The new film from energetic film-maker Abel Ferrara is a sexy, glossy comedy - or so he promises, says Sheri Jennings

What does a director like Abel Ferrara, who has already had four films invited to Cannes, do for his next act' Something completely different, it seems.

Ferrara's Go Go Tales screened at Cannes in the Midnight section last month. 'It's my first intentional comedy,' he says wryly. 'They had better laugh.'

Reaction to the film was mixed ('A Prairie Home Companion with G-strings,' said Screen critic Jonathan Romney).

Not that Ferrara minds - he is clearly enjoying himself. The Go Go Tales workspace in Rome (the city he has been living in for three years) oozes a Warhol factory vibe, with people coming and going.

The New York-born Ferrara is always in motion: sketching while he talks, showing bits of the film, and recalling Cannes memories (like the time they bought the bow ties from the waiters for the red carpet of Ferrara's The Blackout in 1997).

He often prefers 'we' over 'I' in his speech. 'Film-making is a collective, communal deal from the very beginning,' he says. 'Some people are raising money and some people are doing other things.'

And right now, at least, Ferrara, collaborator Frank De Curtis and actor Willem Dafoe all happen to live in Rome, as does dancer Shanyn Lee, a Texan who met Ferrara in New York, and is one of the stars of Go Go Tales.

The film's $6.7m (EUR5m) came entirely from Massimo Gatti for Bellatrix Media, who, after seeing Ferrara's Mary when it screened in competition at Venice two year ago, was keen to work with the director. Go Go Tales was shot mostly on set at Cinecitta Studios, Rome, with a couple of weeks on location in New York.

The story follows a down-on-his-luck cabaret impresario played by Dafoe. 'Everyone looks to him, he is a non-stop player and this is how he sees himself; this is where he wants to be,' says Ferrara of his lead character. 'The club's very character-driven and he's gotta be there.'

Several cast members are Ferrara collaborators from other films. 'Bob Hoskins is somebody we already wanted to work with, and we wrote the part for Sylvia Miles. We've worked with Asia (Argento) and (Willem) Dafoe and (Christopher) Walken in New Rose Hotel. Working with an actor for the second or the third time is when you really get down to it,' says the director.

For Ferrara, a highlight of the film is Dafoe's performance: 'You think of Willem in Platoon, you don't think of him as a song-and-dance guy,' says Ferrara. 'Wait till you see him sing. He's a monster, he's a sexy guy, you know what I mean''