The centenary of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s birth provides a welcome cue to revisit one of modern cinema’s most individual and fearless careers.
In just fifteen hectic years, Pasolini moved from updating neo-realist aesthetics in his early films set in the Roman underworld (‘Mamma Roma’) to creating vividly imagined fictive worlds. These would range from a widely admired reinterpretation of the traditional passion story in ‘The Gospel According to Matthew’ to his final film, ‘Salo’, banned from exhibition almost everywhere due to its scandalous imagining of Fascist erotics.
Between these contrasting extremes, Pasolini responded to the revolutionary climate of the late 60s with two controversial and mysterious parables, ‘Pigsty’ and ‘Theorem’. He also pioneered a unique form of populist art cinema, with new approaches to classical mythology and to the great story collections of medieval literature. Both series were rooted in an earthy realism, drawing on his own Friulian childhood, while also searching for the sacred and the supernatural beyond organised religion.
- Ian Christie