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Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922 - 1975)

Related: Italian cinema - director

Titles: La Ricotta (1963) - Teorema (1968) - Salò (1975)

Pasolini's gritty, visceral work was simultaneously hailed as brilliant and condemned for its generous use of sex, violence and anti-establishment "blasphemy."

Pasolini in The Canterbury Tales (1972) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]


Pier Paolo Pasolini (March 5, 1922 - November 2, 1975) was a Italian poet, film director, and writer, who, in his films about the socially outcast and rebellious, frequently used amateur actors.

He was born in Bologna, traditionally the most left-wing of Italian cities, to the son of a soldier who became famous for having saved Mussolini's life.

Writing his first poems at age seven, his works were first published when he was 19. Very young, Pasolini would have belonged to the communist clubs of his town.

He was drafted in World War II, later imprisoned by the Germans, but managed to escape. After the war, he joined the Communist party, but was expelled two years later on the grounds of his homosexuality, which he publicly declared on many occasions. At the time, a public declaration of being gay could cause scandal among leftists as well. All the same, his world view remained essentially communist throughout his life.

His first novel, Ragazzi di Vita (1955), dealt with male prostitutes, pimps, and thieves, resulting in obscenity charges against him, the first of many instances where his art caused him legal problems.

Accattone! (1961), his first movie, also about the Roman underworld, likewise brought him into conflict with conservatives, who demanded stricter censorship.

Strangely, supported by the Catholic Church, he directed the black-and-white The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964), widely hailed the best cinematic adaptation of the life of Jesus, performed by Enrique Irazoqui. While making the film, Pasolini vowed to direct it from the "believer's point of view," but later, upon viewing the completed work, realized that he had expressed his own beliefs instead.

In Theorem (1968), starring Terence Stamp as a mysterious stranger, he depicted the sexual coming-apart of a bourgeois family (later to be repeated by Francois Ozon in Sitcom).

Later movies centered on sex-laden folklore, such as Arabian Nights (1974) and Boccaccio's The Decameron (1970).

His final work, Salò (1975), because of its scenes of intensely sado-masochistic graphic violence that went far beyond what most movie-goers could stomach at the time, continues to be his most controversial one. It was based on the novel by the Marquis de Sade.

In one of his last films, Uccellacci ed Uccellini, a sort of picaresque - and at the same time mystic - fable, he wanted the great Italian comedian Totò, to work with one of his preferred "naif" actors, Ninetto Davoli. It was a unique chance he gave Totò (the only one he received) to demonstrate that he was a great dramatic actor.

Pasolini, as a director, created a sort of second neorealism, which deeply and constantly touched picaresque tones, showing a sad reality - hidden, but real, concrete - which many social and political lobbies had no interest in seeing brought to light. Mamma Roma, with an extraordinary Anna Magnani, the story of a prostitute and her son, is an astonishing punch in the stomach for the common morality of those times. The doubt that Pasolini often inserted in his works, that such realities are less distant from us than we imagine, is one of his major contributions to a change in the Italian psyche, and an unrepeated example of poetry applied to cruel realities.

The director also promoted the concept of "natural sacredness" in his works, the concept that the world is holy in and of itself, and does not need any spiritual essence or supernatural blessing to attain this state. Indeed, Pasolini was an avowed atheist.

The contrast between public opinion and what Pasolini was able to show, focused on sexual moralism, was perhaps what made him encounter general disapproval and effectively he was perhaps the man who most suffered cultural discrimination for his homosexuality.

Pasolini's poetry, lesser known outside of Italy, often deals with his highly revered mother and his same-sex love interests, but this is not the main and only theme. As a sensible and extremely intelligent man, he depicted certain corners of the contemporary reality as very few other poets were able to do.

In politics too, or better, in the social debate, Pasolini was able to create scandal and debate with some assertions that were as much unheard as, at the same time, true: during the disorders of 1969, when university students were acting in a guerrilla-like fashion against the police in the streets of Rome, all the leftist forces declared their complete support for the students, and described the disorders as a civil fight of proletarians against the system. Pasolini, instead, alone among the communists, declared that he was with the police or, to be precise, with the policemen, the real proletarians who were sent to fight against boys of their same age for a poor salary and reasons which they could not understand because they had not had the luck of being able to study.

Pasolini was murdered brutally by Pino Pelosi, a hustler, by being run over several times with his own car at the beach of Ostia near Rome.

His murder is still now not completely explained: some contradictions in the declarations of Pelosi, a strange intervention by Italian secret services during the investigations, and some a lack of coherence of related documents during the different parts of the judicial procedures, brought some of Pasolini's friends (actress Laura Betti, a close friend, particularly) to suspect that this murder had somehow been commissioned. It is true, indeed, that Pasolini, in the months just before his death, had seen many politicians, telling them that he was aware of certain crucial secrets. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pier_Paolo_Pasolini [Nov 2004]

Mamma Roma (1962) - Pier Paolo Pasolini

Anna Magnani and Ettore Garofolo in

Mamma Roma (1962) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

DVD Features:
Three new interviews about director Pier Paol Pasolini, featuring his cinematographer, a biographer, and Bernardo Bertolucci

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1995), a 55-minute documentary by filmmaker Ivo Barnabo Micheli covering the career of the controversial artist

La ricotta (1963), a 35-minute film by Pasolini about a director who sets out to make a film about the Passion of Jesus

Poster Gallery
32-page book featuring a new essay by novelist and cultural critic Gary Indiana

Combining the immediacy of Italian neorealism with potent criticism of post-war Italian society, Mamma Roma is one of Pier Paolo Pasolini's most accessible and satisfying films. This was only his second feature, but Pasolini (who was mysteriously murdered in 1975) was already demonstrating a powerful affinity for cinema as a forum for his anti-Fascist ideology. To express his outrage at the spiritual vacancy of vulgar consumerism, Pasolini cast the great Anna Magnani in the title role, a former prostitute struggling to transcend her sordid past in a desperate attempt to give her estranged teenage son the better life she never had. In Pasolini's worldview, Mamma's petit bourgeois idealism can only be doomed, and the film assumes the melodramatic thrust of tragic opera. Like most of Pasolini's films, Mamma Roma attracted controversy, but it was nothing compared to the outcry over "La ricotta," a 35-minute short featuring Orson Welles (part of the 1963 anthology film RoGoPaG, and included here for the first time on DVD). Seized and condemned "for insulting the religion of the state," "La ricotta" presents the crucifixion of Christ as an incendiary criticism of the Catholic Church, in which the actor playing Jesus stuffs himself with ricotta cheese and dies from indigestion on the cross! As usual, Criterion has done an exemplary job of assembling a wealth of supplementary materials. Pasolini's films demand at least rudimentary understanding of his life and politics, and that background is provided through new interviews with former collaborators, a clip-laden 1995 documentary about Pasolini's career, and a 32-page booklet containing excerpts of interviews from the out-of-print book Pasolini on Pasolini, along with a mini-essay on Mamma Roma that further illuminates the film in the context of Pasolini's controversial career. For anyone interested in Pasolini's art, this two-disc set provides a suitable starting point, offering important films and scholarly study in the esteemed Criterion tradition. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

Anna Magnani is Mamma Roma, a middle-aged prostitute who attempts to extricate herself from her sordid past for the sake of her son. Filmed in the great tradition of Italian neorealism, Mamma Roma offers an unflinching look at the struggle for survival in postwar Italy, and highlights director Pier Paolo Pasolini#s lifelong fascination with the marginalized and dispossessed. Though banned upon its release in Italy for obscenity, today Mamma Roma is considered a classic: a glimpse at a country#s most controversial director in the process of finding his style and a powerhouse performance by one of cinema#s greatest actresses.

La Ricotta (1963) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [...]

Ro.Go.Pa.G. Pier Paolo Pasolini (segment La Ricotta) (1963) [IMDB]

La ricotta (1963), a 35-minute film by Pasolini about a director who sets out to make a film about the Passion of Jesus
(episode in ROGOPAG)
(Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1962)

Pasolini's acid satire on pseudo-religion, banned by the Italian government. As we participate in the production of a typical Italian religious "epic", the cast, during a break, watches a strip by the actress who plays Mary Magdalene while a crucified Christ lies in the foreground. Stripper and Christ are themselves placed into a cross-like composition, forcing our glance to waver between one and the other. --Film As a Subversive Art (1974) - Amos Vogel

Teorema/Theorem (1968) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [...]

    Teorema/Theorem (1968) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]

    Teorema/Theorem (1968) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]
    Pasolini's "Teorema" is one of the best films I have seen. 1960s icon Terence Stamp plays either God or the Devil; we never know which. He drops into the lives of a very bourgeois family and proceeds to seduce each family member: maid, son, mother, father, and daughter. His divine or diabolical interaction with them causes each to re-evaluate his/her belief system. Just as suddenly as he appears, he leaves. The family members are bereft and embark on their very separate journeys to self-discovery or self-destruction.

    Stamp is wonderfully enigmatic while Silvana Mangano has ennui and lack of sexual fulfillment down pat. Watching their scenes together are mesmerizing as is a portentous tableau where the guest quotes Rimbaud as the daughter and convalescing father look on in confusion and fear. Ennio Morricone's music amplifies already charged scenes.

    An excellent film with incredible atmosphere (the sepia-tinted scenes at the beginning are strangely haunting), little dialogue, and very religious overtones (despite the controversy with the Catholic Church upon its initial release). --jude8, amazon.com

Porcile/Pigsty (1969) - Pasolini [...]

    Porcile/Pigsty (1969) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon US]
    Of course, Porcile is infamous for its portrayal of cannibalism. But in fact this is presented (forgive the pun) in good taste. Pasolini goes to lengths to show, in the Wasteland section, that cannibalism is solely a matter of survival. But even as he downplays the titillation, Pasolini finds new dimensions to this theme. Take the scene of Clémenti's duel with a straggling (or is it deserting?) soldier. After scrambling over the desolate hills, they finally lock swords. When the soldier at last realizes that he has lost, he bows down, accepting his fate like prey awaiting the predator's coup de grace. But the ...filmmaker also infuses the scene, between these two attractive men, with a tender homoeroticism. Which is cut short when Clémenti whacks off the soldier's head and then, well, you know what's for lunch.--jimwriter, amazon.com

    A bizarre but absorbing two-part parable which contrasts the saga of a medieval soldier-cannibal with that of the son of an industrial tycoon in post WWII Germany.

    Julian (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is the son of German industrialist Klotz (Alberto Lionello) who seeks to go into business with the former Nazi Herdhitze (Ugo Tognazzi). Herdhitze had spent most of World War II collecting human skulls for experiments with brain matter. As a protest, Julian refuses to marry his fiancé from a pre-arranged marriage, and he becomes romantically involved with pigs. Part two finds a man driven to cannibalism by hunger while wandering Mount Etna. He scavenges the mountainside looking for any kind of sustenance. In both cases, humans revert to animal behavior when they are removed from the spectrum of social rules and opinions. - ForeignFilms.com

The Decameron (1970) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [...]

The first (and best known) of the director's "erotic trilogy", based on the stories of Boccaccio. Many hilarious and memorable segments. The film has the feeling of a painting come alive, full of color, comedy, seriousness, horror, and lots of sex.

The Decameron was the first of director Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life." The film, based on the sexually supercharged tales of Boccaccio, is a patchwork of many of Pasolini's favorite themes, with a surprising endorsement of heterosexuality-- specifically female heterosexuality--included in the proceedings. Pasolini himself plays the role of an aspiring fresco painter who is advised that his completed work will never be as satisfying as his dream of that work. Not one to make his films accessible to a general audience, Pasolini nonetheless enjoyed a positive public response to The Decameron (a response due more to the film's raw eroticism than the public's grasp of Pasolini's messages). - ForeignFilms.com

  • The Decameron (1970) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]
    A collection of bawdy tales from Boccaccio, adapted and directed by the taboo-busting Pier Paolo Pasolini--sounds irresistible, doesn't it? Pasolini approaches the material not like a literary classic to be reverently served, but rather as if the various anecdotes were episodes from scruffy, everyday life in medieval Italy, caught on the fly, like neighborhood gossip recounted in a taverna. The film is black-sheep kin to the director's amateur-theatrical take on Scripture, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964); both films abound in earthy settings framing vivid faces that might have gazed out of a Renaissance painting. Yet where Gospel was searing, The Decameron is perfunctory. Most of the stories dribble away absentmindedly before they've even begun to establish a situation, let alone any tension. Pasolini himself reappears periodically as an artist--Giotto--planning an epic cathedral painting. At the end, he's still thinking about it and wondering, "Maybe it's enough to dream a masterpiece rather than paint it." Which seems a handy copout for not really making the film we've been trying to watch. --Richard T. Jameson,Amazon.com

    The Canterbury Tales (1972) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [...]

    The Canterbury Tales (1972) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]

      The Canterbury Tales (1972) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]

      Pier Paolo Pasolini's (Decameron) startling candor and ribald humor illuminate these classic tales of romance, deception, murder and lust. A host of passionate lovers unite for a glorious, sometimes unexpected journey through Chaucer's medieval England.

      The second film in his "erotic trilogy", it has some very funny sequences and performances (especially by Hugh Griffith as a whining man with a cheating wife). Based on the classic Chaucer stories.

      Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's sexually explicit retelling of The Canterbury Tales take Chaucer's famous stories into the realm of wild expressionism and beyond. Filmed on location in England, the film brings the bawdy world of Chaucer vividly to life, complete with a rendering of hell that would have made Hieronymus Bosch proud. -- Videoflicks.com

    Il Fiore delle mille e una notte/Arabian Nights (1974) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [...]

      Il Fiore delle mille e una notte/Arabian Nights (1974) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]

      Legendary director Pier Paolo Pasolini (Canterbury Tales) combines the heroics and hedonism of the classic Arabian tales with his dreamlike vision of bawdy pleasures and sublime sensuality to create "Arabian Nights," the masterwork of his Trilogy of Life.

      The third of the director's "erotic trilogy" Hallucinatory and trancelike, a mysterious and exotic magic carpet ride of a film, with a haunting musical score.

      Legendary director Pier Paolo Pasolini combines the heroics and hedonism of the classic Arabian tales with his dreamlike vision of bawdy pleasures and sublime sensuality to create Arabian Nights, the masterwork of "Trilogy of Life." In his carnal comic tale, Pasolini follows the adventures of slave girl Pelligrini as she rises to power over a great city. Around her revolve the stories - episodes of magic and lust, mystery and fantasy that derive from the ninth century to the Renaissance. Pasolini's Arabian Nights is his most stunning accomplishment. He weaves exotic spectacle, eroticism, desire and delight into a daring and debauched festival of the bizarre. - ForeignFilms.com

    Salo - (1976) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [...]

    Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma/Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom - (1976) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]

    Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom) is a 1976 film by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade.

    Salò (as the film is commonly abbreviated) is set in the Republic of Salò, the Fascist rump state which was set up in the German occupied portion of Italy in 1944. The film is divided into four segments that loosely parallel Dante's Inferno: Anteinferno, Circle of Manias, Circle of Shit and Circle of Blood.

    Four men of power, referred to as the President, the Duke, the Bishop, and the Magistrate, agree to marry each other's daughters as the first step in a debauched ritual. With the aid of several young male collaborators, they kidnap sixteen young men and women (eight male, eight female), and take them to a palace near Marzabotto. With them are four middle-aged women, also collaborators, whose function will be to recount various arousing stories for the men of power, and who will in turn exploit their victims sexually and sadistically.

    The film depicts the three days spent at the palace, during which time the four men of power devise increasingly abhorrent tortures and humiliations for their own pleasure. In one of the film's most infamous scenes, a young woman is forced to eat the feces of the President; later, the rest of the victims are presented with a giant meal of human feces. (The "feces" was created with chocolate sauce and orange marmalade, which ironically enough made it quite palatable to the actors.) At the end of the three days, the victims that have not chosen to collaborate with their tormentors are murdered in various gruesome ways: scalping, branding, having tongues and eyes cut out.

    Pasolini spent part of his childhood in the Republic of Salò. During this time he witnessed a great many cruelties on the part of the Italian army, also witnessing the death of his brother. Many of his memories of the experience informed the creation of Salò. He also claimed that the film was highly symbolic and metaphorical; for instance, that the feces-eating scenes were an indictment of mass-produced foods, which he labeled "useless refuse."

    Controversy over the film exists to this day, with many praising the film for its fearlessness and willingness to contemplate the unthinkable, while others condemn it roundly for being little more than a pretentious exploitation movie.

    The film has been banned in several countries due to its graphic portrayals of rape, torture and murder -- mainly that of people suspected to be younger than 18 years of age. Many questions about the film's legality have been raised -- namely, whether or not the actors and actresses that participate in the (admittedly simulated) sexual or violent acts in the film were of the age of consent. See also banned films.

    Several versions of the film have been said to exist. The film originally ran approximately 145 minutes, but Pasolini himself removed 25 minutes to help the pacing. The longest available version is the DVD from the BFI, which features a short scene usually missing from other prints -- during the first wedding ceremony, one of the masters quotes a poem by Gottfried Benn.

    For a time the film was unavailable in many countries, although it is now available uncut on DVD in the United Kingdom, France and Italy. It has run into intermittent legal trouble in the United States. Criterion Collection laserdisc and DVD editions were released for North America; the DVD is now out of print due to conflicts with Pasolini's estate over the licensing to the film. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sal%F2_o_le_120_giornate_di_Sodoma [Nov 2004]

  • Salo - (1976) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]
    A loose adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò is perhaps the most disturbing and disgusting film ever made. It is also one of the most important, offering a blistering critique of fascism and idealism that suggests moral redemption may be nothing but a myth. Criterion presents Salò in its uncut, uncensored version. -- amazon.com

    Who killed Pasolini? (1995)

      Italian docudrama speculating on the murder of the controversial homosexual Italian director A provocative feature film which explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of film director Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975. Pasolini's life was one of almost constant controversy. His contentious views on religion, politics and culture aroused the full spectrum of emotions in Italian society. His gritty, visceral work was simultaneously hailed as brilliant and condemned for its generous use of sex, violence and anti-establishment "blasphemy." Everything about him aroused scandal--even his death. The 17-year-old youth who bludgeoned him to death, then ran him over with the director's own Alfa Romeo, claimed Pasolini had made homosexual advances toward him. But whether this was the true motive was never satisfactorily answered. Pasolini's vociferous opposition to the ruling class may well have played a part--but so could countless other sensational declarations he made, against industry, the banks, the Mafia, the media... every branch of Italian society. -- Hollywood.com

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