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Pier Paolo Pasolini Pt. 1


By Miguel Ángel Barroso

Although Pasolini is one of the most influential cultural figures (even popularly) in recent years, he is still planning an aura of mystery, morbid and destructive, which seems to discredit him unjustly. His atrocious murder, never solved, contributes to a great extent, although so does the judicial persecution to which he was subjected throughout his life. Pasolini, because of a fatality that he himself could not escape, saw his life become hundreds of processes (some so childish that they were obscene in their painful scorn towards the poet), because of his films and his work Writing.

His ability to work is impressive; as director of films between 1962 and 1975, eleven feature films, as well as documentaries and short films. And we must not forget his literary, journalistic, pictorial and poetic activity, which was continually concomitant with the work of filmmaking.

Thus, compiling Pasolini in a book is not an easy or comfortable task, although grateful. On one side is the density and complexity of his work, and on the other his hungry biography, difficult to address without having personally met him.

The life and work of Pier Paolo Pasolini can not be understood without each other, since both continually reveal the keys to trying to understand his idea of cinema and art. Pasolini drags throughout his life the trauma of homosexuality, which conditions his creative impulses and way of life. This “difference” will define, little by little, as the artist of provocation, something not intended and therefore, absolutely natural. Pasolini is the intellectual capable of taking the opposite to his own ideology if it is necessary and suffer the consequences to face uncovered.

Pasolini is a visceral artist and it is precisely his bows that dictate his work, born of the deepest culture, of the most naked sensibility, often devoid of pity and always plagued with tenderness; A tenderness that amounts to a romanticism that goes back to his earliest childhood, to his solitary adolescent pain and narcissus, to his grown adult maturity between anguish and the conviction of his nature: that of being “different” and loving the Life with despair, with such despair, that life would end him.

The cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini is impregnated with a didacticism that comes from the heart rather than reason. It is a cinema full of goodness towards the human being, but not enough to show it. A cinema that at one point was directed to an education more popular than elitist. Pasolini sought an archaic and enchanting world, where simplicity prevailed, not hermeticism; Later the disenchantment would arrive and the symbol would be installed, the metaphor, the full ideology that did not look for the intellectuals, but the opposite thing. The filmmaker-poet had become an intellectual who had stopped communicating with the intellectuals.

Pasolini is forty-one years old when he accedes to the cinematographic direction, he is no longer an inexperienced youngster, although he does not know everything about the filming. He has extensive experience as a screenwriter and has attended several shootings, but knows nothing of technique; His strength lies in self-confidence, in that he has something to tell, and that he needs a film camera instead of a typewriter.

Cult Critic Deep Focus: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Accattone (above), 1961, is one of those unusual first works that endure over time without losing quality. A singular work for two reasons; First by its theme: barriobajeros condemned to an existence marked by the code of honor, who know nothing of the Christian values on which the bourgeoisie bases its behavior; And secondly by its formal conception: Pasolini discovers, as he rolls, the movements of the camera, the different objectives that can be used, the technique of assembly, etc .; A whole world that opens up to him, dazzling him and far surpassing the expectations that this new medium of artistic expression had deposited.

A bearded youth was his assistant director, who was destined to become one of the referents of modern cinema; It was Bernardo Bertolucci, whom Pasolini knew for being the son of his friend, the poet Attilio Bertolucci. Years later, Bertolucci declare admired that work with Pasolini was something exceptional, something like traveling to attend the first in the history of cinema.

Accattone is the result of the frontal clash between two cultures: the peasant, so longed for by Pasolini, and the marginal of the big cities, dear, but at the same time repudiated, since the young impulsive who was Pier Paolo, becomes aware of poverty Intellectual in which these disinherited of the earth live immersed. However, from this life of poverty and marginality, his film family is born: Franco Citti, Sergio Citti (the older brother), Silvio Citti (the younger brother), and Santino Citti (the father). Ninetto Davoli, Pietro Davoli (brother), Giandomenico Davoli (the father), and the mother of Ninetto, which intervenes in Il Decameron. Pier Paolo Pasolini himself, Susanna Colussi (his mother), Graziella Chiarcossi (his cousin) and Gino Colussi (his uncle). They all loved him and accepted him as he was, with his doubts, his contradictions and his hunger to live with intensity a life different from others and at times dangerous.

The person who tempts directly to Pier Paolo with the idea of becoming a film director, Federico Fellini is, for whom he had written the dialogues in dialect of his film Le Notti di Cabiria, 1956. It is strange, because both directors share a few things, Artistically speaking; But Fellini, who has founded his own production company to finance raw operas for future directors, decides to finance his project and gives him carte blanche to shoot two complete sequences as if it were the real filming. The inexperienced director works with enthusiasm in his film, but everything falls apart when Fellini categorically rejects all the material shot by Pasolini. The reasons given by Federico Fellini were: “This is not cinema”, showing total contempt and incomprehension for the creative and artistic needs of another artist.

However, along the way a producer named Alfredo Bini, who, after seeing the photographs taken by Bernardo Bertolucci, decided to trust Pasolini and give carte blanche to organize the film to his liking. In this way, the humiliation suffered by Fellini leads to the attainment of a dream come true.

Accattone style is direct and uncompromising embedded in the viscera of the problem. The characters express themselves, without providing solutions or giving in to the world of well-being that radically rejects them. Pasolini clearly departs from Neorealism, since his cinema is composed of fragmented sequences in as many pieces as possible, clearly avoiding the long shots so beloved by Neorealist cinema. Pasolini fled from that daily life that provided the long sequence planes, and also breaks the dramatic unity of the actor, using the assembly as a weapon.

Accattone was presented at the Venice Film Festival, where it received heavy attacks by fascist groups, who could not tolerate that Pasolini had gone to the movies. Pasolini’s second feature, which many watched as a second part of Accatone, could not be more different. The landscape does not change; The human types are the same, the lack of horizons is intact, but things are seen from another point of view. While Accattone offered a dead end, Mamma Roma, 1962 is the story of an overcoming of a noble desire to leave the mud and lead a decent life, even at the cost of losing personal identity and although it has to be delivered to the devil To achieve well-being.
Pasolini lived in his own flesh the anguish of misery during the early Roman years, and even fluttered through his head the idea of suicide as liberation from all its evils.

Few times in the history of cinema, a director has tackled social issues of social marginalization with as much honesty and courage as this tormented artist. It is one thing to film postcards in apparent “living flesh” of marginality in peripheral neighborhoods, and quite another to be an active part of that open flesh, which is always annoying to an accommodating public and a certain sector of criticism, whose only Motor of life is to communicate as intimately as possible with the powers that be.

Cult Critic Deep Focus: Pier Paolo Pasolini

The last part of Mamma Roma (above), contains the most intense moments of Pasolini’s cinema, which converge Pour the distilled poetry through film elements and veracity of the faces chosen by the filmmaker. Cinema of fragmentation that gradually destroys the naturalism of a false neorealism, and solidly cements the formation of a powerful language of author; An engine that sometimes roars with power and most of the time purrs with very clear, very serious ideas; Almost always with the necessary ideas to demonstrate the why of the work of art.

Apparently, the end of Accattone is equal to Mamma Roma: The unfortunate Accattone, meaning beggar, dies; And Ettore, the son of Mamma Roma (which is what everyone in the neighborhood calls the protagonist of the film), also dies. Each in its own way: Accatone finds the liberation of his weight to live (his vital anguish disappears on contact with death), and Ettore is raging against it, because despite himself and his maladjustment to society, he wants to live And wants his mother, who, in turn, wants a different life for him, even if it is a vulgar and mediocre life. The two endings coincide with death, but their purposes are not the same. In Accatone, Pasolini offered us a world without alternatives, without cultural horizons, and Mamma Roma, accessories world seem to be more related; People are more present, more alive. And although Mamma Roma is designed with frontalidad (so dear to Pasolini and inspired by the painting) in the staging lacks the rigidity that we can observe in Accatone. In his later films, Pasolini will wear his stories – profoundly spiritual and almost religious – with the deepest meaning of the word religion: an absolute mysticism as a way of reaching the problem of things and thus exposing them in the flesh.

Mamma Roma is a former prostitute who has always lived in the underworld, but is class conscious. Is in the lower ranks of bourgeois society, but knows how to get out of there and prove it. From now on will lead a new life based on absolute decency; a bourgeois life in even the smallest details.

Regarding the direction of actors, Pasolini does not change his strategy, which is to choose the right faces, the right bodies, the perfect voices that he needs and that leads him to always bend all the actors, and even to exchange their voices with others characters. However, this time, he was convinced by the enthusiasm of the actress Anna Magnani, who wanted at all cost to embody the character of Mrs. Roma and, despite the results are optimal, Pasolini always thought that he had been wrong by hiring , Since according to him, the Magnani did not adapt well to the needs of the film. In a way, she is right if we take into account that the actress entered into a world as particular as the Pasolini, who had just begun to walk and was distinguished by the lack of professional actors, since he himself chose them walking through the Streets or on the terraces of bars. Ettore, the protagonist of the film, was a waiter in real life and Pasolini liked him for his ungainly and quixotic appearance. The director feels comfortable with his inexperienced players, because they obey without question his directions within the plane “. Interpret” are true and need not , however, seen today, Mamma Roma, contains one of the best performances of Anna Magnani, Which is beneficial to the film, precisely because of its real status as bourgeois, social rank to which its character aspires. An unprofessional actress would not have found such high levels in the inner drama of this woman who suffers the degradation and death of a child.

Ricotta, 1963, which means “Cottage cheese” is the second episode of the film Rogopag, a word formed from the first letters of the name of its four directors: Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Pasolini and Ugo Gregoretti PP.

Producer Alfredo Bini organized the project and divided it into episodes that had no connection to each other. Pasolini wrote the screenplay for La Ricotta, immediately following the filming of Mamma Roma, and at that time already had in mind the ambitious project rolling vangelo Il secondo Matteo. The ricotta, which apparently is a test that movie about the life of Christ that fascinated Pasolini, is a very personal vision of cinema, fame, the frivolity of art and, of course, the religion, not reviled, But criticizes subtly through the intelligence, the culture that clearly distinguishes between the purely sacred and the profane. A Marxist atheist such as Pasolini, faced with an open face with a feeling of purity, thanks to simple characters who acted according to their codes of life: hunger and misery in an Italy full of political contradictions that shot to death against him.

Pasolini combines color photography with black and white in Ricotta. The story of Stracci, the unfortunate protagonist, is in black and white, and the sequences of the crucifixion (it is the filming of a film about the gospel) in color. An intentional color, which tries to resemble as much as possible to the creations of the masters of painting: Pontormo or Rosso Fiorentino. This bombastic style (intended by Pasolini) never apply vangelo Il secondo Mateo, shot entirely in black and white and with a full style simplicity, although no linear narrative.

Ricotta had the magnificent performance of Orson Welles, friend and admirer of Pasolini, and assumed to perfection the role of a disenchanted director who filmed a classic version of the story of Christ. The Ricotta was kidnapped by the Italian State as blasphemous and Pasolini was embroiled in endless criminal proceedings that did nothing but continue the record of complaints beginning in 1947, when he was killed, his brother Guido had enlisted as a guerrilla to fight against fascism.

Cult Critic Deep Focus: Pier Paolo Pasolini

NEXT MONTH: More excerpts from the biographical novel by Cult Critic’s, Miguel Ángel Barroso. Stay tuned for Chapter Two in our four part series featuring the exploits of the controversial and influential filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini.


Cult Critic The Film MagazineMiguel 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.


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