Pasolini Review (2014 Venice Film Festival)

Posted 3 years ago by myetvmedia

Two Americans making a film about one of the most celebrated and vilified Italian artists of the 20th century, mostly in English, may strike you as strange. Yet this unique collaboration, primarily Director Abel Ferrara and actor Willem Dafoe playing the controversial Italian writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, is a strangely beautiful film.

Once again, in ‘Pasolini’ Ferrara (King of New York 1990, Bad Lieutenant 1992, The Funeral 1996) uses the frame in a painterly fashion, setting his subjects variously in a richly detailed realism of Pasolini’s last days; from the domestic to the impoverished streets of Rome where he cruised, to the filth strewn beach at Ostia where Pasolini was viciously murdered with pieces of nail studded wood. The emotional pitch is heightened significantly by Ferrara’s lingering trademark shots.

Contrasting these last days are interspersed narratives of ‘magic realism’ from Pasolini’s next project, had he lived, where Ninetto Davoli plays Epiphanio looking for the ‘messiah’, guided as it were by a comet or the biblical northern star if you like; but not before passing through Pasolini’s imaginary hell or utopia (depending on where you stand) of sexual politics, where gay men and women partake in an annual bacchanalian festival to procreate, lesbians yelling “fuck you, pricks” and the gay men correspondingly, “fuck you, cunts”. This journey mirrors Pasolini’s own where Ferrara and writers Maurizio Braucci and Nicola Tranquillino confirm that Pasolini, far from negating life by his acute criticism of the conventions around him, was a life affirming artist who laid bare the contradictions with which we live everyday. Living on the edge of that world, Pasolini saw the beauty of those closest to him amidst rampant consumerism, socio-psychological and physical violence that surprisingly and ultimately cost him his life.

The choice to make the film in both Italian and English is on its face at least going to make Dafoe’s uncanny depiction of Pasolini more accessible to a wider audience. It is however much more defendable and truthful as an artistic choice by Ferrara, a New Yorker, taking Pasolini somewhat out of his local context and positioning him as a universal poet/artist.


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Pasolini Review (2014 Venice Film Festival)

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