instead of trying to prop up something from the past, he lets rip at it so that we get a double pleasure: watching the vital organs of an old favorite tumbling from its split belly and seeing them reformed into something new. All the elements are there. We start with a dark, wet night where the only light is a cheap neon sign for a sleazy hotel (seen at an oblique angle, of course). In the hotel: a desperate man about to put a revolver to use on himself; an old, demented couple obsessed with and literally endangered by newspapers; a clerk who doesn’t care who does what with whom as long as you take the body out with you.
Fucci takes these stereotypes (with the help of a universally perfect cast) and skillfully makes us care about understanding each of them as he slowly allows them to reveal their humanity and the ridiculousness of their situations, their assumption, and even of their despair; Fucci has an elegance of style so that while the eye records and admires the composition and the lighting one is never yanked out of the ever more binding emotions of his tale by the empty glitz of a “look at me, Ma. I’m directing” that seems to possess more and more directors.
Then there is Fucci’s ear. The sound track is sophisticated, subtle and always surprising. Music from country Cline to classic Callas—is as important as the images. Fucci uses it as emotional counterpoint, as a way of connecting states of mind in his characters, and as a means of emotional reversal. There is a wonderfully comic scene in which an old lady after an earthquake is in real danger of being smothered under what looks like a ton of old newspapers. So her rescuer can locate her, she croaks out “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”,making the comedy turn to warm humor in a delicious continuation of the song in another tone.
As his main character says “It’s all connected if you listen close.” All of that pain turned upside down might in less intelligent hands turn to optimistic mush. Here Fucci (in an audacious refusal to cut or move his camera); lets us have it both ways—and then lets it stay that with a necessary ambiguity. This is an American film you don’t have to be ashamed of liking. This is a new American director who promises to keep our eyes and ears fresh. –David Overby
Le Mensuel Du Cinema—
Every thirty years an American independent film, whether on the east coast (Cassavetes, Jarmusch) or on the West Coast, as is the case here, rouses the interest of film-lovers and festival programmers. The film either recreates the codes of fiction and/or takes on a topic that is too controversial for the Majors (homosexuality, social crises…). “Don’t Call Me Frankie” is a half-tinted work, not really underground and not really explosive either. It is the subversion of the laws of the genre (melodrama and thriller) and the breaking of the rules that marks its principal trump cards…”Don’t Call Me Frankie” is almost a documentary on the craft of individual actors who are not participating in a film of this genre (the police are absent, the extras are eliminated) but are instead giving substance to a banal adventure which feels like a real slice of life…With a rare economy of means, Fucci creates a unique place, where he speaks of the distressed, of the exhausted, documenting, and re-exploring the archetypes (the prostitute, the pimp and the provincial man) that often inhabit the world of fiction film. It doesn’t matter what point of view you take (a genre film or a docu-drama) “Don’t Call Me Frankie” functions marvelously as an x-ray machine of man and the images coming from contemporary American society. —Raphael Bassan
This distinctive feature, stands out on the festival line-up as a stubbornly independent sketch of an unsuccessful suicide. Dodging cliches- even when depicting a hooker in a hotel with a neon sign-director Thomas Fucci betrays a beautiful contrariness.
Chicago’s NewCity Art’s Weekly—
A minimalist gem, Fucci’s wonderfully modulated comedy… Comparisons to other collectors of the bizarre like David Lynch would be unfair. Fucci’s world of delicate yet profane whimsy is strange enough on it’s own. —Pride
…Fucci displays little of the contempt of (David) Lynch has for his characters. Once the film moves out onto the open road, Fucci establishes his own distinctive style, which, coupled with Van Norden’s charming performance, makes the film a success. …it’s likely to be more entertaining than most other American Independents showing this year. …any film that can blend such an eclectic sound track – everything from Abbey Lincoln and traditional Indian music to selections from Puccini’s Manon Lascaut- this delightfully and effortlessly is worth seeing.
…As for the humor, he makes it sell by creating a lively plot and building characters gradually with small touches that move (the audience) and are each one endowed with a credible story. Such qualities are not accomplished with a heavy foot. In a way, the truth is Thomas Fucci is in this house…We are faced with someone with an independent inspiration, from the beginning the bearer of a peculiar tone and pace, who knows how, as insignificant as it may seem, to start with the promise of a thriller and get into the can a simple vision of a cunning world where the harsh social reality allows one the luxury of a comic look. To make a long story short, in a few images, it is art. It inspires true fondness. Finally, one attaches oneself to people who are engaging. —J. P. L.
…Thomas Fucci invents a new genre: the “delayed suicide”…The feel of the film would be dismal if the black humor didn’t save it from despair: each action of a character pushes the film one degree higher on the Richter scale. The look of the film is white trash and inventive… —Y.T.