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New Release Review - PASOLINI

The final days of the controversial Italian filmmaker.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Abel Ferrara

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ninetto Davoli, Maria de Medeiros




"Abel Ferrara may not be the greatest Italian-American filmmaker, but he's arguably the most Italian-American filmmaker. His latest work, a tribute to Italy's most controversial filmmaker, is film as funeral mass."






Abel Ferrara may not be the greatest Italian-American filmmaker, but he's arguably the most Italian-American filmmaker. The experience of watching his films is often akin to an atheist attending a Catholic mass, a ritual as impressive as it is uncomfortable to sit through. His latest work, a tribute to Italy's most controversial filmmaker, is film as funeral mass, the living attempting to encapsulate the spirit of the deceased through their own words, images and recollections.
Eschewing the traditional biopic format, Ferrara hones in on the final days in the life of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Between films, we see the infamous director go about a relatively humdrum existence. Like every Italian, he enjoys meals with family and friends during the day, but in the evenings he prowls the streets of Rome for rent-boys. The man - considered a monster by most of his countrymen during his lifetime, thanks to his homosexuality, his left-wing sympathies, and the controversial nature of his films - is demystified through Ferrara's lens, a benevolent uncle who just happens to make movies in which fascists take delight in forcing their slaves to eat faeces.
Here, Pasolini plays the part of the corpse at his own funeral, and Dafoe's features have never looked more ghostly. Bit-part players in his life enter and exit the film like orators at a farewell service. As with a funeral, we may not be familiar with all the guests, but in their own little way, each provides brief insight into the character of the deceased.
It's difficult to imagine any other director making the film Ferrara presents us with here. Most would have been seduced by the controversy and conspiracy theories surrounding Pasolini's murder, but Ferrara sticks to the absolute details in his unflinching and difficult to watch rendering of the incident; the anti-communist slogans said to be shouted by his killers are replaced by homophobic slurs here, turning a possible political assassination into a fatal hate crime. Ferrara may not be interested in why Pasolini died, but his film makes it clear how much he pines for his presence. He may not be the greatest Italian-American filmmaker, but at this moment in time, Ferrara is certainly the most interesting.



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