A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Future Life, Part 1 All 35mm at the Metrograph beginning January 4
Beginning Friday, January 4, Metrograph will present "Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Future Life, Part 1," all in 35mm. Filmmaker, poet, composer, public intellectual, and provocateur, Pier Paolo Pasolini was a cyclone of vitality, rebellion and, very often, contradictions: A Catholic and Communist, an urban homosexual defender of traditional agrarian culture, a modernist with an eye to ancient myths. Pasolini created a body of work distinguished by an unerring eye for composition and tone and a stylistic fluidity that allowed him to work with equal potency in a variety of approaches, from Neorealist-inflected verité to savagely surrealist.
Spread across three calendars, Metrograph’s retrospective of Pasolini’s works will begin at the only logical place to start exploring the career of the brilliant filmmaker—at the end. Pasolini thought constantly of his own demise and of the earth’s imperilment, especially as, entering middle-age, he became increasingly influenced by Antonin Artaud and the Marquis de Sade. Setting out to make his film of de Sade’s Salo, Pasolini explained that it was a film that would make him “A new director. Ready for the modern.” Three weeks before its premiere, however, Pasolini was dead, murdered on the beach at Ostia, a shadowy event believed by many to be politically motivated. Decades later, Pasolini looms larger than ever in in our cultural consciousness as one of the most radical, uncompromising artists who ever lived. “Death,” he once said, “is not being unable to communicate; but no longer being able to be understood.” He is speaking to us still.
The Witches (Pasolini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio de Sica, Franco Rossi, and Mauro Bolognini/1967/105 mins/35mm) To this Dino De Laurentiis-produced comedy anthology film, featuring episodes by Luchino Visconti, Franco Rossi, Mauro Bolognini, and Vittorio De Sica, Pasolini’s reunited with his The Hawks and the Sparrows star Totò and his beloved Ninetto Davoli, playing father and son, the patriarch hatching a harebrained scheme to net them a new house that goes horribly awry. The sections are linked by a preoccupation with witchcraft and the presence in each episode of Silvana Mangano—and you won’t want to miss Clint Eastwood as a cowboy movie fanatic trying to spice up his married life.
The Decameron (1971/111 mins/35mm) Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” films, adapted from canonical, world-historical collections of stories, represented his break from his experimental works of the late 1960s like Porcile and Teorema, movies which he came to judge as existing too much in the realm of pure alienation and detachment. Determined to create a new popular cinema, he produced this bawdy, blissy, sunkissed adaptation of Boccaccio’s fourteenth-century classic, its various chapters linked together by a framing device featuring Pasolini himself as a Giotto-like painter. One of Pasolini’s lightest and most lovable films.
The Canterbury Tales (1972/111 mins/35mm) Another great fourteenth century collection, Geoffrey Chaucer’s marvelous collection of verse, became the basis for Pasolini’s second "Trilogy of Life" film, a scatological, often grotesque wallow in the muck of medieval England which strikes a notably darker tone than its predecessor as it makes its way through a succession of episodic rounds that seem largely to revolve around sex, a growing pessimism evident in its lashings of casual cruelty and violence and the Bosch-like vision of Hell in its “Summoner’s Tale” section.
Arabian Nights (1974/130 mins/35mm) The jocular, loose, slapstick-heavy final film in the "Trilogy of Life," adapted from the anthology of Middle Eastern tales of the same name, removes the figure of the storyteller Scheherazade, instead connecting the various vignettes by way of a poor boy searching for his love, an escaped slave girl. Shooting far from Europe, in a panoply of locations including Iran, Yemen, Nepal, and Ethiopia, Pasolini experienced an explosion of pleasure that vibrates through this most amiable and sensual of films, cast with a combination of Pasolini regulars and amateurs encountered on location.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom(1975/116 mins/35mm) The final film from Pier Paolo Pasolini remains one of the most shocking movies ever made. Set during a waning fascist Italy’s dark days during World War II, Salò updates the writings of Marquis de Sade to create a repugnant tale of four wealthy libertines who kidnap a group of teenage boys and girls and enact horrific humiliations and violence upon them. A formally and conceptually brilliant, if relentlessly nauseating, portrayal of man’s most debased instincts and the capitalist systems that allow them to thrive. Per Pasolini, “The most sincere thing I could do at that moment was to make a film about a mode of sexuality whose joyousness is a compensation for repression—a phenomenon that was about to come to an end, forever.”