At the end of Mamma Roma (1962), Pier Paolo Pasolini's great film, the hero lies dying on a prison bed like the dead Christ of Mantegna or a barefoot saint by Caravaggio. Much has been made of the Renaissance and baroque iconography in Pasolini's cinema. The implied blasphemy of Caravaggio's grubby, low-life Christs excited the iconoclast in the Italian film-maker, whose wretched death was somehow foreshadowed in his own work. On the morning of 2 November 1975, in a shanty town outside Rome, Pasolini was found beaten beyond recognition and run over by his Alfa Romeo. A woman had noticed something in front of her house. "See how those bastards come and dump their rubbish here," she complained.

The accused came from a housing estate outside Rome called Tiburtino III. Built in 1935 on marshland, the fascist-era tenements never amounted to the utopian project promised by Mussolini. Yet the outskirts, strewn with broken washbasins and old tyres sprouting poppies, present a Pasolinian pasticcio of the poetic and the squalid. In Pasolini's day Tiburtino III retained something of the semi-rural atmosphere of l'Italietta (Italy's little homelands) peculiar to his Roman cinema. Migrants from southern Italy brought their own moralities and dialects, which Pasolini documented with ethnographic exactitude. 

The scene of the murder, Idroscalo, recalls a setting for a Pasolini film or novel: shacks lie scattered across a beach and in the distance rise the slums of Nuova Ostia. A 17-year-old rent boy nicknamed "Joey the Toad" Pelosi was charged with the murder – a homosexual assignation gone fatally wrong. Or was Pasolini the victim of a political assassination? His presumed killer, it emerged, was in league with the Italian neo-fascist party; the verdict is still open. Pasolini was 53.

In his poetry, journalism, novels and films, Pasolini championed the disinherited and damned of postwar Italy, mingling an intellectual leftism with a fierce Franciscan Catholicism. His best-known film, The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), was dedicated to John Paul XXIII, the first pope to have opened up the discourse between Catholicism and Marxism, and pointedly omitted the word "Saint" from the title. It was shot in the lunar landscape of Italy's remote Basilicata region – where Mel Gibson was to make his lurid Christ extravaganza – and featured several of Pasolini's friends (among them the novelist Natalia Ginzburg and his future biographer Enzo Siciliano).

Nearly 40 years after his death, Pasolini is ripe for reappraisal. Next month a retrospective opens at the British Film Institute, the largest ever mounted in the UK. Accattone (1961), Pasolini's debut, is a good place to start. It remains one of the great works of postwar Italian cinema, a film whose poetic realism influenced Martin Scorsese as well as the young Bernardo Bertolucci, at that time Pasolini's cameraman. A familiar Pasolini hero, Accatone ("Scrounger") is a pimp but also a potential martyr, who sees death as a form of redemption. His last words as he lies dying in a road accident are "Mo' sto bene", "I'll be OK now."
Pasolini scripted his early films in Roman dialect to remind Italy of a language it had largely ignored. His lifelong polemic against what he called la lingua dei padroni (bourgeois standard Italian) had deep roots. After graduating in literature from Bologna University in 1943, he moved with his parents to Casarsa, a small town in Fruili near the Yugoslavian border. Fruili was the birthplace of Pasolini's mother, Susanna, and his attachment to the region was an extension of his profound love for her (she played the older Mary in The Gospel According to Matthew). Pasolini's earliest poems were written in Friulian dialect: his ambition was for Friulano-speaking peasant communities to become "historically aware"; he, Pasolini, would be the medium of their awareness.

The Casarsa years were beset by scandal. In 1949 Pasolini was charged with "corruption of minors and obscene acts in a public place". What happened is unclear, although the scandal was presumably linked to his homosexuality. He was expelled from the Casarsa branch of the Italian Communist party, and fled with his mother to Rome, "as in a novel", he later recalled. The decision was taken without consulting his father, Carlo, an alcoholic infantry officer who had served in East Africa under Mussolini, and who was left behind in Friuli.
Though Pasolini was born in Bolgona, Rome provided him with material for the novel that made him famous. The Ragazzi, published in Italy in 1955, is a series of fast-moving cinematic vignettes from the Roman underworld, and recounts the adventures of a group of street-wise teenagers. The street violence found fuller expression in Pasolini's films of the Greek myths Oedipus Rex (1967) and Medea (1970), which starred Maria Callas. His solidarity with the Roman poor was at heart romantic, and in his great verse epic The Ashes of Gramsci (1952) he compares it to the youthful idealism of the poet Shelley, who is buried in the same cemetery in Rome as Antonio Gramsci, the grand theoretician of Italian Marxism.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the 27-year-old "Rimbaud lacking in genius" (as Pasolini archly dubbed himself) should begin his Roman days among the despised and persecuted in a run-down flat in the Jewish ghetto. Hemmed in by the Tiber on one side, and the Largo Argentina on the other, the ghetto was (and still is) a world to itself. Catholic Italy, though, was changing fast, and Mamma Roma caught the new mood as the economic miracle of the early 1960s brought chewing gum, Coca-Cola, jeans and other trappings of American-style consumerism. Mamma Roma herself, played by Anna Magnani ofRome, Open City fame, is a streetwalker determined to do well by her teenage son Ettore. With enough money, she promises him, they can move into a respectable area. But Ettore only sinks deeper into the city's thieving underworld. The film's final shot is of a series of bleak high-rise complexes near Cecafumo (an expanse of wasteland off Rome's Via Tuscolana): the reward, Pasolini seems to be saying, for Rome's new-found affluence.
mamma roma
Pasolini's relationship with Rome was fraught with controversy. La Ricotta, his 35-minute episode in the collaborative film RoGoPag (1963), featured Orson Welles as an American director shooting a film about the passion of Christ. Over a tableau vivant inspired by baroque paintings of the Deposition, Welles cries out sacrilegiously: "Get those crucified bastards out of here!" A work of bawdy sensory realism, La Ricotta led to a suspended prison sentence for Pasolini on blasphemy charges.
During the early 1970s, he wrote a series of savage newspaper polemics attacking drug abuse, men's long hair, offensive advertising and anything else that apparently contributed to the decline of his adored pre-industrial Italy. His documentary Love Meetings (1964) provided a wonderful glimpse of Catholic mores four years after Fellini captured the glitz of the nascent consumer Italy in La Dolce Vita; but now Italy was "dying". Pasolini's most zealous attacks were targeted at TV, which, he believed, had replaced Italy's dialects with a consumer Esperanto of garbled Americanisms and other linguistic imports. Disillusioned, he turned to the so-called third world for inspiration. The Cappadocia of Medea, or the Yemen of The Arabian Nights (1974) are visually exquisite versions of Flaubert's Salammbô – cinematic flowerings of European decadence.
Towards the end of his life, Pasolini lived in the opulent Rome suburb of EUR. He bought a Maserati to add to his Alfa Romeo, and now dismissed the Roman poor as "odiosi", even "orribili"; they had lost their innocence to the consumerist miracolo italiano and become greedy for material gain.
(the resort town of salo)

For all the fabulous variety of his work, Pasolini could not escape his public image as a commentator on Italy's troubled political life. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, his last and least appealing film, was released in 1975, shortly after his murder, and provides a violent essay on Italy's Nazi-fascist past. The exuberance of his magnificent Roman films was gone; Salò is the work of a dispirited man. The masterworks remain, however, and these are well worth watching.
on a personal note- i- rick castro- think salo: 120 days of sodom is the best film ever made.
i am told Abel Ferrara is producing and directing Willem Dafoe as "Pasolini." about the events surrounding his still controversial death.

1965 Pier Paolo Pasolini Interview

 James Blue's interview with Pier Paolo Pasolini from the Fall 1965 issue- 
film comment

I have been wondering what I should ask you.
Often I ask questions of directors that seem a little stupid, you see, but I don’t want to avoid those, for finally the stupid questions are the ones to which I most want reply. I know that it will be difficult—I don’t think I would be able to answer very well concerning my own films—but I hope that your replies help me to arrive at certain conclusions later. Have you understood? 
Yes, I understand.

You know I’m compiling a book on the directing of the non-actor. I am meeting many directors. The book is primarily a way for me to organize my own thinking and to take advantage of the experiences of other directors in order to see how I may be able to create more completely a kind of human existence in front of the camera, without the use of professional actors, and without falling into cinema conventions. The ideas I’m looking for have been discreetly developing for 20 years. So that’s why I’m writing this book, to clarify my ideas. Have you understood? 
Yes, very well.

Let me start with a question that may seem stupid—how do you create? Are you aware—even vaguely—of certain recurring processes? What helps you? What pushes you to create? When you want to work, what steps do you take to get started? 
What is it that urges me to create. As far as film is concerned, there is no difference between film and literature and poetry—there is this same feeling that I have never gone into deeply. I began to write poetry when I was seven years old, and what it was that made me write poetry at the age of seven I have never understood. Perhaps it was the urge to express oneself and the urge to bear witness of the world and to partake in or to create an action in which we are involved, to engage oneself in that act.Putting the question in that manner forces me to give you a vaguely spiritualistic answer . . . a bit irrational. It makes me feel a bit on the defensive.

Some artists collect information on a subject, like journalists. Do you do this? 
Yes, there is this aspect, the documentary element. A naturalistic writer documents himself through his production. Because my writing, as Roland Barthes would say, contains naturalistic elements, it is evident therefore that it contains a great interest in living and documentary events. In my writing there are deliberate elements of a naturalistic type of realism and therefore the love for real things . . . a fusion of traditional academic elements and of contemporary literary movements.

What brought you to The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and once you had the idea, how did you start work on it? Why did you want to do it?
I recognized the desire to make The Gospel from a feeling I had. I opened the Bible by chance and began to read the first pages, the first lines of St. Matthew’s Gospel, and the idea of making a film of it came to me. It’s evident that this is a feeling, an impulse that is not clearly definable. Mulling over this feeling, this impulse, this irrational movement or experience, all my story began to become clear to me as well as my entire literary career.

Once you had this feeling, what did you look for to give it form, to make the feeling concrete? 
I discovered first of all that there is an old latent religious streak in my poetry. I remember lines of poetry I wrote when I was 18 or 19 years old, and they were of a religious nature. I realized, too, that much of my Marxism has a foundation that is irrational and mystical and religious. But the sum total of my psychological constitution tends to make me see things not from the lyrical-documentary point of view but rather from an epic point of view. There is something epic in my view of the world. And I suddenly had the idea of doingThe Gospel, which would be a tale that can be defined metrically as Epic-lyric.

Although St. Matthew wrote without metrics, he would have the rhythm of epic and lyric production. And for this reason, I have renounced in the film any kind of realistic and naturalistic reconstruction. I completely abandoned any kind of archaeology and philology, which nevertheless interest me in themselves. I didn’t want to make an historical reconstruction. I preferred to leave things in their religious state, that is, their mythical state. Epic-mythic.

Not desiring to reconstruct settings that were not philosophically exact—reconstructed on a sound stage by scene designers and technicians—and furthermore not wanting to reconstruct the ancient Jews, I was obliged to find everything—the characters and the ambiance—in reality. And so the rule that dominated the making of the film was the rule of analogy. That is, I found settings that were not reconstructions but that were analogous to ancient Palestine. The characters, too—I didn’t reconstruct characters but tried to find individuals who were analogous. I was obliged to scour southern Italy, because I realized that the pre-industrial agricultural world, the still feudal area of southern Italy, was the historical setting analogous to ancient Palestine. One by one I found the settings that I needed for The Gospel. I took these Italian settings and used them to represent the originals. I took the city of Matera, and without changing it in any way, I used it to represent the ancient city of Jerusalem. Or the little caverns of the village between Lucania and Puglia are used exactly as they were, without any modifications, to represent Bethlehem. And I did the same thing for the characters. The chorus of background characters I chose from the faces of the peasants of Lucania and Puglia and Calabria.
Gospel According to St. Matthew
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
How did you work with these non-actors to integrate them into a story that was not their own, although analogous to their own? 
I didn’t do anything. I didn’t tell them anything. In fact, I didn’t even tell them precisely what characters they were playing. Because I never chose an actor as an interpreter. I always chose an actor for what he is. That is, I never asked anyone to transform himself into anything other than what he is.

Naturally, things were a little more difficult with regard to the main actors. For example, the fellow who played Christ was a student from Barcelona. Except for telling him that he was playing the part of Christ, that’s all I said. I never gave him any kind of preliminary speech. I never told him to transform himself into something else, to interpret, to feel that he was Christ. I always told him to be just what he was. I chose him because he was what he was, and I never for one moment wanted him to be anyone else other than what he was—that’s why I chose him.

But to make your Spanish student move, breathe, speak, perform necessary actions—how did you obtain what you wished without telling him something? 
Let me explain. It happened that in making The Gospel, the footage of the characters told me almost always the truth in a very dramatic fashion—that is, I had to cut a lot of scenes from The Gospel because I couldn’t “mystify” them. They rang false. I don’t know what it is, but the eye of the camera always manages to express the interior of a character. This interior essence can be masked through the ability of a professional actor, or it can be “mystified” through the ability of the director by means of cutting and divers tricks. In The Gospel I was never able to do this. What I mean to say is that the photogram or the image on the film filters through what that man is—in his true reality, as he is in life.

It is possible at times in movies that a man who is devious and shady can play the part of one who is naïve an ingenuous. For example, I could have taken a professional and given him the part of one of the three magi—an unimportant part—and by the way it is clear that there is a deep candor in the souls of the three magi. But I didn’t use professionals, and therefore I couldn’t have their ability to transform themselves in to others. I used real human beings, and so I made a mistake and misjudged a man psychologically. My error was immediately evident in the photographed image. There is another rather unpleasant example that has sprung to mind—for the two actors who played those possessed by the Devil, I chose actors from the Centro Sperimentale film school in Rome. I chose them in a hurry. Later, I had to cut the scene because I was obvious that they were two actors from the Centro Sperimentale.

In reality, my method consists simply of being sincere, honest, penetrating, precise in choosing men who psychological essence is real and genuine. Once I’ve chosen them, then my work is immensely simplified. I don’t have to do with them what I have to do with professional actors: tell them what they have to do and what they haven’t to do and the sort of people they are supposed to represent and so forth. I simply tell them to say these words in a certain frame of mind and that’s all. And they say them.

To get back to Christ, once I had chosen the person whose essence or interior was more or less that needed to play the part of Christ, I never obliged him to do any specific things. My suggestions were made one by one, instance by instance, moment by moment, scene by scene, action by action. I said to him, “do this” and “get angry.” I didn’t even tell him how. I simply said, “you’re getting angry,” and he got angry in the way he usually got angry and I didn’t intervene in any way.

My work is facilitated by the fact that I never shoot entire scenes. Being a “non-professional” director I’ve always had to “invent” a technique that consists of shooting only a very brief bit at one time. Always in little bits—I never shoot a scene continuously. And so even if I’m using a non-actor lacking the technique of an actor, he’s able to sustain the part—the illusion—because the takes are so brief. And if he doesn’t have the technical ability of an actor, at least he doesn’t get lost, he doesn’t freeze up.

Although I was able to find characters analogous to the wise men or to an angel or to Saint Joseph, it was extremely difficult to find a character analogous to Jesus Christ. And so I had to be content with finding someone who at least came close to resembling Christ externally and interiorly, but actually I had to construct Christ in the cutting room.

Although other directors make tests, I never make them. I had to make one for Christ, though—not for myself—but for the producer who wanted a certain guarantee. When I choose actors, instinctively I choose someone who knows how to act. It’s a kind of instinct that so far hasn’t betrayed me except in very minor and very special cases. So far I’ve chosen Franco Citti for Accattone and Ettore Garofolo for the boy in Mamma Roma. In La Ricotta, a young boy from the slums of Rome. I’ve always guessed right, that from the very moment in which I chose the face that seemed to me exact for the character, instinctively he reveals himself a potential actor. When I choose non-actors, I choose potential actors.

Naturally, Christ was a more difficult thing for me than Franco Citti because Franco, after all, was to play a part that was more or less himself. First of all, this young Spanish student at the beginning was inhibited about playing the part of Christ—he wasn’t even a believer. And so the first problem was that I had playing Christ a fellow who didn’t even believe in Christ. Naturally this cause inhibitions. This young student wasn’t an extrovert or a simple, normal type of person. He was psychologically very complex, and for this reason it was difficult the first few days to get him to win out over his timidity, his restraint, his inhibitions, while for the other actors I didn’t have this problem. The very minute I put them in front of the camera, they acted the way I wanted them to.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
What did you do with your Spanish non-believing non-actor to get the results you wanted? 
Nothing really. I simply appealed to his good will. He was a very intelligent and a very cultured young man who became bound to me by the friendship that grew up between us in those few days—however, he had the basis of an ideological background and a rather strong desire to be useful to me. It was by this means that he succeeded in overcoming his timidity.

As far as the rest goes, I had him perform in very small segments, one at a time, without even preparing them first. I would suggest the expressions while he acted. Inasmuch as we were shooting without sound, I could talk to an actor while he was performing. It was a little bit like a sculptor who makes a sculpture with little improvised blows of the chisel. While the actor was acting, I said to him “Look here”—and I told him each expression, one by one, and he followed them almost mechanically. I shot everything that way. He had the speech memorized more or less, and he began to say it. He had to—for example—take 10 steps forward, or move, or look at someone. I never told him beforehand, except in a very vague way, what it was all about, and gradually as he performed, I said, “now look at me . . . now look down there with an angry expression . . . now your expression softens . . . look toward me and soften your expression slowly, very slowly. Now look at me!” And so while the camera rolled, I told him these things. I prepared the action beforehand, in a very vague way, so that he would know more or less what he was supposed to do and where he was supposed to go. Whatever the nuances, the little movements, I suggested to him one by one. Prior to the shot, I gave him general movements and told him more or less what he was supposed to do. Then I explained these things more precisely while we shot. Once in a while I would surprise him—I would say to him, “Now look at me with a sweet expression on your face.” And while he did this I would say suddenly, “Now get angry!” And he obeyed me.

Didn’t this request make him attempt to imitate the way an actor he had seen got angry? 
No. Actors would be tempted to do this, but one who is not an actor—for example, those whom I chose—would never do this. It’s not possible, because they have never confronted themselves with the technical problems of an actor—that is, he doesn’t have a technical idea of “anger,” he has a natural and genuine idea of anger.

I’ve done this rather often in other films. For example, I would have the person say a line that was not what it was supposed to be in the text. If he was supposed to say “I hate you,” I would have him say “Good Morning,” and then when I dubbed I would put in “I hate you.” Normally, I should have said to him, “All right now, say ‘I hate you’ as if you were saying ‘good morning.’” But this is pretty complicated reasoning for a person who is not an actor. So I simply tell him to say “Good morning,” and then in the dubbing I put in his mouth “I hate you.”

For dubbing, do you use non-actors or professionals? 
I do both. That is, I take non-actors who generally reveal themselves to be splendid dubbers. For Christ, I was obliged to use a professional actor, so it depends on the circumstances. More than anything else, I try to balance everything out between the professional and non-professional performances. For instance, the boy in Mamma Romadid his own dubbing. But Franco Citti could not do his own dubbing, for even though he was bravissimo his voice was rather unpleasant. So I had him dub another character.

If you don’t give the non-actor much explanation of character, do you at least tell him the story? 
Yes, I do, in two words. Just out of curiosity. But I never go into a serious discussion with him. If he has any doubts . . . if he says to me “what do I have to do here,” I try to explain to him. But always point by point, particular by particular, never the whole thing.
Do you add expressive gestures, which are not normally a part of the non-actor’s personal comportment? 
No, I never have him do gestures that are not his. I always let him use the gestures that are natural to him. I tell him what he has to do—for example, slap someone or pick up a glass—but I let him do this with the gestures that are natural to him. I never intervene regarding his gestures.

If I want to underline some act, I do so with my own means, with technical means—with the camera, with the shot, with editing. I don’t have him emphasize it. Actually, I am very careful not to indicate to him the “intention,” because these “intentions” are the phony part of the actor.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Do you trick at all, in order to produce emotional responses? 
Up to now it has never happened. If it were necessary, I’d do it. It’s never happened to me because my actors do not have petit-bourgeois inhibitions. They don’t care. They do what I tell them, generously. Franco Citti, Ettore Garofolo, the protagonist of La Ricotta, and my Christ as well—they gave of themselves completely, blindly. They don’t have that conventionality or false modesty of hypocrites, so I’ve never had to do this. However, if I had to trick, I’d do it.

Do you see a way of directing the bourgeois-class person who is a non-actor? 
I was faced with this problem filming The Gospel. Whereas in my other films my characters were all “of the people,” for The Gospel I had some characters who were not. The Apostles, for example, belonged to the ruling classes of their time, and so obeying my usual rule of analogy, I was obliged to take members of the present-day ruling class. Because the Apostles were people who were definitely out of the ordinary, I chose intellectuals—from the bourgeoisie, yes—but intellectuals.

Although these non-actors as Apostles were intellectuals, the fact that they had to play intellectuals removed, no instinctively but consciously, the inhibition of which you spoke. However, in the case of one’s having to use bourgeois actors who are not intellectuals, I think that you can get what you want from them, too. All you have to do is love them.

How did you work with the intellectuals to rid them of their inhibitions? 
The process was identical with that for the lower-class performers. With the former naturally, I used a language that was on a more elevated level. But my methods were the same.

Do you feel the need of knowing your people a long time before shooting, to make friends with them, to learn their natural gestures in order to use them later?

I had known Franco Citti for years, because he was the brother of a friend. I knew his character more or less. On the other hand, Ettore Garofolo of Mamma Roma—I saw him once in a bar where he was working as a waiter. I wrote my whole script around him without speaking to him further. Because I preferred not to know him. I took him and began to shoot after having seen him for just that one minute. I don’t like to make an organized and calculated effort to know someone. If you can intuit a person, you know him already.

Generally I have very precisely in mind what I’m going to do. Because I’ve written the script myself, I’ve already organized the scene in a given way. I see the scene not only as a director but also with the different eyes of the scriptwriter. In addition, I choose the settings. I go to these places and make an adjustment of what I’ve written in my script to fit the place where we are going to shoot. And so when I go to shoot, I more or less know already how the scene is going to go.

I did this for every film except The Gospel. With The Gospel, the thing was so delicate that it would have been easy to fall into the ridiculous and the banal and the typical costume film genre. The dangers were so many that it wasn’t possible to foresee them all. And it being so difficult, we had to shoot three or four times more material than necessary. In effect, most of the scenes I created in the cutting room. I shot the wholeGospel with two cameras. I shot every scene from two or three angles, amassing three or four times more material than necessary. It was as if I had done a documentary on the life of Christ. By chance. With the moviola, I constructed the scene.

Did you seek a particular style in the framing, and was this possible with two cameras going? 
Yes, I always have a rather clear idea of the shot I want, a kind of shot that is almost natural to me. But with The Gospel I wanted to break away from this technique because of a very complicated problem. In two words it’s this: I had a very precise style or technique with which I had experimented in Accattone, in Mamma Roma and in the preceding films, a style which is, as I said before, fundamentally religious and epic by its very nature. And so I thought that my style—possessing naturally these qualities of sacredness and epicness—would go well with The Gospel also. But in practice, that was not the case. Because in The Gospel this sacredness and epic quality became a prison, false and insincere, and so I had to reconstruct my whole technique and forget everything I knew, everything that I had learned with Accattone and Mamma Roma, and begin from the beginning. I relied on chance, on confusion, and so forth.

All this was due to the fact that I am not a believer. In Accattone, I myself could tell a story in the first-person because I was the author and I believed in that story, but I could not tell the story of Christ—making him the son of God—with myself as the author of this story, because I’m not a believer. So I didn’t work as an author. And so this forced me to tell the story of Christ indirectly, as seen through the eyes of one who does believe. And as always when one tells something indirectly, the style changes. While the style of a story told directly has certain characteristics, the style of a story told indirectly has other characteristics. That is, if in literature I am describing Rome in my own words, I describe it in one style. But if I describe Rome—using the words of some Roman character—the result is a completely different style because of the dialect, the popular language, and so forth. The style of my preceding films was a simple style—almost straightforward, almost hieratic—while the style of The Gospel is chaotic, complex, disordered. Despite this difference in style, I shot all my films in little pieces all the same. Except the frame, the point of view, the movements of the extras were changed.

La Ricotta
La Ricotta

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