And here we are. The day after Easter and we’ve …
Pier Paolo Pasolini
The art and the artist are undoubtedly strange bedfellows, and while there is a vast ocean to explore in terms of this relationship, the tempestuousness rarely ever seems to get its time on screen. This is no different for Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini – a biopic about the last days of Pier Paolo Pasolini – where several times the idea is talked about, even spoken about with the same kind of verve that one would use to discuss the lurid sexual details that are illustrated on-screen, but that push and pull is not actually articulated on-screen. Pasolini was certainly a complex man, a Jack-of-all-trades in the art world, and Ferrara does an excellent job talking about this – his role in politics, his poetry, his novels, and, of course, his films – but the director spends little time showing us that influence. The biopic of an artist, I believe, begs the question of that relationship and that influence. “It’s either I kill myself or I do it,” he says about making movies. Though the film is certainly honorific, it’s not completely explorative.
With the release of two films in 2014, Abel Ferrara has had one of the biggest years in his long and rich career. Welcome to New York, which premiered at the Cannes film festival, was a confrontational splash that divided audiences and critics alike. As the Toronto International Film Festival was underway, the film jumped back into the headlines too, as Ferrara began a media fight over the negotiation of an R-rated cut of the film, which he refused to endorse. This revelation came at a particularly apt moment, as Toronto presented Ferrara’s second film of the year, Pasolini. It seemed only appropriate that, while waging a public battle over censorship, Ferrara’s new film about a man rumoured to have died because of his art would be premiering.
‘Be intense or be nothing’. This statement, made by a middle-aged architect during a civilised breakfast, is put forward as a motto for his daughter’s disaffected generation. Lacking in attention and purpose, they need ‘stimulus after stimulus’ to stay interested, to keep them feeling alive. The phrase also becomes something like a raison d’être for Hardkor Disko, a film that hinges on its discomforting atmosphere and ability to aggravate the senses.
A work that is chronologically and aesthetically his mid-period film, Teorema is Pier Paolo Pasolini at his finest hour. It is not Neo Realist cousin like Accatone (1961) Mamma Roma (1962), nor is it the debaucherous snarl of Salò (1975); it has a larger portion of the religious parable than The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966), and is as interested in sex as The Decameron (1971).