An unconventional, mosaic-like, though not always engaging account of the last day of Pasolini’s life—capturing the values, ideals and artistry of a filmmaker who was also an ideological provocateur.
Dir. Abel Ferrara
2014 | France/Italy | Biography/Drama | 84 mins | 1.85:1 | English, Italian & French
Not rated – likely to be R21 for explicit sexuality and violence
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Ninetto Davoli, Riccardo Scamarcio
Plot: A kaleidoscopic look at the last day of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion & Queer Lion (Venice)
International Sales: Funny Balloons
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – Artist, Ideology
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the rare breeds of filmmakers who was also a poet, writer and philosopher, whose warnings against rising consumerism and the return of fascism disturbed the status quo.
A sentiment peerlessly captured by the still vilified and misunderstood film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)—we see some scenes in the opening of Abel Ferrara’s work—Pasolini remained true to himself and his beliefs till the very end.
An openly gay filmmaker, Pasolini paid the ultimate price as his warnings went unheeded in his home country of Italy; his murder sparked numerous political conspiracy theories in the wake of Salo’s release and remained unsolved.
Ferrara’s film doesn’t quite paint this context very clearly, but he doesn’t need to as he gives us a work that low-key celebrates the triumphs of a man unwilling to compromise on his radical ideas.
“To be scandalised is a pleasure. And those who refuse the pleasure to be scandalised are moralists.”
Willem Dafoe, perfectly cast in terms of looks, plays Pasolini with a cool air of gentleness, as we see him meet several people, including his mother and artistic collaborators.
I don’t think one can call Pasolini a biopic since it only spans one day (the final one) of his life; perhaps it would be more liberating to see it as a snapshot, albeit an unconventional one, as Ferrara brings together fragments of his existence, vivid imagination (in a few surreal scenes including an orgiastic one) and references to Pasolini’s earlier work, including a significant use of Luis Bacalov’s spiritual music from The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964).
Pasolini is not always engaging, but it’s worth a look for artsy cinephiles.