The Italian Almanac

Pier Paolo Pasolini


Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922 - 1975)

Italian director, screen writer, essayist, poet, critic and novelist, was murdered violently in 1975. Pasolini is best known outside Italy for his films, many of which were based on literary sources - The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales. Pasolini referred himself as a 'Catholic Marxist' and often used shocking juxtapositions of imagery to expose the vapidity of values in modern society. His friend, the writer Alberto Moravia, considered him "the major Italian poet" of the second half of the 20th century.

Pier Paolo Pasolini was born in Bologna, traditionally the most left-wing of Italian cities. Throughout his life, Pasolini was especially close to his mother. Pasolini's father was a fascist and non-commissioned officer, moving from one garrison to another. Pasolini's family originated from Fruili, a region in the North-Eastern part of Italy where a local language, Friulano, Rhaeto-Romanic dialect, dominated. Later Pasolini adopted as his way of expression the crude language of the Roman suburbs. Most of his childhood Pasolini spent at Casarsa della Delizia, his mother's birthplace northeast of Venice. During this period he became deeply involved with the dialect of the region.

During World War II Pasolini's brother was executed by Communist partisans, who supported Tito. Pasolini joined the Communist Party as a young man - in his works he often explored ideological problems, but his relationship with Communism was questioning - like later the attitude towards him by his party members. The mutual schism led to his expelling from the party for alleged homosexuality in 1949. However, Pasolini regarded himself as a Communist to the end of his life. His father, who had been captured as a prisoner of war in Kenya in 1942, eventually drank himself to death in 1958. From 1943 to 1949 Pasolini worked as a teacher in almost total obscurity. His first great love was a young country boy, whom the taught to write poems. After a scandal, he was forced to abandon his work.

During his career Pasolini published nearly ten collections of poems. Many critics, such as Alberto Moravia, considered him one of the most important contemporary poets in Italy, who gave voice to the post-war generation. With Moravia, he travelled in the 1960s in Africa, making preparations for a film about 'black Oedipus', but the idea was never realized. Pasolini also built with Moravia a house in Sabaudia. According to Moravia, Pasolini honestly believed that the lowest proletariat would save the world with all of its freshness, incorruptness, and originality. "Pasolini was, in his own way, a follower of Rousseau," Moravia wrote in Vita di Moravia (1990).

Pasolini has presented his approach to cinema in a number of essays. His opposition to the liberalization of abortion law and criticism of the radical students made him unpopular on the left. From PORCILE (1969), in which a son of a Nazi father is eated by pigs, Pasolini's films became increasingly controversial, but at the same time his ideological stance become more concealed and individualistic. He once remarked: "I too, like Moravia and Bertolucci, am a bourgeois, in fact a petit-bourgeois, a turd, convinced that my stench is not only scented perfume, but is in fact the only perfume in the world." His last film, SALÒ O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA, set in the last years of WW II in Italy, linked fascism and sadism. The film was banned virtually everywhere.

Pasolini's creative productivity did not stop in films. He wrote several tragedies in verse and published in 1971 a new collection of poetry, TRASUMANAR E ORGANIZZAR, which was criticized as bad poetry. In 1972 his critical writings were collected and published under the title EMPIRISMO ERETICO (Heretical Empiricism). He also contributed to the Milanese newspaper Corriere della sera. On morning of 2 November, 1975, his body was discovered on waste ground near seaside resort of Ostia. A young male prostitute was tried and convicted for the murder in 1976. A week before his death, Pasolini had said in Sweden, that he will be killed probably very soon. He had started to investigate the Mafia's link to the prostitution business. Pasolini's massive unfinished novel, PETROLIO, was published in 1992.