It’s a celebration of Pasolini’s style of cinema as Willem Dafoe delivers a performance that could be his best yet!
“To scandalise is a right; to be scandalised is a pleasure,” says Pier Paolo Pasolini, I am sure by now many of you must have seen the trailer and have read about it. But even in the movie it is openning scene of Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini. Filling the shoes of Pier Paolo Pasolini is Willem Dafoe, who has already worked with the director in New Rose Hotel, Go Go Tales and 4:44 Last Day on Earth. Having said that, Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of cinema’s greatest provocateurs and his mysterious murder is one of film history’s great mysteries. So it only makes sense that Pasolini’s life would attract the attention of a certain Abel Ferrara. The man who made the transition from the grindhouse to the art house with plenty of dirt left under his fingernails has spent a career walking the line between high art and gutter trash.
The film, a Franco-Belgian-Italian co-production, opens with images from Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, which Pasolini was editing at the time. In response to a question posed by the French television journalist who is interviewing him, Pasolini says that sex is political, outraging people is a right and being outraged is a delight. It’s small and real in a way that feels painstakingly researched with a wonderful central performance from Willem Dafoe (who doesn’t attempt an Italian accent to match his costars and that’s for the best).
The film also features, Ninetto Davoli who plays a bluff, middle-aged clown who follows a shooting star from his cramped apartment in Rome to the city of Sodom, where the population are divided into gay and lesbian sects who come together, once a year, to procreate under a firework-filled sky.
Ferrara’s reverence for Pasolini is clear in every frame– It’s like he’s fascinated by this man and want to honor him. Pasolini is neither a murder mystery nor a thriller, but an avant-garde homage to a literary genius who recognized cinema’s potential to take his work beyond the boundaries of language, refusing to kowtow to the prevailing rules of good form, good acting or good taste in the process.
There can be no doubt as to the research Ferrara and screenwriter Maurizio Braucci put into the project, introducing (and occasionally repeating) choice soundbites and concepts, though to many, it won’t appeal because of the bizarre multilingual format (in which Italian is sometimes heard but not translated) is not just distracting, but off-putting.
But having said that, it is this factor that makes for an intriguing movie(gives you a kinda realistic touch), but one suited pretty much exclusively for those who already share the director’s love for his subject. There’s no hand-holding or introductions here. It’s a series of deep cuts. Overall, Pasolini is a terrific film that prefers to study in velvety blacks and foggy greens. It’s a work of startling maturity from this incorrigible tearaway, a minor-key dream that finally turns towards darkness.
RATINGS: * * * * (& a half) / 5