The Italian Almanac

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Italian News - August 23

A previously unseen interview with Pier Paolo Pasolini shot just months before his murder has been incorporated into a new documentary about the cult director and intellectual to be screened at the Venice Film Festival. The documentary by Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Bertolucci merges the interview with photos taken in June 1975 on the set of Pasolini's last film, the highly controversial Salo' o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo' or the 120 Days of Sodom).

The original interview was filmed by American documentary-maker and film critic Gideon Bachman, a close friend of Federico Fellini, while the photos of the making of Salo' were taken by Bachman's companion Deborah Imogen Beer. Bertolucci said Beer's images, which number in their thousands, were faithful replicas of Pasolini's own shots and angles during filming.

As for the interview, he said Pasolini's relaxed and easy body language was at odds with the "total pessimism and desperation" expressed in his words. "The interview sums up Pasolini's thoughts in the last few years of his life in all their negativity," he said. Five months after the interview, Pasolini's battered body was discovered on waste ground outside the seaside town of Ostia near Rome. A young male prostitute was subsequently arrested for his murder.

Born in Bologna in 1922, Pasolini's first film was Accattone which came out in 1961. With its violent depiction of the life of a male pimp in the slums of Rome, the film caused an instant sensation. His next film, Mamma Roma, also made waves with its portrayal of a middle-aged whore in Rome played by Anna Magnani. But another of his earlier films, the black-and-white 1964 Il Vangelo Second Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew) was made with the Catholic Church's support and is hailed by many critics as the best cinematic adaptation of the life of Jesus.

Pasolini's later movies were sex-laden adaptations of classics such as Il Decameron (The Decameron, 1971), I Racconti di Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales, 1972) and Il Fiore delle Mille e una Notte (Arabian Night, 1974).

Bertolucci's documentary Pasolini Prossimo Nostro will be given a special screening at Venice on September8.