Writer: Maurizio Braucci
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Adriana Asti, Giada Colagrande, Valerio Mastandrea, Maria de Medeiros
Cert: 18 TBC
Running time: 84mins
The lowdown: Abel Ferrara recounts the final two days of inflammatory Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini in typically opinion splitting style. Willem Dafoe impresses as the radical, outspoken leftwing director who met a brutal end after picking up a rent boy in a seedy suburb of Rome. Reality and illusion blur to dynamic effect in an idiosyncratic look at a filmmaking giant.
The full verdict: On 2nd November 1975 Pier Paolo Pasolini’s body was found on the outskirts of Rome. He was on the eve of releasing his most controversial work, Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, a film that demonstrated his bleak world view at the time.
Similarly controversial director Abel Ferrara fashions his movie in a parallel way to Paul Schrader’s Mishima – another film about an outspoken, prematurely deceased writer, poet, artist and filmmaker albeit politically diametrically opposite. The final days of his life are intercut with dramatised excerpts from his work, here primarily from a script Pasolini wanted to begin once Salo was unleashed upon the world.
Ferrara, a Pasolini devotee, delivers the director’s preoccupations through the fantasy inserts of his unproduced work: unreliability of religion, venality of the ruling elite, dark violent sexuality, truth in the gutters of the outcasts.
In a restaging of his final interview for the newspaper La Stampa Ferrara explicitly outlines the director’s pessimism at a morally bankrupt society enslaved to materialism. Although arguably he is too enthralled to his subject, avoiding comment on the Marxist director’s penchant for expensive leather jackets and flashy sports cars.
Dafoe, working largely in English with a smattering of Italian, creates a believable picture of the man who was humane, troubled, driven and drawn to those on the fringes of society despite being lauded by the intelligentsia.
And this films finds its famously abrasive director in warmer mood, allowing moments of everyday happiness such as a lunch with Pasolini’s beloved mother (Asti, who appeared in Pasolini’s first film Accottone), his cousin and assistant (Colagrande), his agent (Mastandrea) and visiting actress friend Laura Betti (de Medeiros), or a football match with local lads.
But, despite screenwriter Maurizio Braucci’s assertion that no foreknowledge of the man is required to enjoy Pasolini, the film is a closed door to those unfamiliar with the director.
To rectify this, we prescribe his Wikipedia entry and movies Accattone and the ferocious masterwork that is Salo.
Then enjoy this accomplished portrayal of one of Italy’s most important artists.