“I am a form, the knowledge of which is an illusion.” — Pasolini
From the distance of nearly forty-five years since his murder at the hands of a young Roman hustler, the public life and times of Pier Paolo Pasolini subsist like an Italian noir. The country’s “Years of Lead” from the late 1960s through the ’80s were marked by economic precarity, political savagery, and—for the urbane author and filmmaker—personal depression.
“To scandalize is a right. To be scandalized is a pleasure.” — Pasolini
In Abel Ferrara‘s elegiac PASOLINI—finally released after a five-year delay—Willem Dafoe is an uncanny visual analog for his subject. Burdened by presentiments of intellectual futility and struggling to find beauty in lost causes, Pasolini/Dafoe composes editorials, visits friends, gives interviews, and cruises the streets around Termini Station for company. A sense of defeat hangs thick in the air, and in the end the artist’s sense of aesthetics fell through the abyss. (Pasolini’s final film was Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.)
The other side of Ferrara’s film is his partial creation of the movie Pasolini didn’t live to shoot: Porno-Teo-Kolossal. These sections star Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini’s muse and goofball stud from Arabian Nights, The Canterbury Tales, Teorema, Oedipus Rex, and The Hawks and the Sparrows.
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Willem Dafoe in Pasolini. The fllm co-stars Maria de Medeiros, third from top. Images courtesy Kino Lorber.