The Films of Pasolini

Pasolini made the circuitous route into making films. Born a rebel, Pasolini constantly pushed the boundaries of society, testing axioms, he was first and foremost an intellectual. He studied literature and art history at the University of Bologna, moving to Casarsa after the war where he got work as a schoolteacher. However, he was accused of homosexual activity with students and was immediately dismissed. Terribly disillusioned, he moved to Rome settling in the shanty-like borgates on the margins of the city. He became fascinated with activities in the seedy underbelly of the city, writing his first novel Ragazzi di vitabased on these experiences. His graphic depiction of the Roman underworld led to a number of offers by established Italian directors such as Fellini of scriptwriting.

His first film Accattone (1961) also focussed on the Roman underworld, however Pasolini did not denounce their behaviour, on the contrary he celebrated their radical otherness. The film included many techniques and themes that would become stock Pasolinian, including – classic neorealist style shooting, frontal visual style, mixing the sacred with the profane and the eventual attempted banning and outright outrage of the Italian authorities. He gained international recognition with his film of the Gospel, Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (1964) after it divided Italy straight down the middle because of it’s controversial depiction of Christ. From this point onwards, the focus of Pasolini’s films begin to change, his faith in the possibility of a Marxist style revolution had begun to falter, in addition, the borgate was rapidly being transformed by consumerism and mass culture, with the result that Pasolini turned backwards to a mythic time and place when ritual and a sense of the sacred still prevailed.

Also, to oppose the contagious, all spreading mass consumerist culture; Pasolini began to consciously produce work that would only be accessible to a cultural elite. He followed this ‘difficult’ period with the three literary adaptations – Il Decameron (1971), I racconti di Canterbury (1972) and Il fiore del mille e una notte (1974) which were his least political, most consumable and garnered the greatest commercial success. The films celebrated the human body and it’s sexual energy, which Pasolini claimed was the only commodity not dominated by consumer capitalism. However, the trilogy’s runaway success and the hundreds of soft-porn imitations that followed disgusted Pasolini and he ended up publicly rejecting the trilogy.

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source:

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