Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Eyes of a poet
- Pier Paolo Pasolini:
- The Eyes of a Poet
From April 5 through May 15, the Gene Siskel Film Center--in partnership with Luce Cinecittà, Rome; Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna; and the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago--presents Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Eyes of a Poet, a 12-film series commemorating the Italian poet, novelist, political thinker, and film director whose life was cut short by a violent death in 1975. Most of the films are not in distribution in the U.S., and all are being screened in new 35mm prints.
Deliberately provocative, often controversial, Pasolini’s innovative work was informed by his Marxist philosophy, mystical spirituality, and compassion for the plight of working-class people. Early features, including ACCATTONE, about the life of a Roman pimp, and MAMMA ROMA, in which Anna Magnani plays a prostitute, were shot in thestreets of Rome and emphasized Pasolini’s passionate engagement with social issues.
Pasolini’s commitment to proletarian themes, combined with an unrelenting rejection of middle-class values, was expressed through films drawn from very diverse sources, including Greek drama, the Bible, medieval literature, Arabian folk tales, and contemporary political issues. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW, in which Pasolini cast non-actors as Christ and his apostles (and his own mother as the Virgin Mary) was rebuked by the Catholic Church but critically acclaimed by for its profoundly moving portrayal of the life and death of Jesus. OEDIPUS REX and MEDEA rework themes of the classic Greek dramas to create tragedies of class warfare.
The “Trilogy of Life,” consisting of THE DECAMERON, THE CANTERBURY TALES, and THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, demonstrates Pasolini’s exploration of social and moral codes through bawdy and sometimes violent tales. The series concludes with the last feature Pasolini completed before his death, SALÒ OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM, in which the filmmaker began a harsh and startling reexamination of many of the themes of his earlier career.
Co-produced by the Gene Siskel Film Center; Luce Cinecittà, Rome; and Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna.
Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Eyes of a Poet is organized by the Gene Siskel Film Center; and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero, Luce Cinecittà; with Roberto Chiesi, Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna. Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy. Special thanks to Silvio Marchetti and Andrea Raos, Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago.
All copies in 35mm in Italian with English subtitles realized by Luce Cinecittà, unless otherwise noted.
Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first Pasolini film on either Saturday or Sunday, and get a ticket for the second Pasolini film that day at this discount rate with proof of your original full price purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second film only.)
- THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
- (IL VANGELO SECONDO MATTEO)
- 1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 137 min.
- With Enrique Irazoqui, Susanna Pasolini
“One of the most effective films on a religious theme
I have ever seen, perhaps because it was made
by a nonbeliever who did not preach, glorify,
underline, sentimentalize or romanticize
his famous story, but tried his best to simply record it.”
This interpretation of Christianity’s central story sent shock waves through a rigid Catholic church hierarchy solely as a result of the director’s status as an avowed atheist and communist. The film conforms to the original text and is a moving expression of the transmission of faith from the charismatic earthly Jesus to the men and women who follow him. In depicting Matthew’s story with utter realism, Pasolini imbued divine power with an unprecedented plausibility. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (BS)
- PREVIOUSLY SCREENED FILMS
- 1961, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 117 min.
- With Franco Citti, Franca Pasut
“At once squalid and exalted...a virtual film school for Bertolucci,
Parajanov, Abel Ferrara, and Gus Van Sant.”
–Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion
Pasolini’s first feature is a scalding portrait of the slums of Rome and the pimp Accattone (Citti) who wallows in them. When his meal-ticket prostitute is arrested, he tries his luck with an innocent girl (Pasut) and eventually turns to thievery. Scored to Bach, the film already displays Pasolini’s knack for mashing up the sacred and the profane, and for discovering actors with unforgettable faces. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
Barth David Schwartz in person!
- MAMMA ROMA
- 1962, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 111 min.
- With Anna Magnani, Ettore Garofolo
“One of Pasolini’s best. It stars Anna Magnani
at her most volcanic, hyperbolic, and magnificent.”
-Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Anna Magnani brought the intense force of her personality to bear on the part of a Roman prostitute reunited with the cherished teenage son she has had raised in the country, ignorant of her profession. She hopes to better herself and her son by putting on the airs of a middle-class matron, but the dream is dashed by the reappearance of her old pimp. Pasolini roots the tragedy in the clash between the reality of Magnani’s degrading life and her naive aspiration to be middle class. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (BS)
Barth David Schwartz, author of the acclaimed biography
Pasolini Requiem, will be present for audience
discussion on Saturday.
- HAWKS AND SPARROWS
- (UCCELLACCI E UCCELLINI)
- 1966, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 89 min.
- With Totò, Ninetto Davoli
“Pasolini’s film breaks structural and thematic
conventions like few others, and stands as one
of the most remarkable political films of
that most turbulent of decades, the 1960s.”
-Ben Sillis, Eye for Film
Pasolini’s fascination with the conflicting agendas of Christianity and Marxism is at the heartof this audacious comic parable which the director named as his favorite of his films. A father (the great comic actor Totò) and son (Davoli) are walking on the outskirts of Rome when they are accosted by a talking raven who espouses left-wing politics. He whisks them back to the time of St. Francis, where they appear as monks entrusted with the task of converting the birds to Christianity. Upon their return to modern times, they find a more practical use for the loquacious blackbird.
In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
- 1969, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 110 min.
- With Maria Callas, Giuseppe Gentile
“Very free, very barbaric...full of eccentric
imagination and real passion.”
–Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Whereas Pasolini’s first stab at Greek tragedy, OEDIPUS REX, partly modernized the original, his second largely primitivizes it. Stark and visceral, Pasolini’s MEDEA begins with the bloody sacrifice of a young man. Aggressively recontextualizing Euripides’ version of the myth, Pasolini strips away most of the dialogue and adds a lengthy prologue detailing Jason’s youth and Medea’s past as a barbarian priestess who betrays her people for the Greek adventurer, only to be betrayed in turn before wreaking a terrible vengeance. In her only film performance, Maria Callas is a commanding, nearly silent presence, relying on her iconic profile and burning eyes rather than her famous voice. In Italian with English subtitles. Digitally restored by SNC; 35mm copy realized thanks to Gucci. (MR)
- OEDIPUS REX
- (EDIPO RE)
- 1967, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 104 min.
- With Franco Citti, Silvana Mangano
“One of the late director's finest films...
In filming Sophocles, Pasolini has been
largely faithful to his source while making an
ancient time and place come vividly alive.”
–Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
Pasolini frames his adaptation of Sophocles with sections set in 1920s fascist Italy and modern-day Bologna, in the first instance drawing a direct autobiographical connection between his own birth and that of the Greek tragic hero. Franco Citti, the star of Pasolini’s first film ACCATTONE, returns to play Oedipus as an impulsive, desperate punk flailing against an inescapable destiny. Pasolini’s first film in color, OEDIPUS REX makes stunning use of sun-drenched Moroccan locations in the central, Greek-set section. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
- THE DECAMERON
- (IL DECAMERON)
- 1971, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 111 min.
- With Franco Citti, Ninetto Davoli
"Taking ten tales out of the 100 in Boccaccio's Decameron,
Pasolini has created one of the most beautiful, turbulent
and uproarious panoramas of early Renaissance life ever
put on film .”
–Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Pasolini bonds his own vision of mankind driven by venal and carnal urges with the life force that drives Boccaccio’s wide-ranging story set in the time of the Black Plague. True to the source in spirit but not in narrative detail, the director sets his film in Naples, where a protégé of the painter Giotto (played by Pasolini) is besieged by thoughts of a lower sort while creating a religious fresco. Comic, poignant, lascivious, and rude, rife with pagan fantasies, the episodes of this first film in Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” coalesce
into a satirical portrait of humanity.
In Italian with English subtitles. 35 mm. (BS)
- THE CANTERBURY TALES
- (I RACCONTI DI CANTERBURY)
- 1972, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 123 min.
- With Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hugh Griffith
“Robust and smart, much like its more
expansive source material.”
–Gregory Weinkauf, New Times
Long banned in Italy for its graphic eroticism, THE CANTERBURY TALES is Pasolini’s unique adaptation of Chaucer’s bawdy classic, and the middle film in his “Trilogy of Life.” The tales progress from relative innocence to deepest decadence as a raucous party of medieval pilgrims wends its way to the martyr’s shrine with nary a thought of repentance. Pasolini himself plays Chaucer, ushering his band of largely non-professional actors into the eye of a storm of carnal exploration in which the presence of the horned one prevails heartily over more godly manifestations. Richly-hued art direction evokes the paintings of Brueghel and Bosch. In English (authorized version). 35mm. (BS)
- ARABIAN NIGHTS
- (IL FIORE DELLE MILLE E UNA NOTTE)
- 1974, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 129 min.
- With Ninetto Davoli, Tessa Bouche
"Dazzling...Pasolini's most successfully
rich and romantic film."
–Vincent Canby, The New York Times
The final, most optimistic entry in Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life" is a playful, violent, sexually explicit adaptation of the Arabic anthology, set in stunningly exotic locations. Inventively structured, the film interweaves ten of the stories, frequently nesting one tale inside another and linking them all through the framing story of a free-spirited slave girl who chooses a new master, gets kidnapped, disguises herself as a man, and becomes a king. Other tales concern a beauty contest, a mysterious girl in
a window, a captive girl ravished nightly by a genie, and a mechanical man. Pasolini's approach is both authentically medieval and modernistically decentered, taking as its motto, "The complete truth does not live in one dream but in several dreams." In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. Note: Adult content may offend some viewers. (MR)
- LOVE MEETINGS
- (COMIZI D'AMORE)
- 1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 90 min.
- With Pier Paolo Pasolini
As in THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, the stories are multiple and the subject matter is often sexual, but the results are tellingly different in this fascinating cinéma-vérité experiment. Microphone in hand, Pasolini sets out across Italy to question people about their attitudes toward sex and love. The interviewees include celebrities (novelist Alberto Moravia, psychoanalyst Cesare Musatti), street kids, streetwalkers, students, and soldiers. The topics range from Don Juanism to homosexuality to the then-recent outlawing of prostitution. The answers are strongly inflected by class, region, and gender, but on the whole Pasolini discovers that, although the recent "economic miracle" might have brought some material progress, the country remains sexually backward--a situation that the director's own films would do much to address. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
- 1969, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 98 min.
- With Pierre Clémenti, Jean-Pierre Léaud
"PIGSTY is not only an exquisitely
revolting satire, it is also Pasolini's
most fascinating piece of cinema."
–Peter Watts, Time Out
Two stories, the second a mirror image of the first, offer complex messages around the theme of consuming and being consumed. One story is set in modern-day Germany, where Julian (Léaud), son of a former Nazi, prefers the charms of pigs to those of his fiancée (Anne Wiazemsky). The second is set in a nameless desert during the Middle Ages, where a starving man (Clémenti) eats everything in his path, finally resorting to cannibalism. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. (BS)
- SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM
- (SALÒ O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA)
- 1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 114 min.
- With Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi
"An essential work...It's certainly the film
in which Pasolini's protest against the modern
world finds its most extreme and anguished
–Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
In one of the most controversial and ultimately misunderstood films ever made, Pasolini horrifically, shockingly, and fearlessly revisits his early premise of sexuality as a liberating force and comes to a new conclusion. The film is structured around the three descending levels of hell from the Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom:" the circles of Madness, Excrement, and Blood. SALÒ is set in World War II Italy, where four of the fascist elite select sixteen innocent young men and women to become their sex slaves in a graphic and morally illustrative tale of lost humanity and the corrupting nature of power. In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm. Note: Adult content may offend some viewers. (BS)