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Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy (Princeton Legacy Library)
Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975) was one of the most influential and controversial Italian intellectuals of the postwar era. He was not only a prolific filmmaker, but also a poet, novelist, essayist, and political commentator. His works explored themes such as sexuality, religion, violence, politics, and culture, often challenging the dominant values and ideologies of his time. He was also a heretic in both his personal and artistic life, defying the norms and expectations of his society.
In this book, Naomi Greene examines Pasolini's cinematic career from 1950, when he settled in Rome, to 1975, the year of his brutal murder. She presents his films in full detail and in a rich critical context, using them to trace the evolution of his ideas and the details of his troubled personal life. She argues that Pasolini was not a rebel but rather an authentic heretic who worked in contradiction to both his medium and milieu.
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The Early Films: From Neorealism to Myth
Pasolini's early films were influenced by the neorealist movement that emerged in Italy after World War II. Neorealism aimed to depict the harsh realities of the poor and marginalized sectors of society, using non-professional actors, location shooting, and documentary techniques. Pasolini's first film, Accattone (1961), was a portrait of a Roman pimp and his subculture, based on his own novel Ragazzi di vita (1955). The film was praised for its poetic realism and social criticism, but also condemned for its immoral and vulgar content.
Pasolini soon moved away from neorealism and developed his own style of filmmaking, which he called "cinema of poetry". He used cinema as a means of expressing his personal vision and imagination, rather than as a mirror of reality. He also began to explore mythological and historical themes, such as the legend of Oedipus in Edipo re (1967), the life of Christ in Il vangelo secondo Matteo (1964), and the medieval tales of Boccaccio in Il Decameron (1971). These films were marked by their aesthetic beauty, lyrical language, and allegorical meanings.
The Later Films: From Heresy to Apocalypse
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pasolini became more involved in political and cultural debates in Italy and abroad. He was a vocal critic of consumerism, capitalism, fascism, and imperialism. He also denounced the corruption and violence of the Italian state and the Catholic Church. He expressed his views through his films, essays, interviews, and public interventions.
His later films were more radical and provocative than his earlier ones. They challenged the moral and aesthetic conventions of cinema and society. They also depicted scenes of extreme violence, sexuality, and blasphemy. Some examples are Teorema (1968), which tells the story of a mysterious stranger who seduces a bourgeois family; Porcile (1969), which intercuts two stories: one about a cannibalistic son of a Nazi industrialist, and another about a group of rebels who eat their leader; Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), which adapts the Marquis de Sade's novel to the context of Mussolini's fascist republic.
Pasolini's films were often censored or banned by the authorities. They also provoked strong reactions from critics and audiences. Some praised them for their artistic originality and political courage. Others condemned them for their obscenity and nihilism. Pasolini himself claimed that he was not a pessimist but a realist who wanted to expose the truth about the modern world.
The Legacy of Pasolini
Pasolini's life ended tragically on November 2, 1975, when he was found murdered on a beach near Rome. The official version was that he was killed by a young male prostitute whom he had picked up earlier that night. However, many doubts and controversies remain about the circumstances and motives of his death. Some believe that he was assassinated by political enemies or by a conspiracy involving powerful interests.
Pasolini's legacy is still alive and relevant today. His films are widely recognized as masterpieces of world cinema. His writings are studied and translated into many languages. His ideas and opinions are debated and discussed by scholars and activists. His life and work inspire artists and filmmakers of different generations and backgrounds. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential figures of Italian culture and history.
This book is part of the Princeton Legacy Library, which uses the latest print-on-demand technology to make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. It was originally published in 1990 and is now available in paperback and hardcover editions. You can buy it from [Amazon], [Princeton University Press], or [Project MUSE].