PIER PAULO PASOLINI
Whilst only a deviant in the grips of some kind of heinous insanity
would question the wonder of those Italian Neo-Realist cats, The
Duke sometimes gets the impression that I wouldn’t really want to
spend a fortnight in their company.
I mean, sure, some of them are dead, and would probably stink to
high heaven by now, but even if they were alive, even then I’d
probably turn down the invitation. It’s not that I don’t like you,
man. Don’t cry, Neo-Realists, it's just I think you might be a bit
depressing, is all.
The Bicycle Thieves was a work of undiluted genius, De Sica, don’t
get me wrong. And Truffaut, I enjoyed The 400 Blows as much as the
next guy what really enjoyed it. It’s just that all the yacking
about the degeneracy of bourgeois society, and about how humanity
probably stops at the 9 grand per annum mark, I think it’d get me
a bit upset is all.
In case you didn’t know what the Neo Realists were concerned with,
they were concerned with adopting a filmic grammar that sought to
explore the realities of lower working class existence, and to
present it via a manner of heavily stylised techniques which
suggested spontaneity. Like they might take a hand-held approach
to it all, or play with the jump-cuts, and grant us long,
lingering takes, but the game was exposed as a sham when everybody
realised that the things were works of awe-inspiring beauty and
humanity, and really, a lot of thought had gone into it all.
It takes a lot of planning to appear so unplanned is what, and
most of these folks didn’t even use any CGI. Some critics might
say this is on account of laziness, but no, the answer is that it
is on account of the “reality”.
But, however, there is one Neo-Realist I would have
happily spent an hour or two with, providing said
120 minutes was under heavy supervision.
Pier Paulo Pasolini was one of the most demented
chaps you could ever hope to meet, and was a
cinematic genius into the bargain, and also was a
dab hand with the scribbling, being a published
poet by the age of 19.
Just like the other Neo-Realists like Visconti or Rossellini or Don
Simpson, Pasolini was concerned with the society, and with
depicting it in as authentic a manner as was possible. But his
concerns with the realities of industrial existence were often
explored in bizarre, idiosyncratic settings. His Marxist outlook
found unified resonance in the most eclectic of texts, be it The
New Testament or Arabian Nights.
He was also fond of the sexing.
Pasolini was a member of The Communist Party, until he was kicked
out on account of being a gay. The ideologies which he found
therein, however, run rampant through his filmography, from the
revolutionary Jesus of The Gospel According To Matthew, to the
cannibalistic middle-classes of Pigsty, a work that owes as much to
Bunuel as to De Sica.
Gospel and Salo, The 120 Days Of Sodom tend to get the most
attention from folks what want to yack about The Motherfucking
Cinema Of Pier Paulo Pasolini, but as far as The Duke is concerned,
the director found the perfect vehicle for his obsessions in the
utterly stunning The Decameron.
The Decameron concerns itself with being a series of narratives
adopted from the literary classic of the same name. Set in a
medieval Sicilian city, the film takes in any number of bizarre and
often gut-bustingly funny situations and scenarios, and at times
comes across as a medieval version of Woody Allen’s Everything You
Always Wanted To Know About Sex. But whilst there’s plenty of flesh
on display, occasionally very graphically presented, there’s also
plenty of digs in the face of the religion, the institutions, the
establishment and so on.
Pasolini weaves his tale whilst crafting some of the most
gorgeous imagery one is ever likely to encounter. The winding
alleyways, the narrow passes, the open fields and the
forest-shrouded convents, all presented like some impressionistic
oil painting, arousing the eyeballs as readily as the similarly
One story has a rich fella arriving in town for to buy some
horses. He is told, however, that a pretty woman is waiting for
him. Hoping for at least a mediocre orgasm, the fella trundles
off, only to be told that this young lass is none other than his
long lost sister, a theme explored in the aesthetically similar
The Star Wars Part 2.
Whilst this melodramatic carry-on is underway, Pasolini cuts to a
shot of the servants who are busy setting a table for supper. It’s
a moment Douglas Sirk would have been proud of, taking us away
from the trivial yackings of these affluent youngsters to detail
the folks who provide their luxury for a pittance.
We find out, however, that the lass was only spoofing, and has in
fact set up a trap for the stranger, in the bathroom, so that he
falls through the floorboards into a tank filled with shit while
she makes off with his money. The faeces-stained traveller is
forced to wander the streets in his underwear, stinking like a
month-old bag of slurry, before bumping into a couple of robbers
who want him to assist in the plundering of a recently deceased
bishop’s jewellery-laden coffin.
It’s like a biblical parable, except in the bible folks would
maybe fall into some dusty ground or something, and not a tank
full of shit. The point to be made is that this fella’s
unfortunate escapade leads to something approaching good luck,
however fleeting, and so we shouldn’t be too worried when we find
ourselves knee-deep in arse-muck, since the lord knows what he’s
Later, we meet a bunch of nuns who decide to take it in turns to
have the young, handsome gardener pleasure them. We are granted
not only the hilarious image of the rather large mother superior
commanding the fella to get to work, but also the young lad’s,
shall we say, reasonably awake organ of the man-flesh.
It’s something approach a genuine motherfucking miracle that this
tale of sexing, whoring and men trying to turn their wives into
horses, ends up being such a kick in the taste-glands by virtue of
its sheer unbridled magnificence. It’s incredibly funny, like when
a priest receives a divine vision that informs him how having a
sex isn’t sinful, and so he runs off to the nearest woman,
trousers at his knees, screaming about “It’s not a sin! It’s not a
sin!”, and yet it’s also quite incisive with regards the
hypocrisies of contemporary existence.
At one point, a young girl and her lover are caught naked and post-
coitus by her parents, who feign outrage simply so as they can
convince the two to get married right there and then, naked and
stinking of body-juice, on account of the young fella has very
The sex stuff usually makes The Duke yawn somewhat in a film, but
Pasolini’s unabashed approach to it all is infectiously giddy. You
find yourself chuckling as a wife instructs her husband to clean
inside a pot whilst she gets done up the arse by her secret lover.
Woody Allen would later try the same trick in the opening of
Deconstructing Harry, when a blind grandma wanders about a kitchen
as two folks get it on right beside her.
To my mind, Pasolini never bettered this melting point of
ideology, farce and religious satire, which is not to say he
didn't produce other amazing pieces of work.
The Gospel According To Matthew, for example, is perhaps the
greatest film ever made about The Life De Christ, being
beautifully low-key and purposefully playing down the divinity of
the hero. His miracles are depicted via simple editing techniques,
devoid of bombast or elaborate effects work. For the healing of
the blind man, for example, its simply a case of shot of messed up
eyes, shot of Christ, shot of eyes fine. It’s beautifully
evocative, and actually encourages one to think about what’s going
on, rather than attempt to dazzle us with empty spectacle.
And then, of course, there’s Salo, a film many mistake for being
depraved and inhumane simply because it depicts depraved and
Pasolini took the infamous text by The Marquis De Sade and
transported it to Fascist Italy, having a group of party
officials taking a village-worth of adolescents into a
gothic compound and proceeding to degrade, defile and abuse
them from the films open, to its spectacularly unpleasant
finale, when the victims are tortured ruthlessly in what
looks like a giant obstacle course. At one point a fella
holds a lighter at the tip of a penis which, whilst
obviously prosthetic, still manages to cause the viewer to
wince a tad.
And this is all after the “Cycle Of Shit”, wherein folks
chow down on platefuls of faeces.
The Wedding Singer utilised similar plot mechanics, like
when Drew Barrymore did a big shit right into Adam Sandler’s
face, but Salo did it first, and even though it’s four
decades old, it continues to assault the sensibilities of
It was Pasolini’s most bitter film, but it also had a
serious concern for humanity running throughout all the piss-
drinking and wanking. This isn’t a film like Ilsa, She Wolf
Of The SS, where one is invited to applaud the
grotesqueries. Here, one is encouraged to feel shame, and to
think about the consequences of not just fascism, but
oppression in any form.
Pasolini made some of the most gorgeous films ever made by
any motherfucker anywhere, and he talked about things in a
way that made it impossible to ignore him. What has more
effect? Michael Moore knocking your door and politely
throwing down some Polaroid’s, or a motherfucker sitting
down in his best suit and taking a shit all over the table
and then tucking in with knife and fork?
I’m thinking the shit-fella might be the one I would be
inclined to listen to more carefully.
Pasolini was eventually killed on a beach, the victim of an
especially violent rentboy. It’s a motherfucking shame, is
what. The man didn’t shock for the sake of it, and films
like Gospel and Accattone prove that there was a depth to
his philosophy that those who attempted to emulate his more
base obsessions rarely ever aspired to. Were he to be
working now, it’s difficult to imagine what he would make of
21st century society, and more intriguingly, how he would go
about tearing it asunder in its work.
But his thoughts on mid-20th century society are more than
enough to be getting on with for at least another millennia.
Thanks, Pier Paolo Pasolini, you Neo-Realist motherfucking
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