We continue our four part series on Pier Paolo Pasolini, from the book written by Cult Critic Film Historian and published documentarian, Miguel Angel Barroso.
PIER PAOLO PASOLINI: THE BRUTALITY OF COHERENCE (PT. 2)
By Miguel Angel Barroso
Poster (above) from “La Rabbia”
The Rabbia (1963), is a mosaic of images file to which Pier Paolo Pasolini shaped nostalgic documentary and deeply touched by the pain of history, in which, from time to time retained escape violence. Filmmaker accepted this custom work while production Il secondo Matteo prepares Vangelo without sospechar that the producer of the film added to fifty minutes , a second part directed by the popular writer Giovanni Guareschi, whose ideology is clearly right.
The dust of the controversy was soon to rise – the public ignored the film completely – and Pasolini received criticism from his friends for letting himself “roll” so naively. The idea of the documentary was to review the last ten years of human history. It seemed to the producer to have two different opinions on the same events.
The Rabbia is a strange, unrepeatable documentary; A documentary that seems to be built with the viscera and the one that puts all the meat in the rotisserie. Today, this film is more understandable than at the time of its release. The political burden with which everything was observed in the Italy of the sixties can now be analyzed, well into the 21st century with more perspective, without as much “intentionality” as the one wanted to see at the time of its realization.
The current Rabbia is a film that provides both visual interest and sound; We discover in it the soul of the poet committed to live desperately in a body that needs the permanent risk to support the idea of existing and living with death, which would certainly give meaning to all its existence.
Comizi d’Amore (1964), is a new documentary that arises due to the financial problems that had Alfredo Bini producer with the film of the life of Jesus. Il secondo Matteo Vangelo, in which Pasolini was determined obsessively. To reduce costs in the location of outdoor locations throughout Italy, Pasolini and his producer, decide to take advantage of the material and film (while locating possible landscapes for the film of Christ) a survey on sex throughout Italy.
Only one camera and one operator were needed. There are no decorations to build, only the landscape of Italy, made up of a multitude of men, women, children and adolescents who will comment on the most taboo subject in the world: sexuality. But the documentary was not a routine fact forced by the economic situation, but it took on a life of its own and found a new and unknown artistic dimension in the cinematographic work of Pasolini. The filmmaker, microphone in hand, launches to the towns and cities of a large part of Italy, asking without questions and directly the issues that are normally avoided in daily life.
The result is a film survey attached to the genre called cinema-verite, unprecedented in Italy. This may be the reason that it failed at the box office, or it may also be that some Pasolini’s modesty on a subject as delicate as homosexuality, did not make the documentary more transgressive, but the documentary is much more than a documentary, is Of the Masterpieces of Pasolini, who finds the right balance between document and fiction of reality. The last sequence, as an epilogue, is a wedding between two young people: Tonino and Graziella, to whom the director films with all his tenderness, giving us a sequence that in itself could be a film with its own autonomy. He recreates himself in the preparations for the wedding; The boy’s face, excited; The face of the young wife, thinking of a future full of harmony between both. At the exit of the church, when the church rite has been accomplished, the couple kissing and Pasolini dedicates a beautiful and full of mysterious purity phrase: our best wishes for Tonino and Graziella is: that your love consciousness add of our love.
Vangelo Il Secondo Matteo (1964)
The origin of Vangelo Il Secondo Matteo (1964), is on a visit Pasolini made to Lucio Caruso, Pro Civitate Christiana of Assisi. During the night, in the room, he found the Gospels at the head of his bed and read them with a jerk. His first contact with the sacred scriptures occurred twenty years ago, when he was still a child. That inspired him reading a book of poetry entitled L’usignolo della Chiesa Cattolica. That evening, at Pro Civitate Christiana, chance, or rather the “intentionality” of his friend Caruso, inspired him one of his most ambitious film projects to date. Pasolini writes the script in a relatively short time; Perhaps driven by that creative force that produced the rapturous reading of the Gospel.
The producer Alfredo Bini, sends it to Lucio Caruso, who is very satisfied with the work done by the director; He is surprised by the fidelity to the sacred text and the lack of errors regarding the interpretation of the Gospel. After careful analysis by the people of Pro Civitate Christiana of Assisi, the project has the support of the church; although there is a point that makes them doubt and faith concerning Pasolini: Are you able to get to the bottom of the story? Will he be able to get involved in the Passion of Christ and get a film of life that faithfully conveys the Christian message?
Pasolini said, “…the idea of making a film about the gospel is, I must confess, the result of a furious wave irrational. I want to do a pure work of poetry, perhaps incurring the danger of aestheticism (Bach, and partly Mozart as a musical motif, Piero della Francesca and partly Duccio for inspiration of figurative values, the prehistoric and exotic reality of Arab world, as background and environment.) All this endangers my writing career; I know. But it would be good if, loving the Christ of Matteo so dearly, he would be afraid to put something in danger…”
The adventure begins on the twenty-seventh of June, when Pasolini moves to Israel and Jordan in search of locations. The director travels accompanied by Andrea Carraro and Lucio Caruso, Pro Civitate Christiana, the camera Aldo Panelli and a representative of the producer of Alfredo Bini, Arco Film.
Pasolini thus fulfilled the dream of personally treading the same places that Jesus stepped on and filmed in the original stages; But soon the disillusionment came, since the landscape had changed so much since the time of Christ (two thousand years or so) that, unanimously, everyone agreed that it was impossible to consider the film there.
However, the trip was not in vain, as, incidentally, ended up being born an improvised documentary, whose title was: Sopralluoghi in Palestina 1964, which translated literally would be something about the places or landscapes of Palestine; a return to natural sites, but two thousand years later. The documentary was filmed thanks to the improvised operator that Alfredo Bini imposed on Pasolini; Surely, the astute producer knew that he would not resist shaping the filmed footage.
Sopralluoghi in Palestina is a daily shot of the location of exterior and becomes a road movie that reaches a dimension of living document on the evolution of Christianity, thanks to smart comments off Pasolini, whose voice, sensual and tender amazingly, Endowed the images (sometimes very clumsy and sloppy), of a mysterious and almost supernatural halo. Most interesting, in addition to the author’s intimate thoughts, are the conversations he maintains with the expert theologian Andrea Carrara.
Returning to Vangelo Il secondo Matteo, we say that the cast is composed, again, of nonprofessional actors, among whom were several fellow writers, artists and intellectuals. The most important role: the Christ, Pasolini reserved it to a student of economic sciences of Barcelona called Enrique Irazoqui. The meeting between them was casual, since Irazoqui was presented to Pasolini by a mutual friend. Pasolini, just seeing that young man, knew he had his Christ. It could not have been otherwise, and despite the initial refusal of Irazoqui, a leftist and revolutionary, he was persuaded by Pasolini’s charm, and interpreted his life; Irazoqui shot one more film and left the cinema forever.
Pasolini sails for many months in a certain confusion about what will be his next film. Il secondo Matteo Vangelo had opened many roads in the direction of his films. In short, he was only a director with three films and a documentary, whose path was still to be traveled. It happens publish Vie novene, three draft script for readers to help him decide.
Uccellacci and Uccellini 1966, born from one of those three drafts and marks the end of a stage in Pasolini’s work, which until then had been characterized by a search for the popular without falling into the populist. His cinema had tried to approach the entrails of life through poetry, trying to understand the human being in its virtues and defects.
Uccellacci and Uccellini is the final stage, because it underlies all the disenchantment of the director. Society has not understood it, much less the social class to which their stories were directed; That peasant society, prehistoric, kind and cruel at the same time, but endowed with purity, was more in the industrialized society of its time. What was the point of continuing to try? The film is a modest production, that the director rolls almost free, and that without a doubt finalizes a way of seeing the things on the part of the cinematographic poet. It’s a stage finish, yes, but a brilliant finish, built with neat craftsmanship and delivered to his work with genuine discipline. it is true that Uccellacci and Uccellini not resemble any previous film, nor to any of the following; But this does not mean that Pasolini built an isolated job; On the contrary, what he models with infinite patience is a bridge from the old to the new, throwing all-or almost everything-from his most primitive convictions. It is not that Pasolini has stopped believing in the utopia or the possibility of rapprochement between human beings, what happens is that he was intellectually disenchanted with a way of thinking idle by unnecessary, because his images, finally, did not reach the Recipient who were the people of the street. Could we talk about literary or filmmaking ingenuity? I would rather regard it as excess of creative purity: to feel with the heart beyond how humanity progresses in its industrial savagery or its cultural barbarism.
Analyzed with magnifying glass and unemotional, Uccellacci and Uccellini is a cruel film; Very cruel to his fellow men and to himself. Everyone was surprised by the new aesthetic in which Pasolini incorporated a strange sense of humor – black humors – and a delicate cynicism tinted with high doses of irony – a wild irony many times – that serve as a dressing for a film that is divided into Three very clear parts: first, the representation of the characters, which form a strange triangle in which all the evils that lurk the world are given: ideology, innocence, cynicism, cruelty and love. Why not? A second part tells the fable of the friars who fulfill the mission of St. Francis of Assisi, whose aim is to convert the falcons, who symbolize ferocious but condescending capitalism, and the sparrows, representatives of the working mass that moves the Machinery of the world economy, which, neither are they exempt of fault in spite of being exploited by the employers; And third, a decisive part in which he throws himself against the figure of the intellectual, the sharp observer, though blind in his creative and ideological bubble-the raven-who, by virtue of being repeated both with the “truths” of the lifetime; What is right and what is wrong, ends up being devoured by everything that should support you.
The staging is admirable, as Pasolini has found a perfect balance between long shots, the use of traveling framing the frontally actors, and the systematic cut in the narrative to articulate, with many planes either “stuck”, the Fluidity of history. This obviously goes against the Neorealism, although it has incorporated in the cast (as he did with Anna Magnani Mamma Roma), one of the most popular and charismatic icons throughout Italy: Totó. Of course, it is a final farewell to Neorealism and any shadow of cinema inscribed in movements of the past.
Uccellacci and Uccellini brings two important developments regarding the direction of actors; On one side is the choice for the leading role of the comedian Toto, whom Pasolini came to worship, and to consider as the father he would have liked. On the other hand, Pasolini incorporates Ninetto Davoli, Pasoliniano person par excellence of whom the director falls in love, although of platonic way. Pasolini loves what purity is in Ninetto, his innocence, his absolute honesty. Ninetto Davoli returns many illusions to pier Paolo and insufla in its cinema a new charm, a way of seeing the love less tormented, less painful, more sexual if it fits.
Pier Paolo Pasolini had already abandoned the idea of devoting himself to literature, because his language had become small, and he needed filmed language to get closer to what he called “language of the living language of reality.” Unfortunately, this feeling does not prevent the filmmaker from continuing his nocturnal outings for the most dangerous Rome. The encounter with danger is for the poet an ineluctable necessity to calm that desperate vitality that flows through his veins and that will accompany him, tragically, until the end of his days. There were many occasions when his closest friends had to come to rescue him from danger, especially on several of his trips to Africa, where he appeared to be bloody and with his face decomposed.
The Toto actor, as we said, is a happy choice of Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose cunning in choosing the cast of his films was undeniable. Once again we have a professional who has undergone a unique and enriching experience, after overcoming the first obstacles, due to the personal management of Pasolini’s actors. Neither Anna Magnani nor Totó ever remembered their work with the filmmaker, and they both agreed that they had been their most magical and rich roles, both professionally and personally. Totó worked with courage and submitted to all indications of a director disenchanted, but full of imagination. Pasolini needed the familiar figure of Toto (with whom the Italians identified themselves) to weave this new message of the lack of illusions through the average man who is back of everything. The actor also added to his natural talent Neapolitan accent that so many successes had sought him in his theater career. Pasolini directed Totó with an iron hand and limited the maximum its grimaces and gestures; thus, he obtained the right tone, the right balance between the Totó jester and Totó human being in the service of a story tinged with absolute disappointment from satire. Totó reporters will experience with Pasolini, and tell them how pleased you are with the work done. Thus, the actor had reinvented giving a twist to his career hundred and eighty degrees.
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Uccellacci and Uccellini is the disenchanted vision of a convinced Marxist who looks back to reflect on the reasons for this disenchantment that prevents things no longer have a revolutionary utopias sense and do not serve as models to achieve future success. Pasolini hope for that utopia was focused on the simple people, factory workers, socially marginalized by a monstrous power that devours its children unceremoniously as breach of adequate production expectations.
END PART 2. STAY TUNED FOR PART 3 OF PIER PAOLO PASOLINI: THE BRUTALITY OF COHERENCE
Miguel Ángel Barroso is a dedicated and published Film Historian. His credits include organizing numerous international film festivals and authoring several books including “The Hundred Best Films of Italian Cinema History” (2008) and “The Hundred Best Films of the 20th Century” (2009). Miguel organized the videoconference, “The Unforgettable Anna Magnani”, in tribute to the actress Anna Magnani on the centenary of his birth, held at the Italian Cultural Instituto Madrid.