'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

15 September 2010

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini was born on the March 5,1922 in Bologna. He was the eldest son of the infantry lieutenant Alberto Pasolini and Susanna Colussi, a teacher. They moved often throughout northern Italy.  "They have made a nomad of me. I passed from one camp to another. I never had a fixed abode". In 1925, a brother, Guido, was born and they had mutual, lasting love for each other however Pier Paolo's had a bad relationship with his father, but he was always attached strongly to his mother. "She told me stories, fables, she read them to me. My mother was like Socrates to me….She really believes in heroism, in charity, in piety, in generosity. I have adopted all that almost in a pathologic way." He entered elementary school a year early. Pier Paolo filled many notebooks with pictures and moved on to grammar school.  He wrote a passage known as Teta veleta, that Pasolini spoke about: "It was in Belluno, I was a little more than 3 years old. As the boys played in the public gardens in front of my house what struck me most of all was their legs, particularly the internal convex part of the knee, where the tendons stretch out while running. I saw in those quick tendons a symbol of life that I hadn't yet attained. That image of the running boy for me represented the grown-up being. Now I know that it was a distinctly sensual sentiment. If I re-feel it I feel with exactness in my bowels the tenderness, the sorrowfulness and the violence of the desire. It was the sense of the unreachableness, of the carnal - a sense for which a name hasn't yet been invented. I invented it that time and it was "teta veleta". Seeing those legs bent in their furious game I told myself that it felt "teta veleta," something like a tickle, a seduction, a humiliation."

He finished high school at 17 and matriculated in Literature at the University of Bologna. During his high school years he created a literary group and wrote poems in Italian and Friulian. He contributed to a magazine and created the "The little Academy of Friulian language" as a sort of dialectic opposition to fascism and the church.WWII affected him badly  "As to my health, it's not bad, indeed it is just fine. So is my morale, when all is quiet, which is rarely. Otherwise, I'm very afraid. I fear for my skin, do you understand Rico? And not only for mine, also for the others. We are so exposed to destiny; poor naked men…I don't know if we'll see each other again, all smacks of death, of end, of shooting...everything is disgusting, if one thinks of those fellows shitting on this earth. I would like to spit on the earth..."   However he was conscripted into the army in Livorno, in 1943 but he disobeyed an order to deliver his arms to the Germans and fled. The family moved away from the bombing to Versuta where he taught boys in high school. Guido joined the partisans and In February 1945 he, with the entire command was massacred. The family only heard of the death and its circumstances at the end of the war. Guido's death had a devastating effect on the sorrow-stricken mother and following his father's return from imprisonment in Kenya the relationship between Pier Paolo and his mother became even closer. Guido's death would also be exploited by the Italian Right as a means of attacking Pasolini. 
"Pier Paolo, Marxist writer, advocates the ideas and defends the system of his brother's maltreaters." "Pasolini's brother was killed by the Communists. He would have asked for his brother Pier Paolo's help in vain."  In 1945 Pasolini graduated with a thesis entitled "Anthology of pascolinian lyric poetry" and settled in Friuli where he found a job as teacher in a secondary school of Valvasone. In 1947 he started contributing to the Italian Communist Party weekly "Lotta e lavoro".  Loyalty to the party was seen as a sacrifice to a social ideal of the deep sorrow caused to himself and his family by the death of his brother.  Pasolini became secretary of the of the party in Casarsa, but they didn't like him. Many Communists suspected Pasolini of disinterest in socialist realism, and having an excessive attention in bourgeois culture. This was the only time Pasolini was actively engaged in the political fight. On October 15,1949 Pasolini was accused of minor corruption and moral unworthiness involving three boys and the ensuing legal battles changed his life. Years later, Pasolini said "on me there's the sign of Rimbaud, or of Campana or also of Wilde, whether I like or not, whether the other people agree or not." "I fled with my mother and a case and a few jewels that turned out to be fake. We went towards Rome"
Pasolini stumbled into a completely new reality of the Roman suburbs. "That was a tremendous period of my life... unemployed for many years, ignored by all people, consumed by internal terror of not being as life wanted, occupied on working furiously on hard and complicated studies, unable to write" In 1950 he began ‘Ragazzi di vita’. He entered the film industry as a proof-reader at Cinecittà and sent his books to the local bookstalls and found a job as teacher in a private school. In 1954 Pasolini left teaching and moved to a bourgeois quarter in Rome. In 1955 he published the novel ‘Ragazzi di vita’, which had a big success both among the critics and the public. The party did not like it and he was charged. The trial ended with acquittal "because the fact doesn't amount to a crime". Newspapers accused him of everything from aiding and abetting, brawling, theft to armed robbery until it became grotesque. In 1957 Pasolini, collaborated on Fellini's film, Le notti di Cabiria, writing the dialogue in Roman dialect. In 1961 Pasolini made his first film as film-director and scriptwriter, Accattone (Bernardo Bertolucci was his assistant). The film was forbidden to those under 18 and excited many. Then followed Mamma Roma and an episode La ricotta directed by Pasolini for the film RoGoPaG, which was sequestered and Pasolini  was accused of the crime of public defamation of State religion. However in1964 this Marxist director made the sensitive and stunningly beautiful 'Gospel according to St. Matthew' at the request of Pope John XXIII.  He continued with film until his death.

He travelled in 1961 to India; in 1962 to Sudan and Kenya; in 1963 to Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Israel and Giordania In 1966, he attended the New York Film Festival. In 1968 Pasolini was again in India to film a documentary. In 1970 Uganda and Tanzania, from which he filmed the documentary Appunti per un'Orestiade African. In the years of the student protest Pasolini took a different approach from the rest of the Left. Though he supported  the student’s motives, he thought that they were anthropologically bourgeois and, destined to fail in their attempt at revolution. 
On the morning of 2nd November 1975, on the Roman litoral of Ostia, in an uncultivated field in Via dell'idroscalo, a woman, Maria Teresa Lollobrigida, discovered the dead body of a man. Ninetto Davoli identified the body as Pier Paolo Pasolini.

 "When his body was found, Pasolini lay outstretched, face downwards, a bleeding arm shifted and the other one hidden by the body. The blood-kneaded hair fell on the excoriated and torn forehead. The face deformed by swelling, was black because full of bruises and wounds. Black-and-blue and red of blood, as were the arms, the hands. The fingers of the left hand were broken and cut. The left jaw was broken. The nose was flattened by the tires of his car, under which he had been squashed. A horrible tearing between neck and nape. Ten broken ribs, the breast-bone broken. The heart burst". During the night Carabineers stopped a young man named Giuseppe Pelosi,  while driving Pasolini's stolen car. The boy confessed the murder. He claimed to have met Pasolini near Termini railway station, and after a dinner in a restaurant went to the place where the body was found. He claimed Pasolini attempted to approach him sexually and they fought.  The boy was found guilty. It was rumoured that it was a set up and a political assassination but has never been proved. The trial that followed brought to light disturbing facts.

Pasolini was buried in Casarsa, in Friuli. 
Click these to enlarge

The Films
Throughout the films of Pasolini expressionless portraits, almost stills, of his non professional actors' faces define his love of the peasant life. The great beauty of these common faces is a powerful expression of what appears to me a great passion for humanity. Whether old, toothless, worn by real life, or simplicity and youthful innocence of experience, these faces are masterpieces in observation and a true homage. The beauty of his composition and imagery is what makes him a master to me. A poet's eye that sparks true contemplation and gives joy, an intelligence that invites one to see beyond the superficial and grasp reality in all its splendour and wisdom. His films are a mirror to what we are, without pretension, without inhibition and without irrational guilt.
The Last Film 'Salo'
Banned in most countries in its early days it is only recently receiving showings, although it still elicits condemnation, mainly from those who have never seen it. A powerful and poetic metaphor of the dangers of unfettered Fascism. It is also cruel and confronting in subject and imagery, but, in my opinion, such a work should be seen as a reminder of just how far mankind can go. It was in 1979 that I saw this film in London and at that time I thought it a masterpiece.When I got hold of the DVD (along with The Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights, Oedipus Rex, Accatone,The Gospel According to St Matthew , Mamma Roma Teorema, Medea, Porcile, I was reassured that it remains a very important film.
My Books
'Pasolini'  a biography by Enzo Siciliano
'Pier Paolo Pasolini - Cinema as Herasy' by Naomi Greene
'The Ragazzi' by Pier Paolo Pasoloni
In 1996 a Film 'Nerolio' was made by  Aurelio Grimaldi. on the last days of Pasolini. A  beautiful Black and White movie much in the style of a Pasolini film and is available on DVD.

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