Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italian: [ˌpjɛr ˈpaːolo pazoˈliːni]; 5 March 1922 – 2 November 1975) was an Italian film director, poet, writer, and intellectual. He also distinguished himself as an actor, journalist, novelist, playwright, and political figure. A controversial personality in Italy due to his direct style and the focus of some of his works on taboo sexual matters, his legacy remains contentious. He was an established major figure in European literature and cinematic arts. Pasolini's unsolved murder in November 1975 prompted an outcry in Italy and its circumstances continue to be a matter of heated debate.
Pier Paolo Pasolini was born in Bologna, traditionally one of the most politically leftist of Italy's cities. He was the son of elementary-school teacher Susanna Colussi, named after her Jewish great-grandmother, and Carlo Alberto Pasolini, a lieutenant in the Royal Italian Army; they had married in 1921. Pasolini was born in 1922 and named after a paternal uncle. His family moved to Conegliano in 1923, then to Belluno in 1925, where their second son, Guidalberto, was born. In 1926, Pasolini's father was arrested for gambling debts. His mother moved with the children to her family's home in Casarsa della Delizia, in the Friuli region. That same year, his father first detained, then identified Anteo Zamboni as the would-be assassin of Benito Mussolini following his assassination attempt. Carlo Alberto was persuaded of the virtues of fascism.
Pasolini began writing poems at age seven, inspired by the natural beauty of Casarsa. One of his early influences was the work of Arthur Rimbaud. His father was transferred to Idria in the Julian March (now Idrija in Slovenia) in 1931; in 1933 they moved again to Cremona in Lombardy, and later to Scandiano and Reggio Emilia. Pasolini found it difficult to adapt to all these dislocations, though he enlarged his poetry and literature readings (Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Novalis) and left behind the religious fervour of his early years. In the Reggio Emilia high school, he met his first true friend, Luciano Serra. The two met again in Bologna, where Pasolini spent seven years completing high school. Here he cultivated new passions, including football. With other friends, including Ermes Parini, Franco Farolfi, Elio Meli, he formed a group dedicated to literary discussions.
In 1939, Pasolini graduated and entered the Literature College of the University of Bologna, discovering new themes such as philology and aesthetics of figurative arts. He also frequented the local cinema club. Pasolini always showed his friends a virile and strong exterior, totally hiding his interior turmoil. He took part in the Fascist regime's culture and sports competitions. In his poems of this period, Pasolini started to include fragments in Friulan, a minority language he did not speak but learned after he had begun to write poetry in it. "I learnt it as a sort of mystic act of love, a kind of félibrisme, like the Provençal poets." In 1943, he founded with fellow students the Academiuta della lenga furlana (Academy of the Friulan Language). As a young adult, Pasolini identified as an atheist.
Pasolini in his young years
In 1942, Pasolini published at his own expense a collection of poems in Friulan, Versi a Casarsa, which he had written at the age of eighteen. The work was noted and appreciated by such intellectuals and critics as Gianfranco Contini, Alfonso Gatto and Antonio Russi. Pasolini's pictures had also been well received. He was chief editor of a magazine called Il Setaccio ("The Sieve"), but was fired after conflicts with the director, who was aligned with the Fascist regime. A trip to Germany helped him also to perceive the "provincial" status of Italian culture in that period. These experiences led Pasolini to revise his opinion about the cultural politics of Fascism and to switch gradually to a Communist position.
Pasolini's family took shelter in Casarsa, considered a more tranquil place to wait for the conclusion of the Second World War, a decision common among Italian military families. Here he joined a group of other young enthusiasts of the Friulan language who wanted to give Casarsa Friulan a status equal to that of Udine, the official regional standard. From May 1944, they issued a magazine entitled Stroligùt di cà da l'aga. In the meantime Casarsa suffered Allied bombardments and forced enlistments by the Italian Social Republic, as well as partisan activity.
Pasolini tried to distance himself from these events. Starting in October 1943, Pasolini, his mother and other colleagues taught students unable to reach the schools in Pordenone or Udine. This educational workshop was considered illegal and broke up in February 1944. It was here that Pasolini had his first experience of homosexual attraction to one of his students. His brother Guido, aged 19, joined the Party of Action and their Osoppo-Friuli Brigade, taking to the bush near Slovenia. On 12 February 1945, Guido was killed in an ambush planted by Italian Garibaldine partisans serving in the lines of Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavian guerrillas. This devastated Pasolini and his mother.
Six days after his brother's death, Pasolini and others founded the Friulan Language Academy (Academiuta di lenga furlana). Meanwhile, on account of Guido's death, Pasolini's father returned to Italy from his detention period in November 1945, settling in Casarsa. That same month, Pasolini graduated from university after completing a final thesis about the work of Giovanni Pascoli (1855–1912), an Italian poet and classical scholar.
In 1946, Pasolini published a small poetry collection, I Diarii ("The Diaries"), with the Academiuta. In October he traveled to Rome. The following May he began the so-called Quaderni Rossi, handwritten in old school exercise books with red covers. He completed a drama in Italian, Il Cappellano. His poetry collection, I Pianti ("The cries"), was also published by the Academiuta.
Relationship with the Italian Communist Party
By October 1945, the political status of the Friuli region became a matter of contention between different political factions. On 30 October, Pasolini joined the pro-devolution association Patrie tal Friul, founded in Udine. Pasolini wanted a Friuli based on its tradition, attached to its Christianity, but intent on civic and social progress, as opposed to those advocates of regional autonomy who wanted to preserve their privileges based on "immobilism". He also criticized the Italian Communist Party (PCI) for its opposition to devolution and its preference for Italian centralism. Pasolini founded the party Movimento Popolare Friulano, but ended up quitting upon realizing that it was being used by the Christian Democratic Party to counter the Yugoslavs, who in turn were attempting to annex large swaths of the Friuli region.
On 26 January 1947 Pasolini wrote a declaration that was published on the front page of the newspaper Libertà: "In our opinion, we think that currently only Communism is able to provide a new culture." It generated controversy, partly due to the fact he was still not a member of the PCI.
Pasolini planned to extend the work of the Academiuta to the literature of other Romance languages, and met exiled Catalan poet Carles Cardó. He took part in several demonstrations after joining the PCI. In May 1949, he attended the Peace Congress in Paris. Observing the struggles of workers and peasants, and watching the clashes of protesters with Italian police, he began to conceive his first novel. During this period, while holding a position as a teacher in a secondary school, he stood out in the local Communist Party section as a skillful writer defying the notion that communism was contrary to Christian values, even though Pope Pius XII had excommunicated communist sympathisers from the Roman Catholic Church. Local Christian Democrats took notice. In the summer of 1949, Pasolini was told by a priest to renounce politics or lose his teaching position. Similarly, after some posters were put up in Udine, Giambattista Caron, a Christian Democrat deputy, warned Pasolini's cousin Nico Naldini that "[Pasolini] should abandon communist propaganda" to prevent "pernicious reactions".
A small scandal broke out during a local festival in Ramuscello in September 1949. Someone informed Cordovado, the local sergeant of the carabinieri, of sexual conduct (masturbation) by Pasolini with three youngsters aged sixteen and younger after dancing and drinking. Cordovado summoned the boys' parents, who hesitantly refused to file charges despite Cordovado's urging. Cordovado nevertheless drew up a report, and the informer elaborated publicly on his accusations, sparking a public uproar. A judge in San Vito al Tagliamento charged Pasolini with "corruption of minors and obscene acts in public places". He and the 16-year-old were both indicted.
The next month, when questioned, Pasolini would not deny the facts, but talked of a "literary and erotic drive" and cited André Gide, the 1947 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate. Cordovado informed his superiors and the regional press stepped in. According to Pasolini, the Christian Democrats instigated the entire affair to smear his name ("the Christian Democrats pulled the strings"). He was fired from his job in Valvasone and was expelled from the PCI by the party's Udine section, which he considered a betrayal. He addressed a critical letter to the head of the section, his friend Ferdinando Mautino, and claimed he was being subject to a "tacticism" of the PCI. In the party, the expulsion was opposed by Teresa Degan, Pasolini's colleague in education. He also wrote her a letter admitting his regret for being "such a naive, even indecently so". Pasolini's parents reacted angrily and the situation in the family became untenable.
In January 1950, Pasolini moved to Rome with his mother Susanna to start a new life. He was acquitted of both indecency charges in 1950 and 1952. After one year sheltered in a maternal uncle's flat next to Piazza Mattei, Pasolini and his 59-year-old mother moved to a run-down suburb called Rebibbia, next to a prison, for three years; he transferred his Friulan countryside inspiration to this Roman suburb, one of the infamous borgate where poor proletarian immigrants lived in often-horrendous sanitary and social conditions. Instead of asking for help from other writers, Pasolini preferred to go his own way.
Pasolini found a job working in the Cinecittà film studios and sold his books in the bancarelle ("sidewalk shops") of Rome. In 1951, with the help of the Abruzzese-language poet Vittorio Clemente, he found a job as a secondary school teacher in Ciampino, just outside the capital. He had a long commute involving two train changes, and earned a meagre salary of 27,000 lire.
Success and charges
Pasolini with Totò
In 1954, Pasolini, who now worked for the literary section of Cinecittà, left his teaching job and moved to the Monteverde quarter. At this point, his cousin Graziella moved in. They also accommodated Pasolini's ailing, cirrhotic father Carlo Alberto, who died in 1958. Pasolini published La meglio gioventù, his first important collection of Friulan poems. His first novel, Ragazzi di vita (English: Hustlers), was published in 1955. The work had great success but was poorly received by the PCI establishment and, most importantly, by the Italian government. It initiated a lawsuit for "obscenity" against Pasolini and his editor, Garzanti. Although exonerated, Pasolini became a target of insinuations, especially in the tabloid press.
In 1955, together with Francesco Leonetti, Roberto Roversi and others, Pasolini edited and published a poetry magazine called Officina. The magazine closed in 1959 after fourteen issues. That year he also published his second novel, Una vita violenta, which unlike his first was embraced by the Communist cultural sphere: he subsequently wrote a column, titled Dialoghi con Passolini (meaning Passolini in Dialogue), for the PCI magazine Vie Nuove from May 1960 to September 1965, which were published in book form in 1977 as Le belle bandiere (The Beautiful Flags).
In 1957, together with Sergio Citti, Pasolini collaborated on Federico Fellini's film Le notti di Cabiria, writing dialogue for the Roman dialect parts. Fellini also asked him to work on dialogue for some episodes of La dolce vita. Pasolini made his debut as an actor in Il gobbo in 1960, and co-wrote Long Night in 1943. Along with Ragazzi di vita, he had his celebrated poem Le ceneri di Gramsci published, where Pasolini voiced tormented tensions between reason and heart, as well as the existing ideological dialectics within communism, a debate over artistic freedom, socialist realism and commitment.
Pasolini's first film as director and screenwriter was Accattone in 1961, again set in Rome's marginal quarters. It was a story of pimps, prostitutes and thieves that contrasted with Italy's postwar economic reforms. Although Pasolini tried to distance himself from neorealism, the film is considered to be a kind of second neorealism. Nick Barbaro, a critic writing in the Austin Chronicle, stated it "may be the grimmest movie" he has ever seen. The movie aroused controversy and scandal. In 1963, the episode "La ricotta", included in the anthology film RoGoPaG, was censored and Pasolini was tried for "offense to the Italian state and religion".
During this period Pasolini frequently traveled abroad: in 1961, with Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia to India (where he went again seven years later); in 1962 to Sudan and Kenya; in 1963, to Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Jordan and Israel (where he shot the documentary Sopralluoghi in Palestina). In 1970 he traveled again to Africa to shoot the documentary, Appunti per un'Orestiade africana. Pasolini was a member of the jury at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival in 1966. In 1967, in Venice, he met and interviewed the American poet Ezra Pound. They discussed the Italian movement neoavanguardia and Pasolini read some verses from the Italian version of Pound's Pisan Cantos.
The late 1960s and early 1970s were the era of the so-called "student movement". Pasolini, though acknowledging the students' ideological motivations, and referring to himself as a "Catholic Marxist", thought them "anthropologically middle-class" and therefore destined to fail in their attempts at revolutionary change. Regarding the Battle of Valle Giulia, which took place in Rome in March 1968, he said that he sympathized with the police, as they were "children of the poor", while the young militants were exponents of what he called "left-wing fascism". His film of that year, Teorema, was shown at the Venice Film Festival in a hot political climate. Pasolini had proclaimed that the festival would be managed by the directors.
In 1970 Pasolini bought an old castle near Viterbo, several miles north of Rome, where he began to write his last novel, Il Petrolio, where he denounced obscure dealing in the highest levels of government and the corporate world (Eni, CIA, the Mafia, etc.). The novel-documentary was left incomplete at his death. In 1972, Pasolini started to collaborate with the extreme-left association Lotta Continua, producing a documentary, 12 dicembre, concerning the Piazza Fontana bombing. The following year he began a collaboration for Italy's most renowned newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera. At the beginning of 1975 Garzanti published a collection of his critical essays, Scritti corsari ("Corsair Writings").
Pasolini was murdered on 2 November 1975 on the beach at Ostia. He had been run over several times by his own car. Multiple bones were broken and his testicles were crushed by what appeared to be a metal bar. An autopsy revealed that his body had been partially burned with gasoline after his death. The crime was long viewed as a Mafia-style revenge killing, one extremely unlikely to have been carried out by only one person. Pasolini was buried in Casarsa.
Giuseppe (Pino) Pelosi (1958–2017), then 17 years old, was caught driving Pasolini's car and confessed to the murder. He was convicted in 1976, initially with "unknown others", but this phrase was later removed from the verdict. Twenty-nine years later, on 7 May 2005, Pelosi retracted his confession, which he said had been made under the threat of violence to his family. He claimed that three people "with a Southern accent" had committed the murder, insulting Pasolini as a "dirty communist".
Other evidence uncovered in 2005 suggested that Pasolini had been murdered by an extortionist. Testimony by his friend Sergio Citti indicated that some of the rolls of film from Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom had been stolen, and that Pasolini planned to meet with the thieves on 2 November 1975 after a visit to Stockholm, Sweden. Citti's investigation uncovered additional evidence, including a bloody wooden stick and an eyewitness who said he saw a group of men pull Pasolini from the car. The Rome police reopened the case after Pelosi's retraction, but the judges responsible for the investigation found that the new elements were insufficient to justify a continued inquiry.
Pasolini generated heated public discussion with controversial analyses of public affairs. For instance, during the disorders of 1968, autonomist university students were carrying on a guerrilla-style uprising against the police in the streets of Rome, and all the leftist forces declared their complete support for the students, describing the disorders as a civil fight of proletariat against the system. Pasolini, however, made comments that have frequently been interpreted as the opinion that he was with the police; or, more precisely, with the policemen.
The main source regarding Pasolini's views of the student movement is his poem "Il PCI ai giovani" ("The PCI to Young People"), written after the Battle of Valle Giulia. Addressing the students, he tells them that, unlike the international news media which has been reporting on them, he will not flatter them. He points out that they are the children of the bourgeoisie ("Avete facce di figli di papà / Vi odio come odio i vostri papà" – "You have the faces of daddy's boys / I hate you like I hate your dads"), before stating "Quando ieri a Valle Giulia avete fatto a botte coi poliziotti / io simpatizzavo coi poliziotti" ("When you and the policemen were throwing punches yesterday at Valle Giulia / I was sympathising with the policemen"). He explained that this sympathy was because the policemen were "figli di poveri" ("children of the poor"). The poem highlights the aspect of generational struggle within the bourgeoisie represented by the student movement: "Stampa e Corriere della Sera, News- week e Monde / vi leccano il culo. Siete i loro figli / la loro speranza, il loro futuro... Se mai / si tratta di una lotta intestina" ("Stampa and Corriere della Sera, Newsweek and Le Monde / they kiss your arse. You are their children / their hope, their future... If anything / it's in-fighting"). The 1968 revolt was seen by Pasolini as an internal, benign reform of the establishment in Italy, since the protesters were part of the petit bourgeoisie. The poem also implied a class hypocrisy on the part of the establishment towards the protesters, asking whether young workers would be treated similarly if they behaved in the same way: "Occupate le università / ma dite che la stessa idea venga / a dei giovani operai / E allora: Corriere della Sera e Stampa, Newsweek e Monde / avranno tanta sollecitudine / nel cercar di comprendere i loro problemi? / La polizia si limiterà a prendere un po’ di botte / dentro una fabbrica occupata? / Ma, soprattutto, come potrebbe concedersi / un giovane operaio di occupare una fabbrica / senza morire di fame dopo tre giorni?" ("Occupy the universities / but say that the same idea comes / to young workers / So: Corriere della Sera and Stampa, Newsweek and Le Monde / will have so much care / in trying to understand their problems? / Will the police just get a bit of a fight / inside an occupied factory? / But above all, how could / a young worker be allowed to occupy a factory / without dying of hunger after three days?".
Pasolini suggested that the police were the true proletariat, sent to fight for a poor salary and for reasons which they could not understand, against pampered boys of their same age, because they had not had the fortune of being able to study, referring to "poliziotti figli di proletari meridionali picchiati da figli di papà in vena di bravate" (lit. "policemen, sons of proletarian southerners, beaten up by arrogant daddy's boys"). He found that the policemen were but the outer layer of the real power, e.g. the judiciary. Pasolini was not alien to courts and trials. During all his life, Pasolini was frequently entangled in up to 33 lawsuits filed against him, variously charged with "public disgrace", "foul language", "obscenity", "pornography", "contempt of religion", "contempt of the state", etc., for which he was always eventually acquitted.
However, the conventional interpretation of Pasolini's position has been challenged: in an article published in 2015, Wu Ming argues that Pasolini's statements need to be understood in the context of Pasolini's self-confessed hatred of the bourgeoisie which had persecuted him for so long. He notes that "Il PCI ai giovani" states that "We (i.e. Pasolini and the students) are obviously in agreement against the police institution", and that the poem portrays policemen as dehumanised by their work, and that although the battles between students and the police were fights between the rich and the poor, Pasolini concedes that the students were "on the side of reason" whilst the police were "in the wrong". Wu Ming suggests that Pasolini's intent was to express scepticism regarding the idea of students being a revolutionary force, contending that only the working class could make a revolution, and that revolutionary students should join the PCI. Furthermore, he cites a column by Pasolini which was published in the magazine Tempo later that year, which described the student movement, along with the wartime resistance, as "the Italian people's only two democratic-revolutionary experiences". That year he also wrote in support of the Communist Party's proposals for disarming the police, arguing that this would create a break in the psychology of policemen: "It would lead to the sudden collapse of that ‘false idea of himself’ ascribed to him by Power, which has programmed him like a robot". Pasolini's polemics were aimed at goading protesters into re-thinking their revolt, and did not stop him from contributing to the autonomist Lotta continua movement, who he described as "extremists, yes, maybe fanatic and insolently boorish from a cultural point of view, but they push their luck and that is precisely why I think they deserve to be supported. We must want too much to obtain a little".
The rising society of consumption
Pasolini was particularly concerned about the class of the subproletariat, which he portrayed in Accattone, and to which he felt both humanly and artistically drawn. He observed that the kind of purity which he perceived in the pre-industrial popular culture was rapidly vanishing, a process that he named la scomparsa delle lucciole (lit. "the disappearance of the fireflies"). The joie de vivre of boys was being rapidly replaced with more bourgeois ambitions such as a house and a family. He was critical of those leftists who held a "traditional and never admitted hatred against lumpenproletariats and poor populations": in 1958 he called on the PCI to become "‘the party of the poor people’: the party, we may say, of the lumpenproletarians".
Pasolini's stance finds its roots in the belief that a Copernican change was taking place in the Italian society and the world. Linked to that very idea, he was also an ardent critic of consumismo, i.e. consumerism, which he felt had rapidly destroyed Italian society since the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. He described the coprophagia scenes in Salò as a comment on the processed food industry. As he saw it, the society of consumerism ("neocapitalism") and the "new fascism" had thus expanded an alienation / homogenization and centralization that the former clerical-fascism had not managed to achieve, so bringing about an anthropological change. That change is related to the loss of humanism and the expansion of productivity as central to the human condition, which he despised. He found that 'new culture' was degrading and vulgar. In one interview, he said: "I hate with particular vehemency the current power, the power of 1975, which is a power that manipulates bodies in a horrible way; a manipulation that has nothing to envy to that performed by Himmler or Hitler." According to Pasolini scholar Simona Bondavalli, Pasolini's definition of neo-capitalism as a "new fascism" enforced a uniform conformity without resorting to coercive means. As Pasolini put it, " "No Fascist centralism succeeded in doing what the centralism of consumer culture did." Philosopher Davide Tarizzo, summarized Pasolini's position that,
"In his view, both old and new fascisms undermine the fundamentals of modern democracy. Yet new fascism does not do this by absolutizing popular sovereignty at the expense of individual rights. New fascism celebrates our freedoms and absolutizes human rights to the detriment of our sense of belonging to a social-political community. Therefore, old and new fascisms strive to accomplish democracy—which is the restless ambition of fascism—via opposite routes. In the former case, the result is the birth of political subjects such as the master race, supported by a revelatory political grammar. In the latter case, the result is the birth of an altogether different subject, which is no longer a political actor, properly speaking, but a passive, anonymous entity: the human population."
Strong criticism of Christian Democracy
Pasolini saw some continuity between the Fascist era and the post-war political system which was led by the Christian Democrats, describing the latter as "clerico-fascism" due to its use of the state as a repressive instrument and its manipulation of power: he saw the conditions among the Roman subproletariat in the borgate as an example of this, being marginalised and segregated socially and geographically as they were under Fascism, and in conflict with a criminal police force. He also blamed the Christian Democrats for assimilating the values of consumer capitalism, contributing to what he saw as the erosion of human values.
The 1975 regional elections saw the rise of the leftist parties, and dwelling on his blunt, ever more political approach and prophetic style during this period, he declared in Corriere della Sera that the time had come to put the most prominent Christian Democrat figures on trial, where they would need to be shown walking in handcuffs and led by the carabinieri: he felt that this was the only way they could be removed from power. Pasolini charged the Christian Democratic leadership with being "riddled with Mafia influence", covering up a number of bombings by neo-fascists, collaborating with the CIA, and working with the CIA and the Italian Armed Forces to prevent the rise of the left.
Television linked to cultural alienation
Pasolini was angered by economic globalization and cultural domination of the North of Italy (around Milan) over other regions, especially the South. He felt this was accomplished through the power of television. A debate TV program recorded in 1971, where he denounced censorship, was not actually aired until the day following his murder in November 1975. In a PCI reform plan that he drew up in September and October 1975, among the desirable measures to be implemented, he cited the abolition of television.
Pasolini opposed the gradual disappearance of Italy's minority languages by writing some of his poetry in Friulan, the regional language of his childhood. His opposition to the liberalization of abortion law made him unpopular on the left.
After 1968, Pasolini engaged with the left-libertarian, liberal and anti-clerical Radical Party (Partito Radicale). He involved himself in polemics with party leader Marco Pannella, supported the Party's initiative calling for eight referendums on various liberalising reforms and had accepted an invitation to speak at the Party's congress before he was killed. However, despite supporting the holding of a referendum on the decriminalisation of abortion, he was opposed to actually decriminalising it, and he also criticised the Party's understanding of democratic activism as being a matter of equalising access to capitalist markets for the working class and other subaltern groups. In an interview he gave shortly before his death, Pasolini stated he frequently disagreed with the Party. He continued to give qualified support to the PCI: in June 1975 he said that he would still vote for the PCI because he felt it was "an island where critical consciousness is always desperately defended: and where human behaviour has been still able to preserve the old dignity", and in his final months he became close to the Rome section of the Italian Communist Youth Federation. A Federation activist, Vincenzo Cerami, delivered the speech he was due to give at the Radical Party congress: in it, Pasolini confirmed his Marxism and his support for the PCI.
Outside of Italy, Pasolini took a particular interest in the developing world, seeing parallels between life among the Italian underclass and in the third world, going so far as to declare that Bandung was the capital of three-quarters of the world and half of Italy. He was also positive about the New Left in the United States, predicting that it would "lead to an original form of non-Marxist Socialism" and writing that the movement reminded him of the Italian Resistance. Pasolini saw these two areas of struggle as inter-linked: after visiting Harlem he stated that "the core of the struggle for the Third World revolution is really America".
The LGBT Encyclopedia states the following regarding Pasolini's homosexuality:
While openly gay from the very start of his career, Pasolini rarely dealt with homosexuality in his movies. The subject is featured prominently in Teorema (1968), where Terence Stamp's mysterious God-like visitor seduces the son and father of an upper-middle-class family; passingly in Arabian Nights (1974), in an idyll between a king and a commoner that ends in death; and, most darkly of all, in Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975), his infamous rendition of the Marquis de Sade's compendium of sexual horrors.
In 1963 Pasolini met "the great love of his life", 15-year-old Ninetto Davoli, whom he later cast in his 1966 film Uccellacci e uccellini (literally Bad Birds and Little Birds but translated in English as The Hawks and the Sparrows). Pasolini became the youth's mentor and friend.
However, there were some important women in Pasolini's life, with whom Pasolini shared a feeling of profound and unique friendship, in particular Laura Betti and Maria Callas. Dacia Maraini, a famous Italian writer, said of Callas' behavior towards Pasolini: "She used to follow him everywhere, even to Africa. She hoped to 'convert' him to heterosexuality and to marriage." Pasolini was also sensible to the problematics related to the "new" role ascribed to women through the Italian media, stating in a 1972 interview that "women are not slot machines."
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Pasolini's first novel, Ragazzi di vita (1955), dealt with the Roman lumpenproletariat. The book caused obscenity charges to be filed against Pasolini, the first of many instances in which his art provoked legal problems. The movie Accattone (1961), also about the Roman underworld, also provoked controversy, and conservatives demanded stricter censorship by the government.
He wrote and directed the black-and-white The Gospel According to Matthew (1964). It is based on scripture, but adapted by Pasolini, and he is credited as writer. Jesus, a barefoot peasant, is played by Enrique Irazoqui. While filming it, Pasolini vowed to direct it from the "believer's point of view", but later said that upon viewing the completed work, he realized he had expressed his own beliefs.
In his 1966 film Uccellacci e uccellini (literally Bad Birds and Little Birds but translated in English as The Hawks and the Sparrows), a picaresque—and at the same time mystic—fable, Pasolini hired the great Italian comedian Totò to work with Ninetto Davoli, the director's lover at the time and one of his preferred "naif" actors. It was a unique opportunity for Totò to demonstrate that he was a great dramatic actor as well.
In Teorema (Theorem, 1968), starring Terence Stamp as a mysterious stranger, Pasolini depicted the sexual coming-apart of a bourgeois family. (Variations of this theme were filmed by François Ozon in Sitcom, Joe Swanberg in The Zone and Takashi Miike in Visitor Q).
Later movies centered on sex-laden folklore, such as Boccaccio's Decameron (1971), Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Il fiore delle mille e una notte (literally The Flower of 1001 Nights, released in English as Arabian Nights, 1974). These films are usually grouped as the Trilogy of Life. While basing them on classics, Pasolini wrote the screenplays and took sole credit as writer. This trilogy, prompted largely by Pasolini's attempt to show the secular sacredness of the body against man-made social controls and especially against the venal hypocrisy of religious state (indeed, the religious characters in The Canterbury Tales are shown as pious but amorally grasping fools) were an effort at representing a state of natural sexual innocence essential to the true nature of free humanity. Alternately playfully bawdy and poetically sensuous, wildly populous, subtly symbolic and visually exquisite, the films were wildly popular in Italy and remain perhaps his most enduringly popular works. Yet despite the fact that the trilogy as a whole is considered by many as a masterpiece, Pasolini later reviled his own creation on account of the many soft-core imitations of these three films in Italy that happened afterwards on account of the very same popularity he wound up deeply uncomfortable with. He believed that a bastardisation of his vision had taken place that amounted to a commoditisation of the body he had tried to deny in his trilogy in the first place. The disconsolation this provided is seen as one of the primary reasons for his final film, Salò, in which humans are not only seen as commodities under authoritarian control but are viewed merely as ciphers for its whims, without the free vitality of the figures in the Trilogy of Life.
His final work, Salò (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975), exceeded what most viewers could accept at the time in its explicit scenes of intensely sadistic violence. Based on the novel 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade, it is considered Pasolini's most controversial film. In May 2006, Time Out's Film Guide named it the "Most Controversial Film" of all time. Salò was intended as the first film of his Trilogy of Death, followed by an aborted biopic film about Gilles de Rais.
As a director, Pasolini created a picaresque neorealism, showing a sad reality. Many people did not want to see such portrayals in artistic work for public distribution. Mamma Roma (1962), featuring Anna Magnani and telling the story of a prostitute and her son, was an affront to the public ideals of morality of those times. His works, with their unequaled poetry applied to cruel realities, showing that such realities were less distant from most daily lives, and contributed to changes in the Italian psyche.
Pasolini's work often engendered disapproval perhaps primarily because of his frequent focus on sexual behavior, and the contrast between what he presented and what was publicly sanctioned. While Pasolini's poetry often dealt with his gay love interests, this was not the only, or even main, theme. His interest in and use of Italian dialects should also be noted. Much of the poetry was about his highly revered mother. He depicted certain corners of the contemporary reality as few other poets could do. His poetry, which took some time before it was translated, was not as well known outside Italy as were his films. A collection in English was published in 1996.
Pasolini also developed a philosophy of language mainly related to his studies on cinema. This theoretical and critical activity was another hotly debated topic. His collected articles and responses are still available today.
These studies can be considered as the foundation of his artistic point of view: he believed that the language—such as English, Italian, dialect or other—is a rigid system in which human thought is trapped. He also thought that the cinema is the "written" language of reality which, like any other written language, enables man to see things from the point of view of truth.
His films won awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Italian National Syndicate for Film Journalists, Jussi Awards, Kinema Junpo Awards, International Catholic Film Office and New York Film Critics Circle. The Gospel According to St. Matthew was nominated for the United Nations Award of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in 1968.
In 2014 Abel Ferrara directed a biopic about Pasolini, with Willem Dafoe in the lead role. It was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.
In 2015, Malga Kubiak directed a drama movie based on the story of Pier Paolo Pasolini's life and death titled PPPasolini. The movie was screened at the seventh edition of the LGBT Film Festival in Warsaw, and received a People's Choice Award at the festival.
In 2016, his former collaborator David Grieco directed a biopic on the last hours of Pasolini's life, La macchinazione, starring Massimo Ranieri as Pasolini.
All titles listed below were written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini unless stated otherwise. Oedipus Rex and Medea are loosely based on plays by Sophocles and Euripides respectively.
Episodes in omnibus films
- La meglio gioventù (1954)
- Le ceneri di Gramsci (1957)
- L'usignolo della chiesa cattolica (1958)
- La religione del mio tempo (1961)
- Poesia in forma di rosa (1964)
- Trasumanar e organizzar (1971)
- La nuova gioventù (1975)
- Roman Poems. Pocket Poets No. 41 (1986)
- The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition. (2014)
- Passione e ideologia (1960)
- Canzoniere italiano, poesia popolare italiana (1960)
- Empirismo eretico (1972)
- Lettere luterane (1976)
- Le belle bandiere (1977)
- Descrizioni di descrizioni (1979)
- Il caos (1979)
- La pornografia è noiosa (1979)
- Scritti corsari (1975)
- Lettere (1940–1954) (Letters, 1940–54, 1986)
- Orgia (1968)
- Porcile (1968)
- Calderón (1973)
- Affabulazione (1977)
- Pilade (1977)
- Bestia da stile (1977)
- ^ The translated English title is used infrequently.
- ^ Frank Northen Magill, Critical survey of poetry: foreign language series, Salem Press, 1984, p. 1145
- ^ Siciliano, Enzo (2014). Pasolini; Una vida tormentosa. Torres de Papel. p. 37. ISBN 978-84-943726-4-3.
- ^ Ste vedeli, da je Pier Paolo Pasolini v otroštvu nekaj časa živel v Idriji?: Prvi interaktivni multimedijski portal, MMC RTV Slovenija. Rtvslo.si (20 October 2012). Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- ^ Stack, O. (1969). Pasolini on Pasolini, pp. 15–17, London: Thames and Hudson.
- ^ Thompson, N.S. (1981), Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poet and Prophet, in Murray, Glen (ed.), Cencrastus No. 7, Winter 1981 - 82, pp. 30 - 32.
- ^ Guy Flatley, The Atheist who was Obsessed with God, 1969, located at Moviecrazed.com (accessed 25 April 2008).
- ^ Martellini, Luigi (2006). Pier Paolo Pasolini; Retrato de un intelectual. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia. p. 28. ISBN 978-84-370-7928-8.
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, p. 29
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, p. 33
- ^ a b Siciliano, Enzo. 2014, 111–112
- ^ a b c d Siciliano, Enzo. 2014, 148
- ^ a b c Martelini, L. 2006, p. 48
- ^ a b Siciliano, Enzo. 2014, 149
- ^ Siciliano, Enzo. 2014, 151
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, p. 62
- ^ Robert Samuel Clive Gordon (1996). Pasolini: Forms of Subjectivity. Clarendon Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-19-815905-6.
- ^ a b c d e Peretti, Luca (1 June 2018). "Remembering Pier Paolo Pasolini". Jacobin. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
- ^ Monopoli, Leonardo. "Pasolini e il cinema". homolaicus.com (in Italian). Retrieved 9 September 2018.
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, pp. 79–81
- ^ "Film Review: Accattone".
- ^ Barbaro, Nick (19 January 2001). "Che Bella: Italian Neorealism and the Movies – and the AFS Series – It Inspired". The Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on 7 December 2006. Retrieved 13 December 2006.
- ^ "Berlinale 1966: Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
- ^ a b Video on YouTube. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- ^ "Pier Paolo Pasolini – Biography". pierpaolopasolini.com.
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, p. 192
- ^ "The violent death of "inconvenient" intellect, Pier Paolo Pasolini — Italianmedia". ilglobo.com.au. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- ^ a b c Vulliamy, Ed (24 August 2014). "Who really killed Pier Paolo Pasolini?". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- ^ a b Gumbell, Andrew (23 September 1995). "Who killed Pasolini?". The Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
- ^ Cataldi, Benedetto (5 May 2005). "Pasolini death inquiry reopened". BBC.
- ^ "Asesinato de Pasolini, nueva investigación". La Razón (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- ^ Héctor Rivera (28 March 2010). "Pasolini de nuevo". Sentido contrario (in Italian). Grupo Milenio. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- ^ "Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–1975)" (in Italian). Cinematismo. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- ^ Google Drive Viewer. Google, 2 April 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- ^ a b Pasolini, Pier Paolo (16 June 1968). "Il Pci ai giovani" [The PCI to Young People]. L'espresso (in Italian). Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, pp. 141–142
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, p. 141
- ^ a b Wu Ming 1; Meer, Ayan (3 January 2016). "The Police vs. Pasolini, Pasolini vs. The Police". Tumblr. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- ^ Wu Ming 1 (29 October 2015). "La polizia contro Pasolini, Pasolini contro la polizia" [The Police vs. Pasolini, Pasolini vs. The Police]. internazionale.it (in Italian). Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- ^ Martelini, L. 2006, pp. 184–185
- ^ Siciliano, Enzo. 2014, p. 389
- ^ Bondavalli, Simona (2015). Fictions of Youth:Pier Paolo Pasolini, Adolescence, Fascisms. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442627079.
- ^ Tarizzo, Davide (2021). Political grammars : the unconscious foundations of modern democracy. Square One: First Order Questions in the Humanities. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 163. ISBN 9781503615328.
- ^ a b c d e Andrews, Geoff (1 November 2005). "The life and death of Pier Paolo Pasolini". OpenDemocracy. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
- ^ a b Siciliano, Enzo. 2014, pp. 388–389
- ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Pier Paolo Pasolini". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 7 March 2006.
- ^ "Conversation with Pier Paolo Pasolini". Radio Radicale. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
- ^ a b Pasolini, Pier Paolo (1 January 1975). "L'aborto il coito" [Abortion, Copulation]. Corriere della Sera. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- ^ Rumble, Patrick (1996). Allegories of Contamination: Pier Paolo Pasolini's Trilogy of Life. Toronto Italian Studies. University of Toronto Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780802072191. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- ^ Colombo, Furio; Battista, Anna (8 November 1975). "Siamo tutti in pericolo" [We are all in danger] (PDF). La Stampa. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- ^ Ehrenstein, David (2005). "Pasolini, Pier Paolo" Archived 15 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
- ^ Ireland, Doug (4 August 2005). "Restoring Pasolini". LA Weekly. LA Weekly, LP. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ a b Pier Paolo Pasolini (1995). Il Caos (collected articles) (in Italian). Rome: Editori Riuniti.
- ^ Pier Paolo Pasolini (1996). Collected Poems. Noonday Press. ISBN 9780374524692.
- ^ a b Pasolini, Pier Paolo (1988–2005). Heretical empiricism. New Academia Publishing. ISBN 9780976704225.
- ^ A. Covi (1971). Dibattiti sui film (in Italian). Padova: Gregoriana.
- ^ A. Asor Rosa (1988). Scrittori e Popolo – il populismo nella letteratura italiana contemporanea (in Italian). Torino: Gregoriana.
- ^ "International competition of feature films". Venice. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- ^ "Venice Film Festival Lineup Announced". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- ^ "7th edition of LGBT Film Festival in Warsaw". Warszawa. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
- ^ "Pier Paolo Pasolini: "La Macchinazione", film di David Grieco, chiede la verità sulla morte del poeta". HuffPost. 2 March 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
- ^ "Berlinale 1972: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
- ^ "Berlinale 1972: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- ^ "Festival de Cannes: Arabian Nights". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 26 June 2011.