Pier Paolo Pasolini

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Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of most important directors and Italian intellectuals of the twentieth century, distinguishing himself as a poet, writer, director, screenwriter and playwright. His production ranged from poetry to cinema, leaving an indelible mark on Italian culture.

Biography

Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini was born in Bologna on 5 March 1922, the eldest son of infantry officer Carlo Alberto Pasolini and teacher Susanna Colussi. His childhood was marked by his father’s frequent transfers for work, which led the family to move between Bologna, Parma, Conegliano, Belluno and Casarsa della Delizia. It was in Casarsa that Pasolini spent long summer periods as a guest of his mother’s house.

Already at an early age he demonstrated a strong passion for writing and drawing. He began to write poems inspired by the nature he observed in the surroundings of Casarsa. In 1933 he moved with his family to Cremona, where he attended classical high school.

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The High School Years

At the classical high school in Cremona, Pasolini passionately cultivated his humanistic studies, dedicating himself in particular to reading the Greek and Latin classics. He became friends with some classmates, with whom he founded a school magazine entitled “Il Setaccio”, where he published his first poems.

In these years he joined the National Fascist Party, attracted by the promise of moral regeneration of society. However, in 1941 he was expelled from the party because he was accused of engaging in acts of lust with some schoolmates. This episode will profoundly mark his existence.

After completing his high school studies, in 1942 Pasolini enrolled in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Bologna. In this period he began to publish poems in some literary magazines such as “Il Setaccio” and “Prospettive”.

In 1943 he obtained a substitute job as a high school teacher in Casarsa, where he resumed contact with the circle of young poets he had frequented during his adolescence. Together with them he founded the magazine “Il Setaccio”, which soon became a point of reference for new Italian poetry.

The Experience of “Il Setaccio”

Pasolini

With the magazine “Il Setaccio”, Pasolini created a true poetic laboratory in Casarsa. Young authors such as Francesco Leonetti, Virgilio Giotti, Domenico Durì, as well as Pasolini himself, gravitated around the magazine.

The poems published in “Il Setaccio” were characterized by formal experimentalism and the desire for renewal of Italian poetry. Pasolini addressed themes such as eros, war, the sense of the sacred with an anti-twentieth-century style, inspired by the Friulian dialect.

The War Period

In 1943, after 8 September, Casarsa became part of the Italian Social Republic. Pier Paolo Pasolini lived through this experience with great torment, torn between adhesion to fascist culture and condemnation of the war.

He decided not to collaborate with RSI and to retire to private life. However, in the first months of 1945 he was arrested on charges of anti-fascist activities. He managed to escape daringly during a transfer and take refuge on the Montasio hill.

After his escape, Pasolini joined the Slovenian partisans who fought against the Nazi-fascists in the mountains of Friuli. He took part in sabotage and counteractions against the Nazi army in the Gorizia and Collio areas.

This experience profoundly affected Pasolini, who for the first time found himself face to face with the violence of war. In his memorial writings, he described the Resistance as a moment of authentic moral regeneration after the compromises of the twenty years of fascism.

After the Liberation, Pasolini returned to Casarsa where he resumed teaching and poetic activity. In 1946 he published his first collection of verses, entitled I Pianti, with which he came to the attention of literary critics.

In this period he formed a deep friendship with the young nineteen-year-old student Ninetto Davoli, who soon became his life partner. The relationship with Davoli caused scandal in the small Friulian community.

The “Pasolini Case”

Pasolini

In 1949 Pier Paolo Pasolini was at the center of a violent defamation campaign, accused of corrupting minors following his relationship with Davoli. Although the accusation was unfounded, Pasolini was ousted from teaching and forced to leave Friuli.

He moved to Rome with his mother Susanna and brother Guido. The experience of the “Pasolini case” profoundly marked his soul, consolidating his vision of the Italian bourgeoisie as moralistic and repressive.

In 1950 Pasolini was tried for obscenity due to the content of his novel Ragazzi di vita.

The book, which described the life of a group of boys in the Roman suburbs, caused great scandal for its crude language and scenes of violence. Pasolini was acquitted, but the novel was temporarily withdrawn from bookstores.

The trial consolidated Pasolini’s image as a non-conformist intellectual, capable of breaking moral and literary taboos. His determination to describe reality without hypocrisy made him an uncomfortable author for the conservative Italy of the time.

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The 50s in Rome

Having moved to Rome, Pasolini lived the 1950s intensely, divided between poetry, fiction and painting. In 1955 he published Le ceneri di Gramsci, one of his most famous poetic collections.

He frequented the popular neighborhoods of the Roman outskirts, coming into contact with the suburbs and the “lifestyle” of the urban underclass. These experiences provided the inspiration for his first novels set in the suburbs: Ragazzi di vita and A violent life.

In addition to poetry and fiction, in the 1950s Pasolini also intensely cultivated painting, exhibiting his works in personal and collective exhibitions.

His paintings, inspired by figurative expressionism, often depicted faces of boys and suburban scenes. Pasolini considered painting an activity inseparable from poetry, another means of expressing one’s artistic inspiration.

Published in 1955, Ragazzi di vita was Pasolini’s first novel, as well as his most controversial narrative work. The book describes the violent and immoral life of a gang of boys in the Roman suburbs, using their jargon and explicit scenes of sex and crime.

The novel caused great uproar and was put on trial for obscenity. Despite the controversy, it had enormous success with the public, definitively establishing Pasolini as a narrator. The use of the Roman dialect influenced many subsequent writers.

From a stylistic point of view, Ragazzi di vita represented a revolution in the panorama of Italian fiction.

Pasolini used the language of the suburbs for the first time, without sugarcoating it, as a true literary language. Furthermore, it gave birth to a new type of novel, based not on the plot but on the description of the environment and characters.

Filmmaker and Writer

Starting from the end of the 1950s, Pasolini also began working as a film director, directing films such as Accattone and Mamma Roma, inspired by his novels.

Throughout the 1960s, he continued his parallel activity as a poet, writer and filmmaker, with fundamental works such as the poetic collections The Ashes of Gramsci and The Religion of My Time and films such as The Gospel According to Matthew and Theorem.

Pasolini’s transition to cinema occurred in continuity with his expressive literary research. His first films can be read as a transposition into images of the universe of the Roman villages already described in his novels.

Gradually Pasolini refined an original cinematographic style, based on long shots, panoramic shots and expressionistic use of colour. His subsequent films explored poetic, religious and philosophical themes with great freedom of expression.

In 1959 Pasolini published his second novel, A Violent Life, which won the Viareggio Prize. The book continued the exploration of the world of Roman villages, with an even more experimental narrative style.

The protagonist Tommaso describes his desperate and immoral life in the first person, in a great stream of consciousness influenced by models such as Joyce and American narrators.

From a stylistic point of view, A violent life represented a further step forward in Pasolini’s expressive research, thanks to the use of techniques such as flow of consciousness, interior monologue, continuous changes of perspective.

For the first time in Italian fiction, a story was told through the subjective deformation of the protagonist, completely renouncing the traditional plot. The novel paved the way for literary postmodernism.

The 60s

The Sixties were a period of intense creative ferment for Pasolini. He made some of his most famous films such as Accattone, The Gospel according to Matthew, Uccellacci and birds.

He published fundamental poetic collections such as The Religion of My Time and Trasumanar and Organize. His critical writings and interventions in the pages of newspapers contributed to defining the Italian cultural debate.

His non-conformism and critical positions towards consumer society made him a controversial figure. His films and literary works were often subject to censorship and seizure.

The trial for contempt of religion in 1965 was famous, following the accusations made against the film La ricotta. Despite the controversies he aroused, his figure as an engaged intellectual remained central to the public debate.

Pasolini

The human and artistic parable of Pier Paolo Pasolini spans more than thirty crucial years of Italian history. His eclectic literary, cinematographic and critical production has profoundly marked the culture of our country.

His incessant stylistic research and courage in tackling uncomfortable topics have made him a constantly cutting-edge author. The provocative force of his works continues to question and stimulate us today. Pier Paolo Pasolini remains one of the most important and influential intellectual figures of the Italian twentieth century.

Film

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films are complex and layered works, which explore social, political and religious themes. His films are often controversial, but they are also important works that helped define 20th century Italian cinema.

Accattone (1961)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: Accattone is a young drifter who lives by his wits on the outskirts of Rome. One day, he meets Stella, a prostitute who convinces him to work for her. Accattone starts earning money, but his violent and unruly lifestyle leads him to lose everything.
  • Hospitality: Accattone is Pasolini’s first film and marks the beginning of his cinematographic career. The film was a success with critics and audiences, and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Mamma Roma (1962)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: Mamma Roma is a prostitute who, after having accumulated a small nest egg, decides to leave the streets and start a new honest life. He brings with him Ettore, his 16 year old son, with whom he has a difficult relationship. Mamma Roma starts working as a greengrocer, but her past torments her and pushes her to return to prostitution.
  • Hospitality: Mamma Roma was another success with critics and audiences. The film was praised for its realistic portrayal of Roman slum life.

The Gospel according to Matthew (1964)

  • Type: Dramatic, historical
  • Plot: The film tells the life of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew. Pasolini creates a modern and revolutionary work, which focuses on the figure of Jesus as a man and revolutionary.
  • Hospitality: The Gospel According to Matthew won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The film was appreciated by critics for its originality and its visual power.

Uccellacci e uccellini (1966)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: Totò and Ninetto Davoli are two vagabonds who live by their wits. One day, they meet two talking ravens who accompany them on a journey through Italy. Crows help them reflect on life and society.
  • Hospitality: Birds and Birds was a controversial film, but it also received positive reviews. The film was appreciated for its surreal comedy and its reflection on Italian society.

Edipo re (1967)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is an adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy of the same name. Oedipus is a young king who, unaware that he is the son of his father and mother, kills his father and marries his mother. When he discovers the truth, Oedipus blinds himself and exiles himself.
  • Hospitality: Oedipus Rex was a success with critics and audiences. The film was praised for its faithfulness to the original text and its modern interpretation.

Theorem (1968)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: A mysterious and charming young man arrives in a bourgeois family. His presence causes a profound change in the lives of family members, who find themselves confronted with their deepest impulses.
  • Hospitality: Theorem was a controversial film, but it also received positive reviews. The film was appreciated for its provocation and its analysis of bourgeois society.

Porcile (1969)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is a story of two intertwining voices. In a rural context, a group of farmers indulge in orgiastic rites. In an urban context, an industrialist lives a dissolute and violent existence.
  • Hospitality: Pigsty was a controversial film, but it also received positive reviews. The film was praised for its raw depiction of human nature.

Medea (1969)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is an adaptation of Euripides’ tragedy of the same name. Medea is a woman who, to take revenge on her husband Jason, kills her children.
  • Hospitality: Medea was a success with critics and audiences.

The Decameron (1971)

  • Type: Comedy
  • Plot: The film is an adaptation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron of the same name. It tells the stories of ten young people who take refuge in a country villa to escape the plague. Young people tell each other funny and sensual stories, which explore the themes of love, passion and lust.
  • Hospitality: The Decameron was a success with critics and audiences. The film was praised for its lively and entertaining depiction of medieval life.

The Canterbury Tales (1972)

  • Type: Comedy
  • Plot: The film is an adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales of the same name. It tells the stories of thirty pilgrims who travel to Canterbury to visit the tomb of St Thomas Becket. The pilgrims tell each other funny and curious stories, which explore the themes of life, death and faith.
  • Hospitality: The Canterbury Tales was a success with critics and audiences. The film was praised for its lively and entertaining depiction of medieval life.

The Flower of the Arabian Nights (1974)

  • Type: Fantasy
  • Plot: The film is an adaptation of the collection of Arab fairy tales of the same name. It tells the stories of Shahrazad, a princess who tells a thousand and one nights of stories to her husband, Sultan Shahriyar, to save her life. Shahrazad’s stories explore themes of love, passion, magic and mystery.
  • Hospitality: The Flower of the Arabian Nights was a success with critics and audiences. The film has been praised for its rich and fascinating depiction of the East.

Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is an adaptation of Marquis de Sade’s literary work of the same name. It tells the story of four fascist aristocrats who kidnap nine boys and nine girls and subject them to torture and sexual abuse for 120 days.
  • Hospitality: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom was a controversial film, but it also received positive reviews. The film was praised for its realistic and cruel depiction of violence.

Documentaries

Anger (1963)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a journey through Italy, which Pasolini made to document the social and political climate of the country in 1962. The film is a provocative and visionary work, which explores the themes of violence, poverty and inequality.

Love rallies (1964)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a documentary on Italian customs and opinions regarding sex. The film is a provocative and controversial work, which sparked controversy upon its debut.

Inspections in Palestine for the Gospel according to Matthew (1965)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a documentary about the places where Pasolini filmed The Gospel According to Matthew. The film is a valuable work for understanding the creative process that led to the making of the film.

Notes for a film about India (1968)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a documentary about the places and people that Pasolini met during his trip to India. The film is a fascinating and evocative work, which offers a glimpse into contemporary India.

Notes for an African Orestiade (1970)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a documentary on the tragedy of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, set in Africa. The film is an experimental and visionary work, which offers a new reading of a literary classic.

The walls of Sana (1971)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a documentary about the city of Sana, Yemen. The film is a fascinating work rich in history, which offers a glimpse into a thousand-year-old city.

December 12th (1972)

  • Type: Documentary
  • Plot: The film is a documentary on the Reggio Calabria revolt of 1970. The film is an important work, which documents a fundamental historical event for Italian history.

Short Films

The ricotta (1963)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is an episode of the episodic film Ro.Go.Pa.G., directed by Pasolini. The film tells the story of a director who, while filming a film about Jesus Christ, is killed by a worker.

The Earth seen from the Moon (1967)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is an episode of the episodic film The Witches, directed by Pasolini. The film tells the story of a group of women who, during a full moon party, transform into witches.

What are clouds? (1968)

  • Type: Comedy
  • Plot: The film is an episode of the episodic film Capriccio all’italiana, directed by Pasolini. The film tells the story of two actors who, while filming a film, find themselves playing two characters from a Shakespeare play.

The paper flower sequence (1969)

  • Type: Dramatic
  • Plot: The film is an episode of the episodic film Love and Rage, directed by Pasolini. The film tells the story of a man who, during a train journey, meets a talking crow who tells him a story.
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