Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of finest and most outrageous directors during the golden age of Italian cinema. Then his life ended in a sordid murder that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of his own movies. He’s been a figure of fascination amongst film geeks for that very reason for quite some time. It only makes sense that eventually someone would make a movie about his life and makes even more sense that some one would end up being Abel Ferrara. The man who started with sordid exploitation flicks like Driller Killer and earned respectability through sordid art house films like Bad Lieutenant is just the guy to shoot a movie about a sordid auteur. The eventual film that Ferrara delivered follows the last few days of his life and is just as mysteriously opaque and outrageous as one of Pasolini’s films, in both a good and a bad way.
Willem Dafoe stars as Pasolini and plays him (quite well, it’s worth noting) as a guarded mystery. His life is rigidly organized and his relationships with others are kept at arm’s length. It’s only in his films and fantasies that Pasolini’s most unhinged impulses emerged with any honesty. Ferrara dramatizes those fantasies by filming a short version of an unfinished feature he was working on at the time of his death involving an orgy. It’s a fascinating sequence, while the rest of the movie is almost too quiet and reserved for its own good. The film never really gets inside Pasolini or explains him, instead offering a series observations, conversations, and fantasies that offer a fleeting glimpse the man with the insights left up to the audience. It feels appropriate given that’s how Pasolini approached his own work. Unfortunately, it also leads to a movie as frustrating as it is fascinating. (Phil Brown)
Friday, September 12, 4:445pm, Lightbox 1