Director Abel Ferrera brings us the few days in the life of gay Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini in his new film simply titled ‘Pasolini.’ ★★★★
Ferrera, who last year gave us the gripping, scandalous, controversial and excellent film Welcome to New York (which was inspired by the case of Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK), the former chairman of the IMF), presents us a film where Ferrara imagines and then reconstructs the last days in the life of Pasolini.
Pasolini was an extremely controversial film director. His films combined themes of religion and sex, his own personal views on topics such as abortion, displaying in your face bacchanals that left little to the imagination. His last film – titled Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom – depicted children subjected to violence, sexual depravity, and horrific murder – making Pasolini an extremely hated, or genius, figure. In Pasolini, Willem Dafoe doesn’t so much imitate or play Pasolini in the film, but he inhabits the actions and thoughts of him. And Ferrara, in putting this film together, spoke to Pasolini’s relatives and friends to gather the memories and thoughts of a man who would wind up being killed by a rent boy at the age of 53 in Italy.
Pasolini is not so much an actual biography of the last days of Pasolini’s life, it’s more of a combination of the actual events that took place coupled with scenes from an unmade Pasolini film, a film that he was actually working on when he died. So we have Ferrara inhabiting the shoes of Pasolini and bringing to life scenes from the film that Pasolini never made – Porno-Teo-Kolossai – coupled with the events from the last days of his life which included meetings to discuss his new film, in his home with his mom and assistant and various friends, and to finally, his pickup of a male rent boy that would result in his death. It’s a very realistic film. Ferrara uses the actual locations of the real life events and also uses Pasolini’s personal objects and clothes in the film. This, coupled with Dafoe’s performance, gives us a documentary style production that is rich in it’s storytelling. Dafoe gives a fantastic performance inhabiting Pasolini’s world, right down to the language (some of this film is in Italian, and not every part of it has subtitles), to the glasses that he wears, to the clothing, to the way he carries himself. Like Gerard Depardieu who perfectly inhabited the role of DSK, Dafoe convincingly inhabits the role here. Even down to the final scene in the film, where Pasolini has sex with the rent boy and ends up being badly beaten, and run over by his own car. It’s a brutal death for a man who didn’t deserve to die that way. His murder on a beach on the outskirts of Rome on November 2, 1972 is still an open case despite the conviction of the rentboy that he picked up that night. It would be bit more fascinating if a filmmaker can make a film about Pasolini’s life – that would be a much more well-deserved tribute.
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by Tim Baros
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.