Happy Birthday Pier Paolo Pasolini!


It was on this day ninety-two years ago that the great Pier Paolo Pasolini was born.  The Italian film director is best known for two of his films, the Italian neo-realist retelling of the life of Christ The Gospel According to St. Matthew and the Marquis de Sade-sourced Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.  Though it might seem impossible for a man to make extraordinary films out of such disparate material, Pasolini’s was the type of intellect that could look to just about any classic (or scandal) of the western cannon and make something beautiful of it.  The artist not only wrote and directed films, but wrote poetry, novels, plays, and essays all of which sprung from his outside-of-the-mainstream experience.  Mr. Pasolini was a staunch leftist and a homosexual and, although these issues are not always addressed explicitly in his films they are explored through the director’s incredibly compassionate depiction of his characters which exist outside of their own cultural mainstream [and I am speaking only of his films here, as I have not read enough of his other work to be able to speak confidently about it].  Mr. Pasolini was a director whose work I felt compelled to seek out after the first film that I saw – The Decameron –  since there was such a clear vision and purpose in the filmmaking as well as a respect that the director had for the viewer, to be able to put connections together on their own, and to follow a potentially distracting “narrative” flow.  It was clear that he believed in the decency of human beings beyond a religiously restrictive assigning of holiness to some and not to others (and I would learn later that he was referred often to the ideaof “natural sacredness”).  I always appreciate when it is clear that a director has made the film they set out to make.  I appreciate even more when a director seems to have something they want to convey in their work and as I saw more of Pasolini’s films it became more and more clear to me that Pier Paolo Pasolini was a true artist of the medium.  He was brutally murdered on November 2, 1975, at the age of 55, in what remain to be suspicious circumstances and though might wonder what other thought-provoking work he might have made if he lived longer, we that have encountered his work have certainly been affected.  He was a saint for the sinners and a man who loved “the people” and he should be remembered for the soul that he shared through his art and not the many controversies he was a part of during his life.  Watch one of his films below, but I encourage you to read about them first:

The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Mamma Roma

The Canterbury Tales

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