REVIEW: Pasolini

12 09 2015

PasoliniNew York Film Festival, 2014

Admittedly, I know very little about Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Italian filmmaker played by Willem Dafoe in Abel Ferrara’s “Pasolini.”  I probably scrolled through the Wikipedia summary of him in the minutes before my screening began (which I only opted for because I had already seen my other option).  But a working knowledge of Pasolini is hardly necessary to get something out of the film.

A good portion of the film is fairly didactic, involving Pasolini giving an English-language interview about his art and craft that provides a baseline of details that can sustain interest throughout.  He talks about the death of narrative art and the right to scandalize, topics relevant in 2015 as they were in 1975.

As Pasolini talks through his upcoming projects, Ferrara visualizes them.  This aspect is significant because Pasolini never got to see them through himself.  The director was brutally beaten to death prior to shooting.  “Pasolini,” then, realizes that vision for the filmmaker.  The film does not just portray his life; Ferrara extends it.

But in order to keep the narrative going for those (like myself) who need something more than glances at a work that could have been, “Pasolini” follows its eponymous figure on the final day of his life in a manner similar to “Fruitvale Station.”  This not only helps Ferrara avoid hagiography but also allows a sense of tragedy to inform the proceedings.  While this two-pronged approach to depicting a major figure in Italian cinema is neither revolutionary nor particularly novel, it certainly manages to keep things interesting for a much wider audience.  B2halfstars