Pasolini’s Passing According to Abel

by H.S. Bayer

“I lived that page of a novel, the only one of my life as far as the rest —

what can I say I have been living inside a poem, like every obsessive.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini

“In search of the death, of the last poet, only to find, the killer inside me… sharpening his tools of ignorance on the memories, of never forgotten acts of kindness. In words and deeds, ideas impossible to comprehend — those, who weave their spell in silver, are forever bound, to the lithe body of Giotto, constantly in search, of the creation of the winning goal, forever offside, forever in the lead of the faithful, of which I am one.” 

Abel Ferrara, Rome 2014 – from his Director’s Statement

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini premiered in the U.S., at the New York Film Festival in its 52nd rendition, after opening at Venice’s 71st, followed by San Sebastian (its 62nd) and going to market at the 39th Toronto Film Festival. Abel and Willem Dafoe were on hand and in fine form.


Pasolini Poster

The Synopsis:

One day, one life – Rome, the night of November 2, 1975, the great Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini is murdered. Pasolini is the symbol of an art that is fighting against power. His writings are scandalous, his films persecuted by the censors – many people love him and many hate him. The day of his death, Pasolini spends his last hours with his beloved mother and later on, with his dearest friends, before finally going out, into the night, in his Alfa Romeo, in search of adventure in the Eternal City. At dawn, Pasolini is found dead on a beach, in Ostia on the outskirts of the city. In a film dreamlike and visionary, a blend of reality and imagination, Abel Ferrara reconstructs the last day in the life of this great poet with frequent collaborator Willem Dafoe as Pier Paolo Pasolini.

A labour of love and a huge amount of research, Pasolini is a serious, stylistically and structurally creative homage to the great poet, novelist, journalist, newspaper columnist, screenwriter, filmmaker and seminal activist/political thinker and philosopher who epitomized Italy’s post WWII artistic and intellectual renaissance. Pasolini, at 53, had more than 50 screenwriting credits, had directed 16 narrative films and 9 documentaries, written 6 plays and had published 6 novels and 8 volumes of poetry, with several more works appearing posthumously – a painter and composer as well… at the peak of his creative powers, and thereby the great tragedy of his premature passing. The existential uncertainty and unfinished business associated with Pasolini’s untimely, unsettling and unnecessary violent demise still remains unresolved… considered in tandem with a score of his contemporaries – cultural game changers, who suffered similar fates… buried in the collective unconsciousness of post industrial, post atomic, techno-materialistic society. Therefore, his ideas and the direction and themes, of his work, are characters themselves.

Pasolini prophetically stated, in his last interview, with journalist Furio Colombo (played in the film by Francesco Siciliano), and published in La Stampa, a week after his death as (Siamo tutti in pericolo) – We are all in danger! We exist in a society, spiritually and cognitively unprepared, to confront the problems of a world, driven by rampant consumerism and corrupted by pyramidal power structures in nearly every nation, whatever the ostensible economic social system in place. Among the symptoms: manufactured economic and physical wars, constant meaningless stress and behavioral excess increasingly fully monitored and selectively harshly punished… dependence on uncontrollable technology, reliance on one-dimensional thinking… subject to punitively manipulative, dysfunctional governance. We are thus distracted from or oblivious to, the end of Language and Ethics, the resulting globalized chaos and inhumanity, extinction of regional, ethnic and older cultures, destabilization of the physical environment and marginalization or extreme loss of individual autonomy. One could easily quadruple this list of day-to-day problems and long-term disasters already in various states of finality. Yet, we’re informed that we’re all in Paradise – fully updated. Resistance is futile. Pasolini stood in opposition to all this and used his art and writings to shock, to blaspheme… eloquent and eternally radical on multiple fronts. The political, philosophical and societal tensions and challenges Pasolini identified and wrote about 40 years ago have simply further intensified simultaneous with the steady disappearance and corresponding dispiriting, of oppositional political and philosophical thinkers and radical artists of true intellect – like Pasolini.


Pier Paulo Pasolini (1961)

PPP (From this last interview): I see that wonderful troop of intellectuals, sociologists, experts and journalists with the most noble of intentions. Things happen here, and their heads are turned in the opposite direction. And this desire ties us together as sinister brothers, of the sinister failure, of an entire social system. I too would like it if it were easy to isolate the black sheep. I too see the black sheep. I see quite a lot of them. I see all of them. That’s the problem, as given the life I lead, I pay a price… it’s like a descent into hell. But when, I come back – if I come back – I’ve seen other things, more things. I’m not asking you to believe me. I’m saying you always, find yourselves changing topic to avoid facing the truth. My nostalgia is for those, poor and real people who struggled to defeat the landlord without becoming that landlord. Since they were excluded, from everything, they remained uncolonized. I am afraid of the revolutionaries, who are the same as their landlords, equally criminal, who want everything, at any cost. This gloomy ostentation toward total violence makes it hard to distinguish to which “side” one belongs. Whoever, might be taken to an Emergency Ward close to death is probably more interested in, what the doctors have to tell him about, his chances of living than what the police might have to say, about the mechanism of the crime. Be assured that, I am neither condemning intentions nor am I interested in the chain of cause and effect – them first, him first, or who is the primary guilty party. I think we have defined the “situation.” It’s like it rains, in the city, and the gutters are backed up. The water rises, but the water is innocent, it’s rainwater. It has neither the fury of sea, nor the rage of river current. But, for some reason, it rises instead of falling. It’s the same water of the cutesy songs like “singing in the rain” – but it rises and it drowns you. If that’s where we are, I say, let’s not waste time placing name tags here and there. Let’s see then how we can unplug this tub before we all drown.

As Bob Dylan, (who did much of his best work in Pasolini’s era) sang: If you go down in the flood, it will be your own fault.

Abel put it this way in an interview with Nick Pinkerton in Film Comment: Pasolini was saying, Don’t think that you’re gonna be immune. If you’re on earth, and this is what’s happening to the world, don’t think that somehow you’re gonna save yourself because you’re living in a gated community, or you have something that’s supposed to protect you. You’re not gonna avoid it. We’re all in this together. What he was talking about specifically – to him the worst tragedy, which hit mankind, was Consumerism.

The term, Consumerism, Abel refers to, doesn’t fully correspond to America’s concept in translation. Although, Pasolini technically identifies the term as “the second industrial revolution”, the Italian implies more than just numbers of refrigerators or cars sold, housing starts or holiday sales figures. More salient… the immortal corporation… or the western ROI equation, in which depreciation of a machine, always trumps the negative cost assigned to human beings… interpretation of success, of enterprises, almost exclusively by quarterly results. Choosing 10 years of ‘profits and jobs’, from a questionable fracking location, over destruction of the water table for 2-3 generations, apparently is a no-brainer for the corporate mindset. Pasolini’s perception, of this “ism” – evolved through higher level thinking comparable to chess grandmasters or Nobel Prize winners – capable of simultaneous synthesis of strategic or theoretical conception with tactical or practical action.

In the 1960s, Italy experienced an economic consumer boom, offering new freedoms and aspirations, symbolically represented by films such as Fellini’La Dolce Vita (1960 on which, Pasolini, received an “uncredited” writing credit). Pasolini, an ardent Communist, nearly his entire adult life, gradually observed this materialism taking root in the lives and thinking of, the proletariat and sub- proletariat (the marginal working class), whose daily existence is theoretically antithetical to the bourgeois materialists, in the class struggle critical to distinguishing Communism from Capitalism.

Geoff Andrews (in a 2005 essay written for the 30th anniversary of PPP’s death): He despaired at the emergence of a neo-capitalist empire set on destroying popular culture. He no longer believed that Gramsci’s, {Antonio Gramsci, the Sardinia – born Marxist who wrote his major works from Mussolini’s prison cell and the major influence in inspiring Pasolini’s socialist philosophy}, reconciliation between traditional culture and political change was possible. For Pasolini, the kind of mass hedonism that emerged during the 1960s, and which, by the 1970s, shattered his belief in working-class innocence.

PPP: My films were not for mass consumption. I could imagine nothing worse than producing something, for an alienated mass culture, for which I had no sympathy.

Andrews: Pasolini concluded that the kind of purity seen in the pre-industrial popular culture was rapidly vanishing, replaced with bourgeois ambitions. He described consumeristic culture as “unreal”, imposed by economic power and replacing Italy’s traditional peasant culture – something that not even fascism had been able to do.

PPP: I hate with particular vehemence, the current power, the power of 1975, which is a power that manipulates bodies in a horrible way – a manipulation that has nothing to envy to that performed by Himmler or Hitler.

By 1968 Pier Paolo moved away from Communism to a radical political philosophy, aligning with the Radical Party (Partito Radicale), left-libertarian, liberal and anti-clerical, led by his friend Marco Pannella. In October 1975, at his second to last interview, Pasolini declared to his Swedish audience:


Pasolini identified himself primarily as a writer

PPP: There are no more Marxists in Italy — there are no more Catholics in Italy. There is this contradiction — all those who consider themselves either Marxists or Communists are consumerists, too. Even the Italian Communist Party has accepted this development. Italian {Marxist} hardliners plant bombs and then watch TV in the evening.

Pasolini’s analysis considered the anti-humanistic core, the universal imposition of materialistic valuation, of all individual activity, in the same vein as modern social philosophers as disparate as Herbert Marcuse or John Trudell. Pasolini possessed the unique ability to discern, unmask and oppose the mechanisms of power and underlying structural and socio-economic forces that underpin the various ruling elites. In an interview scene in the film, Pasolini observes… that everyone’s a victim and everyone’s guilty in a violent life built on principles of acquisition and destruction.

His thinking essentially projected, how the resulting negative scenarios, if unchecked could prove to be suicidal, or at least, pervert or destroy our collective historical cultures and search for knowledge and truth, freedom of thought and personal life, spirituality, meaningful intellectual development and artistic creation and even the natural physical world. This made him dangerous to authoritarian power, no matter how elegantly cloaked in ‘popular democracy’ and slick PR enabled, in Italy then, by nearly complete media control. Consider the FBI on John Trudell – whose file said: He is very eloquent and therefore quite dangerous. The conspiracy theories that arose, from PPP’s murder, are rather logical and one of them may be true, but just as ultimately improvable as in the JFK assassination.


Dafoe/Pasolini cruising in his custom Alpha Romeo

Thus, the particulars, of Pasolini’s death and his very public homosexuality, transpire on screen in real time, artistically lensed and graphically intense, but not overemphasized or intended as paramount. Those ‘hot button’ subjects are counter balanced, by moments of tongue-in-cheek absurdity, serious cerebral and creative concerns, and passionate political polemics… from driving around, in his custom painted Alpha Romeo… to attending a formal political reception… to his ‘regular’ film director’s social life… to his ‘influential’ writer’s work life… to PPP’s words and images coming alive on the screen. Pasolini lyrically delves into a groundbreaking Auteur’s intellectual soul, grappling simultaneously with Faustian forces – writing a novel within a creative structure that’s yet to exist… attempting to evolve a humanistic politic for a chaotic world which continually censures him for making that attempt. Ferrara, the Auteur-Director, and Dafoe, the Actor-Auteur, raced into the abyss after Pasolini and survived the unpredictable process required to bring this film home. So, Abel did not make the epic attempt to resolve the controversial issue of PPP’s murder, in the film, despite having said he knew who killed Pasolini, in interviews, prior to its release. To do so, would have taken the film’s viewers out of Pasolini’s mind and into the brutal depths of late 20th century Italian politics, where the puppeteers behind the crime reside – probably never to be unmasked. Both Abel and screenwriter, Maurizio Braucci, address their approach further on in this article. A summary of various theories advanced on the murder case, accompanied by publicly known details and the historical context and event sequences, is in the epilogue, at the end of this piece.

The film often has a disjointed feel to it, in the way the lives and studios, of artists and filmmakers, working on multiple projects, usually appear to the outside world – a quality consistent with the intended structure and subject matter. Characterized as dreamlike, in the producer’s synopsis… yet not like a “Hollywood dream sequence;” it feels more like real dreams where characters linger in scenes with incomplete dialogue, in different languages. Then it jumps to other moments, with other characters in different locations… somehow ineffably connected, to the main, continually, changing persona – without certainty, as to the meaning or what exactly happened. This mood derives from, the film’s depiction of, Pasolini obsessively moving between working films and writings and dryly conducted media interviews – the true impact, of their international importance, off screen, in another time and place. His career activities, interspersed with views of his family… supper with Ninetto Davoli… sexual adventures… vivid hypothetical, fully staged scenes, from an unproduced movie and an unfinished book, and fragments from the day’s events… render a typical 40 hour day for PPP, which ends horribly abruptly. The film, sensitively encapsulates, the essence of Pasolini. It successfully brings his legacy to a world, which has mostly forgotten, both the man and the stakes involved – in many artistic and intellectual issues of the 60’s and 70’s (and even the 80’s and 90’s, since PPP was, at least, 20 years ahead of his time)… those matters not yet settled properly, to this day – several flaring up, at this very moment.


Ninetto Davoli (RT. Foreground) & Riccardo Scamarcio

Braucci’s screenplay derived from an idea, by Abel Ferrara and Nicola Tranquillino. Braucci was part of the writing team for Abel’s Napoli, Napoli, Napoli (2009) and wrote the award winning screenplay for Gomorrah (2008) – one of the best foreign films, of the past decade, to have a U.S. theatrical run and a throwback to the great Italian films of the 50’s to 70’s. The Director of Photography Stefano Falivene shot Pasolini, with a 35mm Arriflex, on Kodak negative. He shot Mary (2002) for Ferrara and recently won the Best Cinematography award for Uberto Pasolini’s award winning (Migliore Fotografia) Still Life (2013) – (which will open theatrically in the U.S. in January), at the 2014 Italian Golden Globes. Uberto Pasolini is not related to PPP but he is a descendant of, famous Italian Director, Luchino Visconti. The Editor, Fabio Nunziata, is also a writer and director – he edited Abel’s Mary, Napoli, Napoli, Napoli and Go Go Tales (2002). The Production Designer, Igor Gabriel, was production designer for Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night (2014) which competed for the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival this year.

With an extra flourishing touch to his Pasolini homage, Ferrara cast Accattone (1961) actress Adriana Asti as Pier Paolo’s mother and Ninetto Davoli (Pasolini’s longtime acting collaborator, former lover and lifetime friend) as Epifanio, the lead character, in a sequence from Pasolini’s unproduced screenplay, Porno – Teo – Kolossal. The real Davoli himself is a character in the film, played by Riccardo Scamarcio. Giada Colagrande, a film auteur like PPP in real life, plays his cousin and secretary, Graziella. Damiano Tamilia plays Pelosi – the street hustler ultimately convicted of PPP’s murder with Maria de Medeiros as Salò (Pasolini’s last film released in 1975) actress Laura Betti. The rest of the cast: Valerio Mastandrea, Roberto Zibetti, Andrea Bosca, Francesco Siciliano, Luca Lionello, Salvatore Ruocco – (English, Italian, French dialogue). World Sales, for Pasolini, still on the market as of this posting, is handled by, Funny Balloons, Paris, France.

In Caro, Angelico Maestro/My Dreams Intact a conversation with Pier Paolo Pasolini & Abel Ferrara, by Evan Louison for 1985 (, Ferrara described his approach to the subject and structure of the film:

AF: [With Pasolini,] We’re coming from a point of a lot of respect. We dig the guy’s work. We dig everything about him. He’s essential viewing. His death, in 1975, was also kind of a very outrageous moment, all the bullshit surrounding the killing. When it comes down to it, we were probably gearing up to make this movie from the moment we heard he was dead. We never thought about doing films on real people until lately, when the documentary thing started bringing us to that. And something between doing those documentaries {Chelsea on the Rocks (2008), Napoli, Napoli, Napoli, and Mulberry St. in 2010} and then doing 4:44 about the last day in the life of the character that Willem played, there was something there. We liked the structure of it… That’s really the crux of it. The events that happened, versus the events you create. I want to use it all. When I rethink it, I mean, first of all, no matter what you read, if it’s in a newspaper or a book, the difference between a fiction and a non-fiction, it’s really just your perception of it, how you read it, and what you believe and what you don’t believe. And even your imagination, how do you separate that from your consciousness, from the events you experience in your subconscious, what you think you see, what you dream. You’re looking at something on this side of the street, when your mind is absorbing something on that side of the street.

I think this approach to biographical and historical documentary narrative that Ferrara is evolving may ultimately blow the word ‘biopic’ to smithereens – which will be good for us all.

“Narrative art is dead and we are in a period of mourning…”

Pier Paolo Pasolini


Pasolini is Ferrara’s 23rd Feature

Pasolini Mini-Bio
– AF at NYFF Part 1
– AF Filmography
– Willem Dafoe Filmography
– Dafoe Performance Notes
– AF at NYFF Part 2
– The Screenplay
– YouTube Links
– AF &Welcome to N.Y.vs. IFC
– Me, DSK & Bobby D.
– Epilogue: Pier Paolo Pasolini


Some Background on Pasolini & his film career…

Pasolini, a true Humanist, possessed one of the great minds of the 20th century, weighing in on a number of core intellectual issues in the realms of art and socio-political theory and practice. In addition to a sharp well educated intellect – both formal (the Literature College of the University of Bologna) and home schooled (his mother Susanna Colussi, a dedicated teacher by profession); he was ‘lucky’ enough to experience major misfortunes to recover from and achieve redemption, as well as special moments of serendipitous epiphany. For example, his 1949 arrest, for the corruption of minors and obscene acts in public places, which led to his expulsion from the Italian Communist Party and loss of his teaching job. This outing forced Pasolini to publicly confront the ideological foundation of his homosexuality, early in the formation of his intellectual development, and well ahead of modern western society’s expansion of this debate. He then went through an extended time of suffering. He said of this period: I came to Rome from the Friulan countryside – Unemployed for many years; ignored by everybody; driven by the fear to be not as life needed to be. Fortuitously, he finally found a job as a worker, in the now famous Cinecittà studios, where he was able to observe the process of filmmaking first hand. In a set of more adventurous seminal experiences, Pasolini was conscripted into the Italian army, in 1943, shortly before the country capitulated to the allies. While serving, his entire regiment was captured by 2 Germans in a tank – an illustrative moment for the 21 year old Pasolini of what individuals, confronted by large numbers of forces, could accomplish with the right weapons (or words and images – the armament of choice for filmmakers) and timing. Imprisoned by the German Wehrmacht, he accomplished an escape disguised as a peasant. Pasolini, as a child witnessed, how chances of fortune, can sometimes change in an instant, when his father Carlo Alberto Pasolini, a lieutenant of the Italian army, in a period of less than a year, was charged criminally for gambling debts, but then became famous, by saving Benito Mussolini’s life during Anteo Zamboni’s assassination attempt, in 1926.


Pasolini with his 3rd Volume of Poetry (1957)

By 1954 Pier Paulo recovered from those early 50’s setbacks and resumed the upward career trajectory assumed for him, since his prodigy beginnings – he had started writing poetry at the age of 7 and published a volume of poems at 19 (Versi a CasarsaPoems of Casarsa, 1942), a collection in Friulan. In 1954, then working for the literary section of Italian state radio, he wrote his first screenplay, The River Girl and his second book of poetry, La meglio gioventù (a critically well received collection of dialect poems), was published. Three more volumes of poems followed in the next several years – Le ceneri di Gramsci (1957) – Pasolini’s use of dialect owed much to the influence of Antonio Gramsci; L’usignolo della chiesa cattolica (1958) and La religione del mio tempo (1961). In 1955, Pasolini published his first novel, Ragazzi di vita (Children of Life, also translated as, The Ragazzi or Hustlers, in English). The book, which dealt with the Roman lumpenproletariat, had great success, but enraged the Italian government. The authorities then initiated an obscenity lawsuit against Pasolini and his editor, Garzanti. Pier Paulo was exonerated from the charges, but it was only the first, of many such experiences for PPP who became a regular target for the tabloid press. In 1957, Pasolini collaborated with Sergio Citti on Federico Fellini’s film, Le notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria), writing dialogue for the Roman dialect parts.

Ragazzi di Vita (AKA Boys of the Street) depicted the violent existence of the Roman sub-proletariat and the repressive nature of the state. The raw daily realities of Rome’s young poor in slums like the borgate, apparent to Pasolini from his homosexual encounters, were also prominent in his second book, Una Vita Violenta (A Violent Life), which won the Premio Crotone in 1959. Una vita violenta told the story of a pimp in the slums of Rome. Pasolini wrote the screenplay, based on this book for his first directorial feature Accattone (1961) which created great controversy and scandal. Produced in the spirit of the Italian neo-realist tradition, Pasolini called it a ‘laboratory’ for understanding a ‘way of life’: The peasant culture of the south gave the Roman sub-proletarians not only psychological traits but completely original physical traits as well. It located a real ‘race’.


Accattone (1961) – Pasolini’s First Directorial Effort

They were certainly, a ‘race’, familiar with police violence. The year before, he co-wrote with Ennio De ConciniLong Night in 1943 (La lunga notte del ’43 – 1960), an adaptation by director Florestano Vancini, from a novel by Giorgio Bassani. The film was set during the Allied invasion of Italy and Italian Social Republic, in 1943 during WW II (a story PPP knew all too well). The film was selected to enter the list of the 100 Italian films to be saved, in 2008. The screenplay was the 13th of 14 screenwriting credits amassed in the seven years before Accattone. Notable among them: The Big Night (1959) based on Pasolini’s first novel and which won him the Silver Ribbon for Best Original Story from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists in 1960. The film, one of five that Pier Paulo worked o with director Mauro Bolognini, ultimately nominated for Best Film at the Italian Golden Globes that same year. Pasolini published his first two volumes of essays – Passione e ideologia and Canzoniere italiano, poesia popolare italiana, in 1960 as well.

In 1962, Pasolini wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Sergio Citti and Bernardo Bertolucci, for The Grim Reaper (Bertolucci’s first directorial feature). That same year Pasolini directed and wrote (with additional dialogue from Citti), his second feature, Mamma Roma (1962). The film featured Anna Magnani and told the story, of a prostitute and her son, in a picaresque neo-realist style. It was mostly interpreted as an an affront to societal morality of the period, which PPP essentially intended, to demonstrate that such realities were more common than the public wanted to believe. PPP’s third novel, Il sogno di una cosa, was published, in 1962.


Pasolini & Orson Welles on set of La ricotta (1963)

In 1963, the episode La ricotta, included in the collective movie RoGoPaG, ended up censored as blasphemous. Pasolini was arrested and tried, for offence to the Italian state, receiving a suspended sentence. The short, included Orson Welles in the cast, and dialogue, which labeled the Italian bourgeoisie, “the most ignorant in all of Europe.” The compilation also featured shorts, from Godard and Rosselini. Pier Paulo made La Rabbia, (part one – the first segment in another omnibus film), that year too. In 1963 Pasolini met “the great love of his life,” fifteen-year-old Ninetto Davoli, whom he later cast in his 1966 film Uccellacci e uccellini (literally Bad Birds and Little Birds but translated in English as The Hawks and the Sparrows). Pasolini became the youth’s mentor and friend. Even though their sexual relations lasted only a few years, Ninetto continued to live with Pasolini and was his constant companion, appearing in six more of his films.

By 1964, Pasolini lost his earlier optimistic belief that neo-realism could be an engine of radical social change and his films took a new direction. Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew), was PPP’s departure from neo-realism and depicted Catholic as well as Communist beliefs in a literate reading of Matthew. The black and white film in which Pasolini’s mother, Susanna, plays Mary and an unknown Spanish student, Jesus, condemns materialism and attempts to spiritually reconcile Marxism and Catholicism. Surprisingly the movie was embraced, as one of the few honest portrayals of Christ on screen, and won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

In a great interview with Pasolini, in 1965, conducted by James Blue, in Film Comment, Pasolini said the following about The Gospel According to Matthew: 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 doing The 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. While filming it, Pasolini vowed to direct it from the believer’s point of view, but later said that, upon viewing the completed work, I realized I had expressed my own beliefs.


PPP doing sociological research in Love Meetings (1964)

Pasolini also made two documentaries in 1964 – Sopralluoghi in Palestina per Il Vangelo secondo Matteo, which certainly complimented The Gospel… and Love Meetings, in which PPP traveled throughout Italy, recording conversations with people, of all ages and backgrounds, about their sexual behavior and attitudes – like an Italian Alfred Kinsey, as film critic Dennis Lim characterizes it. At one point, in Abel’s Pasolini, Pier Paulo states he firmly believes sex is political. One wonders, how the making of this doc affected his ultimate viewpoint on the subject. I especially considered this question, when examining and re-examining, the accompanying still, of an interview from the film, and how scandalously provocative the girl’s bikini must have seemed in 1964 – (hell even now, it’s kind of racy)… and just look at her eyes. Was she trying to seduce one of the most famous gay men in Italy… did she even have a clue?

Pasolini published another volume of poetry too – Poesia in forma di rosa (1964). In 1965, PPP published the novel – Alì dagli occhi azzurri. Pier Paulo traveled around the world to several countries, which provided the material for much of his documentary work. He went to India in 1961 and 1968, to Sudan and Kenya in 1962, to Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Jordan and Palestine in 1963 and to Africa in 1970 again.

Pasolini’s next narrative feature, after The Gospel…, was Hawks and Sparrows, in 1966.  Considered one of his most philosophical films, it starred Toto, the famous comic, and Ninetto Davoli as father and son. While on a journey, they encounter a crow who attempts to politically enlighten them with stories told from a Marxist point of view. The father and son, who seem oblivious to either consumerism or idealism, eventually eat the crow to demonstrate their indifference. Hawks and Sparrows was an existential critique of consumer capitalism and its vacuous pleasures while still attempting to promote awareness of social justice issues and serious political consciousness and involvement. Blue’s Film Comment interview, has some great material on PPP’s approach to his actors, including Toto. Early In 1966 he was a member of the jury at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival – clearly a broadening experience, in Pier Paulo’s filmmaking development.


Toto in Hawks and Sparrows (1966)

From 1966 until he died Pasolini hit his groove and wrote/directed, at least, one narrative feature every year, except 1970 and 1973. During this 10-year period, he made 6 documentaries (from 1969-1975), wrote 3 plays, published 5 books and made 3 high-end shorts for theatrically distributed compilations. In addition, he wrote at least three screenplays for hire, besides several other screenplays, stage plays and books released posthumously (a list of these can be found in the PPP epilogue), and a few never to reach completion.

Thematically, Pasolini’s film career then alternated, between his more personal projects, and sexually daring, frequently scandalous adaptations, of classic literary works, on which Pasolini wrote the screenplays and took sole credit as writer.

The four classics (all commercially and critically successful) were: Oedipus Rex (1967 from Sophocles), Boccaccio’s – Decameron (1971), Chaucer’s – The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Il fiore delle mille e una notte, literally – The Flower of 1001 Nights, released in English as Arabian Nights (1974). These last three films are, usually grouped as, the Trilogy of Life.


Pasolini working on Teorema (1968)

With his own less epic projects, PPP expressed his usually controversial interpretations of Marxism, atheism, fascism, consumerism and homosexuality. Teorema (Theorem, 1968), the most successful of his later Art House style narratives, was based on Pasolini’s novel of the same name. The film starred Terence Stamp and depicted the sexual coming-apart of a bourgeois family – one of Pasolini’s only films, in which gay sexuality is a major element.

In 1967, Pasolini contributed a short called La Terra vista dalla Luna, to Le streghe (The Witches) and directed his fifth feature, Oedipus Rex. He also wrote a short story that was made into the short,  Il ragazzo-motore and worked on the screenplay for another movie – Requiescant. Pasolini intervista: Ezra Pound was a short TV documentary, which Pasolini produced in 1967, edited from an interview he did with major 20th century poet, Ezra Pound.

In 1968, Pasolini’s critique of bourgeois materialist values, Teorema, came out as a novel and later the same year made into a film shown at the Venice Film Festival. In the midst of the hot political climate, of Italy’s student radical violence, Pasolini forcefully advocated for the Festival to be managed by the directors. That same year Pier Paulo completed Orgia and Porcile – his first plays and was writer/director for the segment, Che cosa sono le nuvole? in Capriccio all’Italiana – (another collective feature).

1969’s, Pigsty (Porcile) was based on PPP’s play written the year before and according to Dennis Lim: The underappreciated Porcile, an allegory on the dead ends of ideology and a black comedy about cannibalism and bestiality, was out of step with the era’s fervent radicalism. It pleased almost no one, least of all the student activists Pasolini had denounced as elitists. During, the disorders of 1969, when the autonomist university students were carrying on a guerrilla-like uprising against the police in the streets of Rome and all the leftist forces declared their complete support for the students, describing the disorders as a civil fight of proletariat against the System, Pasolini sided intellectually with the working-class police. The film was one of Pasolini’s two features that lost money – the other being Medea, Pasolini’s next feature, also produced in 1969.


Medea Poster

Medea was based on the plot of Euripides myth. Filmed in Göreme Open Air Museum’s early Christian churches, it stars opera singer Maria Callas, in her only film role. She does not sing in the movie. The film tells the story of Jason and the Argonauts as they travel to Medea’s barbarian land in search of the golden fleece, the ultimate horrible tragedy of Medea, and the repercussions to all those around her. That same year he made his third doc, Appunti per un film sull’India and last contribution to a compilation – La sequenza del fiore di carta in Amore e rabbia (Love and Anger).

Appunti per un romanzo dell’immondizia (1970) – Notes for an African Oresteia was a doc that dealt with Pasolini’s plan to direct a movie, of the Aeschylus myth, in post-colonial Africa. It captured his idea of a wounded lioness to represent the Furies, as well as the skepticism of some young African men, that led to his decision to not make it. He also co-wrote the story and screenplay, for the feature Ostia, directed by Sergio Citti in 1970.

In 1971, Pasolini directed The Decameron, which won the Silver Bear at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival. He also published the volume of poetry, Trasumanar e organizzar, and wrote the commentary on Le mura di Sana’a (a documentary short).

His 1972 feature, The Canterbury Tales, won the Golden Bear at the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival. In 1972, he also started to collaborate with, the extreme left association, Lotta Continua; producing a documentary, 12 dicembre, concerning the Piazza Fontana bombing. That year he published his third book of essays – Empirismo eretico.    

The following year he began a collaboration to write for Italy’s most renowned newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, wrote his third play Calderón (1973), about the great Spanish writer, and co-wrote the screenplay for Bawdy Tales (Storie Scellerate directed by Sergio Citti). The extremely successful Arabian Nights  (1974) won the Grand Prix Spécial Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

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Pier Paulo on set of Salò (1975)

1975, the year of his death, sadly was one of Pasolini’s most prolific years. At the beginning of 1975, his editor Garzanti published a collection of critical essays, Scritti corsari (Corsair Writings) and PPP’s 7th volume of poetry, La nuova gioventù, was printed. He also made the documentary, Pasolini e la forma della città. Then of course there was the notorious Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma), a fusion of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy with the Marquis de Sade. Based on Les 120 journées de Sodome ou l’école du libertinage by the Marquis de Sade, the screenplay was written in collaboration with Sergio Citti, with extended quotes from Roland Barthes‘ Sade, Fourier, Loyola and Pierre Klossowski’s Sade mon prochain. The film was banned in Italy, and many other countries for several years – the “indigestible” film PPP intended.


In 2006, Time Out named Salò the “Most Controversial Film” of all time

Pasolini explained his rationales, for the setting, and thematic goals, of the film to Swedish critics, two days before his death, as follows: The title is Salò, the name of a town by the Garda Lake, which was the capital of the Fascist Republic. It takes place in 1945, as I wanted to represent the end of a world, past glory days. It was a poetic choice—I could have set it in ’38, in ’39 or ’37, but it would’ve been less poetic. Decadence and twilight are inherently poetic. Had I set it in the heyday of Nazism, it would’ve been an intolerable movie. To know that all this took place in the last days and that it would soon be over gives the spectator a sense of relief. Substantially this is a film about “true anarchy,” that is, the anarchy of power… There is a lot of sex in it rather towards Sado-Masochism, which has a very specific function… In this new film, sex is nothing but an allegory of the commodification of bodies, at the hands of power. I think that consumerism manipulates and violates bodies as much as Nazism did. My film represents this sinister coincidence between Nazism and consumerism. Well, I don’t know if audiences will grasp this since the film presents itself in a rather enigmatic way, almost like a miracle play, where the sacred word retains its Latin meaning of  “cursed.”

Pasolini was murdered not long after finishing the film. He left a number of, completed and unfinished, works behind including: the screenplay for PTK and 1700 pages of, his daringly experimental novel, Petrolio (from both of which Ferrara extracted scenes contained in his Pasolini). There were also 3 finished plays, enough essays to ultimately fill 5 volumes when published posthumously, another novel finished in 1948 but not yet published at that time, 3 stories that later were filmed and materials that made up, the bulk of, at least 3 docs produced after his passing.

Pasolini has been a great influence on a number of filmmakers – notably Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Derek Jarman, Gus Van Sant and Abel Ferrara. He personally mentored Bernardo Bertolucci. His films won awards at many film festivals and the Italian National Syndicate for Film Journalists, the Jussi Awards, Kinema Junpo Awards, International Catholic Film Office and the New York Film Critics Circle.

Much of the above material was resourced from Wikipedia’s fairly strong PPP material. Additionally, some good info kernels came from IMDB, particularly a mini-bio by Michael Brooke of the UK. The epilogue provides additional material on his life, work and thought.


Abel at New York Film Festival Part I
I was able to get a short interview with Abel, who I confess is one of my favorite people…

We kind of miss you in NYC and hope you will be coming back more often.
AF: The work I do, and how we do it, is more conducive {these days} in places like Italy, France… Europe in general is just a place that appreciates the work and appreciates the artist and appreciates the filmmakers; meaning financing it, respecting the final cut, distributing it properly – that’s respect… not just like “Hey man we think you’re great” but you’ve gotta follow through across the board.

How has indie film changed in the 20 years or so since you put out Bad Lieutenant?             AF: Well it’s changed since they got that fucking camera that you got {grins & points to my Pan. DVX-100 – some, of the first, digital features, were shot with this camera, since it can vary frame rates including 24fps}. The first one… how old, is that thing? – {laughs}…

It’s pretty old… but it works – I still like the look…
AF: Brings back, a lot, of bad memories {laughs some more}. You know Independent is a state of mind. You got your telephone. You got your computer – go online and you’ve got the world at your feet.

But, you’ve got a market that’s oversaturated.
AF: {Laughs} – Well, you’ve gotta build a better mousetrap.

Are you a fan of Samuel Fuller?
AF: Yeah.     


Ferrara with Camera Operator Steve Drellich on ‘R XMAS (2001)

                                                            “If you know that, I am an unbeliever 

then you know me better, than I do myself.

I may be an unbeliever, but I am an

unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini

In a career now spanning over three decades, Abel has built a number of interesting mousetraps as well as flytraps and some nasty deathtraps. Universally considered a truly American Auteur, but doing much of his current work abroad for creative reasons, Pasolini was Abel’s 22nd feature or 23rd if you count his one feature length TV movie. The legendary Sam Fuller, whose Hollywood and post-studio era career showed some uncanny similarities to Abel’s, did 24.


Poster from Abel’s First Feature in 1979

Ferrara was born in 1951 in the Italian neighborhood of the Bronx. As a boy, he started shooting in Super 8mm, filming the streets of New York, especially the tougher neighborhoods. His directorial debut on the big screen was with The Driller Killer (1979). Ferrara also plays the protagonist in the film, a young painter from New York who becomes crazy and violent. In my opinion, Abel should be cast more, not just in homage roles, but cool edgy character parts, because he has such a great face and moves so well. In 1981, Ferrara created the character of a young blind woman who decides to take revenge on her aggressors, after being attacked and raped twice, in one day, and takes to the streets of New York after dark and randomly kills men with a .45 caliber gun, in MS. 45. Fear City (1984) was written by, Nicholas St. John and featured Billy Dee Williams and Tom Berenger – strippers in Manhattan, stalked and murdered by a psycho. A tough police detective and an ex-boxer-turned-private-eye, set out to get him. In China Girl (1987), he told his version of, “Romeo and Juliet” romance that takes place among ethnic conflicts between gangs in Manhattan. Towards the end of the 1980s, Ferrara directed various episodes of Miami Vice for, his good buddy, Michael Mann, and a film for TV, The Gladiator (1986) with Robert Culp and Nancy Allen. Cat Chaser (1989), which didn’t work out the way he had planned, starred Peter Weller and Charles Durning and was adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel. Cat Chaser has had a recent Director’s Cut DVD release and in Pinkerton’s excellent interview, with Abel in Film Comment on October 03, 2014, Abel said:


Cat Chaser Poster

Cat Chaser was a disaster. We gave up final cut and we paid for it. It was a total disaster. It could’ve been a very cool film – it was a cool film at one point – and it was totally butchered and destroyed by a couple of drunken bums. And what am I gonna do? I mean the guy’s dead now; I don’t want to badmouth him. But it’s a sin. Thank God for Anthology Film Archives, they’ve got a funky rough cut of Tony Redman’s, the editor’s, that does some service to the actors, to the great Elmore Leonard, to the dude who wrote it, to the people that made the film.

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One of the Posters for King of New York (1990)

In the early 1990s, Abel gained a wider audience, starting with King of New York (1990), with a powerful performance from Christopher Walken, who plays a drug lord. Written by Nicholas St. John, the cast also included Lawrence Fishbourne, Wesley Snipes and Steve Buscemi in a small role. The film premiered in the U.S. at the 28th New York FF a few days before its commercial release. He followed that up in 1992 with Bad Lieutenant, a critical success, with Harvey Keitel as a corrupt police officer looking for redemption. Keitel won the Independent Spirit Award in 1993 for Best Actor on the film with Abel nominated for Best Director and the producers Ed Pressman and Mary Kane nominated for Best Feature. Ferrara then did a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original version 1956…Hollywood remake in 1978 with Donald Sutherland) in 1993, under the title of Body Snatchers, with Meg Tilly, prolific TV actors Terry Kinney and Gabrielle Anwar, Forest Whitaker and Billy Wirth – from Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers (1955), screen story from Raymond Cistheri and horror legend Larry Cohen and screenplay credited (rewrites anyone?) to Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli and Nicholas St. John. The film competed for the Palm d’Or at Cannes in May 1993, ran in the New York Film Festival (which proudly gives no awards) in September 1994 and was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, in 1995. This may seem all out of logical sequence but when a studio, like Warner Bros., spends about $13 mill to produce a Sci-Fi horror movie and then self distributes it, in January, to the tune of $428,868 U. S. box office – it doesn’t sound like they had a lot of P & A dollars assigned to the project. Most people seriously working in movies will tell you: “It’s the Biz”. I think it was probably a case of Filmicide. Warner’s seems to have done well on the video though.


Bad Lieutenant DVD Cover – Harvey Keitel won the Best Actor Independent Spirit Award in 1993

Also in 1993, he released Dangerous Game, in which Madonna plays a movie star battling her tyrannical director. The film also featured Harvey Keitel and James Russo and premiered at the Venice FF. In 1995, he directed The Addiction, a metaphorical exploration of vampirism shot in black and white, including in the cast Christopher Walken, Lili Taylor, and Annabella Sciorra. The film opened at the Sundance FF and Ferrara was nominated, for the Golden Berlin Bear, at the Berlin FF. The next year, The Funeral (1996), with Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Isabella Rossellini, Vincent Gallo and Benicio Del Toro took the public into the world of a violent and oppressive mafia family. This film also premiered at Venice, where it won two awards and Abel was nominated for the Golden Lion. It also was nominated for five awards at the 1997 Independent spirit Awards: Best Screenplay – Nicholas St. John, Best Cinematography – Ken Kelsch, Best Feature – Mary Kane, Best Male Lead – Chris Penn and Best Director – Abel Ferrara. None of them won. I hope they got drunk together, since they surely would have been depressed separately. In 1997, he directed The Blackout with Claudia Schiffer, Beatrice Dalle, and Matthew Modine, the story of an actor and two women, caught up in a vortex of sex, drugs and excessive alcohol. The movie premiered in North America at the Toronto Int. FF. In 1998, Ferrara once again directed Christopher Walken in New Rose Hotel, a psychological Sci-FI thriller based on a William Gibson short story, co-starring Asia Argento and Willem Dafoe. The film won two awards at Venice and was nominated for the Golden Lion, at the fest. Its American premiere was at the Hamptons International Film Festival. In 2001, ‘R XMAS, beautifully lensed by Ken Kelsch, told the tale of a Christmas spent with a drug-trafficking immigrant and starred Drea de Matteo with Ice-T in a supporting role. It premiered at the Cannes FF and had its American open at the Chicago International Film Festival.

In 2002, Ferrara moved to Rome, Italy where he directed Mary, starring Forest Whitaker, and Juliette Binoche playing an actress playing Mary Magdalene. Mary won the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. In 2007, he directed a comedy with Modine, Bob Hoskins and Willem Dafoe, Go Go Tales, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated, for the Grand Prix des Amériques, at the Montreal World Film Festival. Chelsea on the Rocks (2008), Ferrara’s first documentary, premiered at Cannes. The Chelsea is a legendary hotel where Harry Smith, Dylan Thomas, Leonard Cohen, Brendan Behan, Thomas Wolfe, Arthur Miller and Arthur C. Clarke among other notable writers and artists, once lived. It was a great place to party, trust me. Napoli, Napoli, Napoli, filmed in Naples naturally, premiered at the São Paulo FF and then played at Venice, Rome Film Fest, Vienna Film Festival and the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Mulberry St. (2010), was Abel’s third documentary and takes place in NYC’s Little Italy with Danny Aiello, Shanyn Leigh, Matthew Modine, Frank Vincent and Ferrara among a host of colorful characters playing themselves. Mulberry St. premiered on Italian TV July 2010.


Abel, Robert Crumb, Milos Forman, Ethan Hawke & Dennis Hopper play themselves live in the film. Duane Allman,William Burroughs, Water Cronkite, Rick Danko, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, Andy Warhol & Bob Weir appear on archive Footage – joined by many less known NYC art scene legends.

In April 2011, Ferrara shot his first narrative feature in four years, 4:44: Last Day on Earth, starring Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh. This was Dafoe’s third collaboration with Ferrara. The film was shot in one location, an apartment, set during the course of the last 24 hours before the biblical apocalypse. Ferrara’s longtime cinematographer Ken Kelsch, an SVA, alum, shot the film. 4:44: Last Day on Earth competed at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in 2011 and followed that with its American premiere at the 49th New York Film Festival.

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Dafoe & Ferrara on the Bluish Carpet at Venice

It’s been a good year for Ferrara with both Pasolini and Welcome to New York (2013) now circulating through the film watching universe. Pasolini has had exposure at numerous prestigious festivals (including competing for the Golden Lion in its Venice premiere) and now will travel through the entire world circuit. After NYFF the film, (which opened theatrically in Italy September 25th), showed in October at the 19th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, in the UK at the London Film Festival (58th rendition), the Festival Internacional de Cine de Valdivia (21st version) in Chile and the 41st Gent International Film Festival in Belgium. In November, it screened at the 55th Vienna International Film Festival in Austria, the 9th Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival in Portugal, the 25th Ljubljana International Film Festival in Slovenia and in Argentina at the Mar del Plata Film Festival (36th running) – with more surely to come; Pasolini’s art and ideas certainly, being revisited globally. The well received but salacious (in an entertaining way), Welcome to New York has generated much controversy on both sides of the Atlantic due to the story and on the exhibition front. In France and, much of Europe, the film became a game changer for the VOD market, after sales agent/distributor Wild Bunch released it right to VOD bypassing the normal mandated French theatrical window delays (four to six months after the theatrical open for pay VOD and 36 months for SVOD). Welcome to New York generated over 100,000 downloads in ten days in France this spring nearly breaking even in that one market in one period alone –  resulting in Wild Bunch’s recent announcement to launch Europe’s first “e-distribution” company. It’s encouraging to see real tangible VOD numbers provided, publicly.


Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset touring an NYC court

“I am a force of the past. And I, a foetus now grown,

roam about more modern than any modern man,

in search of brothers no longer alive, a different witness.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Willem Dafoe, the crown prince of immersive portrayals, as labeled by Evan Louison in the piece referenced before, bears a striking resemblance to Pasolini at the time of PPP’s death – almost all the film’s reviewers agree on this point. Check the photos or the video links at the end of this piece and decide for yourself. More importantly, it’s how Willem got into Pasolini’s head that gives his performance authenticity. From his notes on the role below, one can see he shares Pasolini’s individualistic humanist perspective, which opposes the worst tendencies of modern society’s evolution. Dafoe’s extensive credits, accumulated working with a number of the best directors of the past three decades, certainly has provided him both a conscious and unconscious feel for the persona of, an auteur like Pasolini.


Spiderman’s Favorite Villain

In 1979, Dafoe was given a small role, in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, from which, he was fired. His first feature role came, shortly after, in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Loveless (1981). From there, he went on to perform in over 80 films – including Spider-Man (2002, 2004, 2007), The English Patient (1996), Finding Nemo (2003), Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003), Clear And Present Danger (1994), Mississippi Burning (1988), Streets Of Fire (1984), American Dreamz (2006), The Boondock Saints (1999), and American Psycho (2000). Dafoe has worked in many, important international productions, among them: Theo Angelopoulos’ The Dust Of Time (2008), Yim Ho’s Pavillion Of Women (2001), Yurek Bogayevicz’s Edges Of The Lord (2001), Wim Wenders’ Faraway, So Close (1993), Nobuhiro Suwa’s segment of Paris Je t’aime (2006), Brian Gilbert’s Tom & Viv (1994)… Christian Carion’s Farewell (2009) and Mr. Bean’s Holiday (2007), the Spierig Brothers’ Daybreakers (2009) and Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter (2011). He selects projects based on the diversity of roles and opportunities to work with strong directors. He’s acted, in the following movies: Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic (2004), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004), The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988), Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006), Julian Schnabel’s Miral (2010) and Basquiat (1996), Paul Schrader’s Affliction (1997), Light Sleeper (1992), The Walker (2007), and Adam Resurrected (2008). Dafoe, has also performed in: David Cronenberg’s Existenz (1999), Abel Ferrara’s 4:44: The Last Day on Earth, Go Go Tales and New Rose Hotel, David Lynch’s Wild At Heart (1990), and William Friedkin’s To Live And Die In LA (1985). The list continues: Werner Herzog’s My Son My Son What Have Ye Done (2009), Oliver Stone’s Born On The Fourth Of July (1989) and Platoon (1986), Giada Colagrande’s A Woman and Before It Had A Name (2005) and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) and Manderlay (2005). He was twice nominated for an Academy Award (Platoon and Shadow of the Vampire in 2000) and once for a Golden Globe in 2001. Among over 40 different prestigious nominations and/or awards, he received an LA Film Critics Award in 2000 and an Independent Spirit Award in 2001. Most recently, he has appeared in Anton Corbjin’s A Most Wanted Man (2014), Josh Boone’s The Fault in Our Stars (2014), Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013), Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace (2013), Chris Brinker’s Bad Country (2014) and David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s John Wick (2014). Dafoe is one of the founding members of The Wooster Group – the New York based experimental theatre collective. He created and performed in all of the group’s work from 1977 through 2005, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Mario Braucci, being as involved in the production of Pasolini as much as any writer could, conducted an excellent interview with Dafoe, which I have excerpted:


Dafoe Inhabiting Pasolini’s Mind

Dafoe: Concentrating on, his last day gave us a structure, and using those events and including suggestions of his projects current to that day, Salò, Petrolio and PTK, we set out to create a portrait. We imagine his state of mind on the last day of his life. So the performance was not an imitation or interpretation of who he was, but more a record of me inhabiting the actions and thoughts of a man that happened to be Pier Paolo Pasolini. When you are learning things, being inspired and educated, by such a visionary thinker and artist that opens you up, to challenge and change your thoughts. That is the heart, of the personal transformation, that fuels the interior life of the performance.

In approaching the role of Pasolini, I had to be free of the pressure of representing a much loved, almost holy figure. Like with Jesus: I wasn’t playing THE Jesus, I was playing a Jesus. It may sound coy but it was the same with Pasolini. Of course, the preparation for these two roles couldn’t have been more different. But with both, I had to cleanse myself of an expectation, or any images or thoughts I had of the figure before, and work from zero.

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Dafoe/Pasolini – Visualizing a Sound Mix

We were making a film and had to create our own reality. However, we wanted to be guided by, as many facts as possible and not consciously invent things without a factual base. We very much depended on the information, memories, stories and opinions of Pasolini’s surviving friends and family and were blessed by their generosity. The invention comes unconsciously in the gaps between the facts, the poetry, the inability to reproduce and the reflections on his life.

As much as possible, we used the actual locations of real life events and even PPP’s personal objects and clothes that friends and family gave us. These relics have great power and magic, and help in making contact with the past. I am like a medium inviting something to appear through my committed actions.

The extreme divisions between different aspects of his life, though not at all a secret, were separate and discrete. Yet, there didn’t seem to be any denial: one part of his life made space for and fed the other. They were connected. He was able to serve so many masters of his heart and body, even if they seemed so contradictory.


Willem Dafoe, the crown prince of immersive portrayals

How did I feel playing him? I didn’t “play” him. I just tried to be his flesh, his voice, his presence in the last day of his life…

He was inspiring in his work, courageous in his life and a visionary thinker. He foresaw an anthropological evolution of Italian culture that is still happening…

Geoff Andrews, from the aforementioned article: Pasolini’s belief that the working class became incorporated, into consumer capitalism was followed by his controversial view that middle-class progressivism was dependent on superficial bourgeois decadence and indicative of a wider cultural malaise, which became one of the main themes dominating his final work. He condemned the “new economic power” which had led to the degradation of Italian cultural life. He saw through the paradoxes of the 1960s and 1970s, apparently offering new freedoms and sexual liberation yet containing in reality a “false” tolerance producing only cynicism and conformism.

Dafoe: While many of his observations were specific to Italy, they apply to us all. The deadening conformism, homogenization, impotence of peoples brought about by the false freedom of progress – the culprits of television, consumerism, false tolerance, corruption – can now be joined by globalization, the internet, and the multinational corporate culture. He fought in his art and life a fight to preserve what is human and beautiful, and that fight is still on.

The “little” people of Ferguson, MO (and for that matter- New York City), should certainly relate to that. In a broader arena, the promise of the internet (which became one of the few compensations remaining after the trade-offs of Reagan/Thatcher Neo-Liberalism) to provide solutions, through the free flow of information, did not anticipate the potential devastation to individual copyright and information protection or the massive expansion of the surveillance state. The Google World-Brain (marketing) experiment and the revelations, of Snowden, WikiLeaks… have changed everything.

Abel at New York Film Festival Part 2

Continuing my interview: How did Pasolini influence your development?
AF: From the time, I saw Decameron (1971) I was like 19, 20 – a young film director… you can’t help but be basically blown away by it. It was like one of the events in your life that you’re not gonna forget. We were all over him back then when we used to watch a lot of movies. Then, when we saw Salò, which Pasolini had just put the finishing touches on, at the time of his death – {a film that was banned in Italy for a number of years – In May 2006, Time Out‘s Film Guide named it the “Most Controversial Film” of all time}, we kind of put it all into perspective. It was like the James Dean deal you know… he was in his prime – his prime was in our film-watching prime, and then he died… which makes it even more exotic. It was a great loss, just a tragedy – the death of a poet. The guy was 53 years old – ten years younger than I am now. He was in the prime of his creative life – big time. Salò was a masterpiece. He had two screenplays, that were ready to go that were beautiful. He was writing a novel. He was getting to the point of, like – he was reinventing the wheel constantly. It was a great loss to everybody.

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Pasolini was even more cerebral than he looks in this photo

Where do you fit in his work say between Fellini, DeSica…?
AF: These guys were all of a kind. They created that tradition… that industry. They built it together – post war Italian films. He was a part of a tradition, a movement – RosselliniAntonioniBertolucci, etc… All were working with the same DPs, crew, producers and the same actors plus using guys right off the street. They were all right there – eating with each other, talking with each other… their DP’s, the designers – the whole community of amazing filmmakers, a whole group… it’s funny you know, he died and that ended… so I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Why did you focus the film on just the last day of his life?
AF: Well his life was well documented… thousands of pages of stuff. This was a guy who was constantly changing, constantly evolving, constantly moving forward. In the 90 minutes that we had, to lock in on the place that he was at… because if you got him two weeks before, he was coming from another place – never mind three years before, or eight years before. So by locking in on the last day, we focus on where he was at… what he was working on that last day. You know two beautiful scripts, he was writing, and other people’s projects at the same time. Why did we choose that final day? It’s something about the death… He speaks about this – he says something like, life is one long tracking shot – death puts it into perspective. When Willem and I made 4:44 together, we kind of used the same structure. We did a few documentaries, and then the Dominic Strauss-Kahn piece and we just amped it up here… and our deal was – we talk to everybody. We talked to the whole gang – heard the story 20 times. You know, it’s Italy – you hear the same story 30, 40 different ways. What takes 5 minutes in NY, takes 12 hours in Roma… but we listened and we sat and learned… that’s the joy of filmmaking – you get back into it… you start seeing his movies again and reading his stuff again and thinking “why am I digging on this guy, why did I like this guy – why him of all guys?” I’ve always said Salò is my favorite film. This film made me understand why. The further we went with our research, the more beautiful, the cat was revealed to us. Especially talking to the people who were very young when they worked for him… they said he was the nicest guy… no one had a bad word to say about him – never mind the poetry, the screenplays, the movies…

At the Q&A after the film’s second screening at NYFF, (moderated by Dennis Lim, one of the few, actual NYC experts in Pasolini’s films), there was the inevitable question about how and why he dealt with Pasolini’s actual death so indirectly:
AF: You know we weren’t making a documentary. I don’t go to the movies to find out who killed Jesse James… we were making a movie as a process. Let me tell you, the same thing that happened on that beach is the same thing that happened in the hotel room with Dominic Strauss-Kahn. The only people who know it were the people that were there. Whether they’re still alive or not, doesn’t matter. So you can look at it in different ways… the same way I’m not going to find out what happened a year ago, in that hotel room, I’m not going to find out what happened 40 years ago on that beach at Idroscalo. I’m doing detective work, and you say I’m not a detective. But, I’m a filmmaker and he’s {Dafoe} an actor. There’s a process that him and I and the crew do. That process is, called making a film. We dealt with that crime and the process that we used led us to the ending we have, which is this conclusion of the film. So I am not gonna stand, with my hand on the bible, and say in court, “that’s what happened to that guy that night” – no. Is it the truth, which is moving? What you get is not a documentary on Pasolini either. It’s more about him {points at Dafoe} than him {points back behind – Pasolini}. Maybe it’s more about the three of us in balance.

Abel stopped, looks at the audience (who he can tell is not satisfied with this). He grins, then laughs and says:
AF: OK, you brought it up. All right, because it’s New York and it’s a film festival, there is one thing that we learned from our investigation and that is – if that car hadn’t rolled over him, he would have lived. He died because of that car going over him. Now, whether that kid did it, it was a CIA agent or a KGB agent or a guy from P-2, you know, a guy from wherever, or whatever conspiracy theory you want to weave. Did the guy, behind that wheel, do it intentionally or was it just dark that night and he didn’t know how to drive that Alpha…?


Riccardo Scamarcio Plays the young Ninetto Davoli

The tragedy is not who killed him… you find out who killed him… that doesn’t bring him back. This dude is dead and he IS GONE. OK, but the work that he could have done, that was lost – that’s the tragedy. Because if you see that last shot of the movie, that is his actual daybook – that is not a prop. His Cousin Graziella gave me that book… you see what he wrote from that day and what he was gonna do the next day… and how he wrote it. That is not a guy who was planning on dying. I think he was the most surprised guy in the world… because his friends are figuring, what the hell… because that was the guy’s life – 10:30 at night and it’s sayonara. Everybody knew he was an out there gay dude. In 1975, in that town, that wasn’t so simple. That wasn’t so easy, okay? Doing what he did, you know – there was no closet bullshit with this guy. He was having fun and the cats that he was looking for – those kids at that station, some of those kids 15, 16 – are not like these kids from Julliard {the renowned music school housed just across the street}. He wasn’t looking for like, a young concert pianist. He needed the real thing. He was looking for that thing and he found… you know… {nervous laughter from the audience}.

He was living with his mother. He loved his mother. He adored his mother. He was everything to his mother. His mother was everything to him. He had that scene, but he had his crazy show business friends. And he brought them home… and his mother wasn’t so crazy about some of them but too bad, he had the business at home and they’d need to come to the house. That life that he lived – he had his dinners, he had his film thing, he had his work – he had his life pretty much decked out. Those guys were making a lot of money back then. Those films were all playing in New York. There was a big market for all those Italian films of the time. His cousin was telling me about the business they did then. They would write synopses, send them to LA and they would get strong bread. That film industry was rolling. A film industry, that he helped create… with Fellini, with Rossellini, with the DP’s, with Delli Colli, {Tonino Delli Colli, Pasolini’s DP – Abel’s, DP, Stefano Falivene, worked with Delli Colli}, with DiPalma – the whole gang. They were in a golden period. It’s funny; when he died, it died with him. Salò was almost a fucking final gasp. You’re always thinking, what would have happened if he lived. He was the Alpha Dog. He was the boss. He was not some backed up guy. He was an independent – he was on his own.


A shot from the PTK scene in Sodom & Gomorrah – Cristina Chiriac (Center)

In any truly interesting film there is always one scene, sometimes very intense, sometimes hilarious or humorously absurd and others just… well, cool that sticks in your mind. In Pasolini, for me, that occurred in the mating scene. Here, gay men copulate with gay women while a crowd of other participants and onlookers watch and cheer them on. Fellini-esque… pure Ferrara and it came from Pasolini – the never filmed screenplay Porno – Teo – Kolossal. Nino Davoli, taking a break from, chasing a comet, signifying the birth of Christ, stops to watch an orgy, in Sodom and Gomorrah – “the most tolerant city in the world,” another onlooker tells him.
AF: …the fertility scene – that script that we shot… it was, spoken, into a microphone… boy you should, hear that tape. This guy was a brilliant screenwriter. So, I’m directing from a masterpiece of a script. When you read it, it’s poetic, it’s wonderful, it’s succinct – the shots are all in there. The grips and the gaffers could read it and know what the fuck you were going to do that day. And, it’s like magical. If you’re confessing your gayness, then where is the race going? I mean if we’re all gay, we’re just the last generation… last day on earth – last generation on earth. His cousin said to us: “You know Abel, you gotta remember for a gay man, who cannot get married, cannot get divorced, cannot have children; that station {which we imagined was not so sweet} was a great place. It was an oasis.”

It was 1975 Rome – the city of the Vatican. It was a fascist state. And like New York here – violence man, violence, violence. But at the same time, it was post 1969. There was a sexual freedom and it was pre-AIDS, so those guys could really roll before then. Anyway, that film PTK so expressed his imagination. That scene was from the film itself. Who makes a film about one of the Wise Men? My whole life I’ve been hearing about these three fucking Wise Men and there’s a guy thinking, “What did the Wise Man tell his wife when he left? Well I’ll be gone a year to look for… you know… What do you got the gift, for? Well, the messiah’s coming… What Messiah?” There’s no messiah – there’s no religion yet, right? Imagine I’m gonna tell my old lady, I’m gonna go look for Jesus Christ, who’s gonna be born a year from now. And I’m leaving, on a camel.

After referring to Cat Chaserthe Director’s Cut, an audience member asked: Was Pasolini done the way you wanted it, to be made, or were there compromises you had to make?
AF: Cat Chaser was the last film I made, where we didn’t have final cut, and it was also a film that we left. It was either that, or commit murder, you know. Is Pasolini my film? Yeah it’s my film – every frame of it. Any film that I put my name on is gonna be our film, my film… it’s the film we wanted to end up with. I don’t know if it’s the film we wanted to make. It’s the film we wanted to show, now. At this point, you know, we started in LA and we moved east, in order to have the creative process back, and we moved east again, and I don’t know – we might have to move east again. The bottom line is; as a director, in the end my role is to protect the film from all those who wish to destroy it, and changing one frame destroys it. If I can’t do that, I shouldn’t even call myself a director. Without final cut, without total control of the final work – you’re wasting your time. You’re wasting everybody’s time that you’re working with. The reality is – every shot counts, every frame counts, every bit of music, every effect. I’m not going to get in another situation where my heart gets broken. I’m allowed to break my own heart, but not them.

The crowd seemed to run out of questions so I slipped one in. Pasolini referred to Hollywood as the Devil. The idea of Hollywood as hell, is there really a Hollywood now?    
AF: Julian Schnabel said last night, “It doesn’t exist.” So, I agree with him and Pasolini. The end doesn’t exist and neither does Hollywood. So what do we do? We sit here and we wait – {a smattering of existential laughter}.


Pasolini was Abel’s 4th American Premiere at NYFF

And we did – for a pregnant 7 or 8 seconds and he went on…
AF: The whole, Hollywood thing… the whole attitude in this country… this doesn’t mean anything – you can do this, change that… {for a} TV deal – take this out… take that out. You know dude, you can make a film nowadays… you can do it on your phone. The only thing you need is balls – I don’t care if you’re a woman or a man. That’s what you need to make a film. Okay, make one. Okay, you can’t… then don’t fuck with mine. You can’t buy it and think you have the right to change it. You cannot paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa, just because you buy it.

My other problem with these guys is that they don’t support the work on any level. You can’t just buy something at 1/10th market cost or whatever the deal is… you know there’s not going to be any more movies made, you dig? We’ve gotta support these filmmakers, or else you end up with just people like us – half cockroaches, half filmmakers, because they can’t be killed {laughter}. I mean, you know how many filmmakers I’ve seen – they make a film and it’s cool. Then maybe you see another one from them, and it’s even better, and then you never hear from them again. I know… survival of the fittest… but if you want to distribute one, you have to support the next one… but back to the original point: film is sacrosanct, that particular vision of it is sacred. This guy died on that beach for that. He had one thing to say in his work, which is individual freedom. If you hammer that nail enough times, the house is gonna come down. He’s talking about you. He’s talking about me. He’s talking about the individual and the power the individual has. To defend the freedom of that individual, he gave his life. He was defending his sacredness as a person, unlike any other person. And you don’t have to be fucking Pasolini – all of us deal with that. You know, Bob Marley said, “My right is my right. It’s all I have is my right.”

Everyone stood up and applauded – at that moment, there in Lincoln Center, center for cinema culture and Art’s junkies among NYC’s thriving upper class, diminishing bourgeois, steadily disappearing bohemians, emerging artists and students with uncertain futures – the struggle was real.

“Mine is not a tale, it is a parable. The meaning of this parable is the relation of an author to the form he creates.” Pier Paolo Pasolini

Notes on the screenplay by Maurizio Braucci:

Braucci: This Pasolini, by Abel Ferrara, has resulted from a very elaborated screenplay. Because we searched how to make a story, about a myth of the twentieth century – a complex and immense character, during his ultimate days of life – (from 00h30 on the 31th of October until the 2nd November 1975), without making the mistake, of creating a film only for nostalgic ones and experts, of the great poet of Casarsa. This Pasolini had to become especially for the youngest ones – and Abel and I kept constantly this goal in mind during the writing and rewriting sessions – a movie that would not require, before entering the theatre, any foreknowledge of the biographical whereabouts of the character we wanted to bring alive.


Pasolini on set of Salò

At the same time, it had to be a movie that made no restrictive and didactical concessions but restored all the controversial themes, experimental and radical ones, from Pasolini‘s last working period, to the public. We started, from a very precise documentation about his entire work; we have been reconstructing his last days thanks to the interviews, with his relatives and close friends. We searched and found documents that could prove all of their sayings. We interrogated all the people that possessed some information about his violent death (from Pino {Giuseppe – convicted of the murder of PPP} Pelosi to     the lawyer Guido Calvi, to the judges of his various trials or the different re- investigations).

Eventually we wanted to know the point of view, of the experts of the artist Pasolini (like Walter Siti, Dacia Maraini, and Virgillio Fantuzzi). While we did all this, we dictated ourselves two rules to be followed for the elaboration of this screenplay: respecting the facts, which meant only taking into account the moments Pasolini went through in his last hours; only showing the works he was creating in those days and which remained therefore mostly unfinished. Ferrara has overlapped the realistic events, of these last hours and the characters who took part in it, with the imaginary that emerged, from the subjects Pasolini was developing at that moment. A few chapters of his novel Petrolio, {on which Pasolini had already completed 1700 pages}, and some parts of his screenplay Porno – Teo – Kolossal, {Pasolini was very close to beginning the shooting of PTK, which Abel says loosely translates as a pornographic film, a religious film and an epic film, at the time of his death}. Together with two interviews he granted to French television on the one hand and to Furio Colombo of La Stampa {published in La Stampa under the title, “We Are All in Danger.”} on the other hand, in which the controversies and Pasolinian poetics, of that last period were reviewed. The set design has also contributed to a philological reconstruction, of the environment, through the objects, the books, the newspapers or tags on the city walls. The narrative levels have been interwoven, to give a bigger visual strength and intensity, and liberate the story from the chronicle and documentary style. The editing of Fabio Nunziata has completed this attention span wanted by the director.

Pasolini_Restaurant (1)

Dafoe as PPP waiting for pizza with Pino Pelosi (Damiano Tamilia)

The screenplay was written, simultaneously, in English and in Italian, starting from one language or the other, according to the situation. For some scenes, we worked side by side with Willem Dafoe, adapting with his aid the Italian dialogues into English dialogues, or choosing when he was going to speak Italian in a scene, those words that could express precisely his interpretation of our Pasolini.

This must have been a very complex process, but could well be the future of international cinema. Filmmakers might achieve such a result much easier and extensively, as far as the number of languages, recorded in the digital realm. It also caused consternation with American film reviewers particularly Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Variety’s Chief International Film Critic Peter Debruge, on September 4 (the film premiered August 31): There can be no doubt as to the research, Ferrara and screenwriter Maurizio Braucci, put into the project. Introducing (and occasionally repeating) choice sound bites and concepts, though the bizarre multilingual format – (in which Italian is sometimes heard but not translated), is not just distracting, but off-putting – why not get English-speaking actors, to perform the other roles, rather than asking Italians to fumble with difficult lines? It’s distracting to hear an Italian journalist interviewing Pasolini in a language neither of them spoke, though the answer spoken twice, is meant to explain everything… Even the stunt casting loses some of its sheen once the other actors open their mouths since Ferrara surrounds Dafoe with a mostly Italian cast, relegating this fest-bait offering to ultra-niche status.

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney also on September 4:                                                                         Dafoe’s compellingly internalized performance notwithstanding, the fatal flaw for many will be the awkward linguistic jumble. People address Pasolini in Italian and he responds with a few words in the same language before lapsing into English. That happens in the Colombo interview as well as the family scenes, with the actors stumbling through mouthfuls of heavily accented English dialogue that doesn’t come naturally to them. Pasolini’s voiceovers are mostly in Italian, read by Luca Lionello. All this adds an unfortunate layer of Euro-pudding artificiality over Ferrara’s audacious and unquestionably respectful approach, suggesting the film might end up working better, at least for local audiences, when dubbed into Italian.

Granted that Variety and THR’s writers have enormous timeline pressure on them, in reviewing every “important” film immediately, but it behooves them to at least read a film’s press notes (which both these journalists obviously did not) considering the responsibility to a film’s integrity that the leading trade pubs should maintain. Ferrara’s Pasolini is clearly an “Art” film and significantly experimental, not a linear “Biopic”. The presentation of multiple languages is part of that experimentation and consistent with Pasolini’s own attempts to preserve and celebrate various age-old dialects such as those of Casarsa or Catalonia, which the “modern” world would prefer to leave for dead. THR’s mention of “Euro-pudding” is a concept that has truly lost its relevance after two decades of formal EU functioning existence. As variety’s review claims to be a serious effort, by its chief international film critic, the labeling of Pasolini as a “fest-bait offering {of} ultra-niche status”, doesn’t pass muster, either. These early mainstream trade pub assessments left more indie friendly publications to sort out the mess later.

Speaking to Brandon Harris from Indiewire, Abel explained some of his approach:
We didn’t speak their language, there’s no parallel for them. I can get young Dominicans to talk in Spanish, but if they were to talk in their neighborhood in English, it wouldn’t translate. We’re going from language to language. I’m using every tool I got in the fucking kit to try to get to the heart of that guy. I’m not going to be locked into the convention of a movie in English or Italian. That’s just the fucking way I needed to get to the heart of the matter, you know. With all that philosophy, you gotta get that in English. Those are tough fucking thoughts this guy was talking about… a week with those real Roman street kids, you know, it was like, the kids could out talk me.


Dafoe researching Roman street dialect on the soccer field

To Nick Pinkerton in Film Comment he elaborated on that:                                                                           When he’s with the kid [Pino “The Frog” Pelosi, played by Damiano Tamilia], and the kid is speaking Italian, that language that that kid is speaking, you’re not gonna get that speaking English. You can’t translate that. You can’t drop that into American. What’d he be, a rapper or something? I don’t know what the fuck he’d be speaking. He’s a street kid, y’know? Thank God, Willem speaks enough Italian, and can speak Italian well enough, that he can get that kid’s talking back, which to me is more important at that moment.

Ion Cinema, rather deftly themselves, summarized the issue: Speaking in accented English and lapsing into French, Ferrara deftly steps around issues of the lack of Italian as often as he can by attempting to highlight the cosmopolitan interactions of the director.

In contrast to THR, Variety and other U.S. mainstream film reviewer’s linear ‘movie’ interpretations, the significance of a cosmopolitan approach, when discussing films like Pasolini is critical to Indie Filmmaking and Cinema as Art. Dialogue between international filmmakers and embracing foreign audiences will be crucial in producing and distributing Independent (Digital)Film, in the future, and especially important for many American Indies, in order to maximize their individual niches. Abel’s language mix in Pasolini is a credible effort toward showing the way forward. Ferrara also confronts one of the earliest and most consistent realms of interest that characterized Pasolini’s artistic point of view – the essence and functioning of Language, from its broadest use to the most microcosmic iterations, especially Semiotics, and looking at Cinema as Language. In a collection of essays (Heretical Empiricism ) written between 1964-71, Pasolini expressed the belief that languages like English, Italian, dialects, etc. engender rigid systems in which human thought is trapped. He argued that Cinema represented, a non- conventional and non-symbolic language, which expresses reality through reality itself… it is the written language of reality and as any written language, it enables man to see things from the point of view of truth.. Lastly, as a purely practical matter, in an international co-production, using local actors for the smaller parts makes total financial sense – critics, who, have never MADE films, don’t know the experience well enough, to even forget this point.

Braucci: At the end, since we are talking of an international production, the original version will be in English and a little bit in Italian in those parts shot with his fellow mates, while the release in Italy will be completely in our beautiful language. I attended all the reshoots, continuing to modify at several moments the dialogues with the actors, when new ideas were coming up or when they felt the characters in a different way. The reconstruction of the background of this story was a hard job. We visited several times the hemerotheque of the National Library of Rome searching for pieces of information that could render the climate of Rome in those days, a quite violent climate, which had made the assassination of Pasolini possible. We did the same research for all the documents of the criminal investigations. We read all the objective information about the circumstances of the murder and we studied with great care the principal trial of 1976 that, in my eyes, remains the most reliable survey on that case. But I repeat that, this constitutes nothing more than the background in which the heart of a great poet is beating his last hours and that beat became the rhythm of our movie.

As Braucci emphasizes, Pasolini, was truly an International co-production. An extensive group, of parties were involved, from France, Italy and Belgium. They consisted of: A Capricci, Urania Pictures, Tarantula, Dublin Films production, with Arte France Cinema, with the support of Eurimages, Mibact, Canal Plus, Arte France, Region Aquitaine, Region des Pays de la Loire, in partnership with CNC, Agence ECLA/Aquitaine Tournages, Wallonia, Wallimage, Tax Credit Italiano, Tax Shelter of Belgian Federal Government, Cinefinance, Belgacom, Agnes B.                                                                                                 


AF: The reality is – every shot counts, every frame counts, every bit of music, every, effect…

Indiewire asked Abel about dealing with this and he said:
You gotta do a little bit of work in all these countries that put up money. So it was kind of a traveling editing tour: We edited a little in France, we edited a little in Italy. I’m blessed with having two really great crews, my guys in New York and my guys in Italy. But the process, is the same, you know – because we demand it.

Pinkerton in the Film Comment Interview queried him about obtaining the financing:
That’s film financing in 2014, you gotta get money from – from the government, actually. Not corporate, but government – something, that doesn’t exist, in the United States. For me to go to my government and think that I’m gonna get money to make a film is absolutely the most avant-garde, outrageous concept. I wouldn’t dream of it in a million years. Call up Obama and say we’re making a movie? But in Europe they do, they support the arts. The city itself, the country, the campagna, the county, the state, the whatever – and we did it, with three countries. France was a big supporter of the film, Belgium, and Italy is his home. I know, it looks a little funky at the beginning, but hey, whatever it is. Sometimes you get one guy to put up all the money, you got one name, sometimes you got 10 different people put up one-tenth of the money, you got ten names. But hey, we got a movie. I ain’t bitchin. I’m gonna go wherever we find the money, we find the culture, we find the people who understand that these films count, they’re important. The tradition is alive and kicking. Unfortunately, I don’t see it so alive in my own country, and it’s a sin.

Without calling our government to task religiously, it’s definitely a disgrace how little support is provided for media works. In 2012, I interviewed Alyce Myatt, director of the Media Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), who told me that the entire NEA budget for media was $3.6 million. I’m not sure if you could buy an Apache helicopter for that – you certainly couldn’t buy two.

Some Worthwhile YouTube Links: —Pasolini Trailer — Red Carpet Venice – May 2014 — L’ultima intervista a Pier Paolo Pasolini, 31 Ottobre 1975. — Pasolini, Sabaudia e la “civilta’ dei consumi”…— A conversation with Abel Ferrara — HBO Directors Dialogues: Abel Ferrara – Film Society of Lincoln Center, Moderator Dennis Lim 2011 — Welcome to New York Official UK Trailer (2014) –Accattone Trailer (1961)

AF & Welcome to N.Y. vs. IFC
Welcome To New York is a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case starring, the great Gérard Depardieu and legendary Jacqueline Bisset. The film premiered this past May simultaneously at the Cannes FF and on the internet in France and Spain!! It also showed at the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival in June (68th version) and premiered, in North America, at the Fantasia International FF in Canada. The film has not yet opened in the U.S. due to a major dispute with the territory distributor – Sundance Selects/IFC Films. Originally, I was planning on avoiding this fracas, because of the complicated permutations involved, between the VOD, SVOD, digital and cross-Atlantic territorial differences and aspects of the distribution/exhibition of that particular film and since this story is about Ferrara’s Pasolini. However, as I learned more about the affair, it resembled a big onion, each layer when peeled becoming more relevant to the paradigm of the Pasolini art against power parable.

Ostensibly, the disagreement is simply about contracted distribution deliverables. IFC, which successfully distributed Abel’s last film 4:4:4…, bought U.S. VOD and theatrical rights over a year ago after only seeing a ten-minute trailer and expected to get a completed “R” rated feature. But, the “final” (quotations would be IFC’s not Ferrara’s or this writer’s) cut that ran at Cannes, in May, which massively cleaned up with its French VOD release in June, would surely receive an “NC-17” from the MPAA or have to run as unrated theatrically here. Sundance Selects/IFC Films, to now, has chosen to insist that sales agent Wild Bunch comply with the agreed upon arrangement. In that case, the film would need to be changed. Two frontal nudity shots of Gérard Depardieu seem to be the main culprits initiating this imposed onion style cutting of a movie forced upon an auteur. Rather ironically, since he just finished his next film, about a director, who had endured numerous instances of severe censorship – as often for depictions of sexuality as for ideological reasons. Quite rightly, Abel refuses to end up in a similar stew nearly 40 years after PPP’s death. That first slightly sweet redolence of this widely used bulb vegetable seeps out.


Gérard Depardieu as Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Welcome to New York (2013)

Cut through to the next layer – the MPAA Ratings… 24 years since the NC-17 rating super-ceded the big “X”. In 1991, I attended an IFP panel at which, the brilliant and ballsy F. Lee Bailey discussed the ramifications of the case he had conducted. During the presentation, one of the speakers congratulated Bailey for his victory and he said, “What victory? I lost!” – Welcome to New York’s U.S. distribution scenario illustrates exactly what he meant.

Slicing the next layer and demanding to chop the work of an Auteur, known to have final cut for more than two decades, is recipe for disaster – which IFC should have known. More consistent with the style of Corporate Hollywood, or even the pissing contests conducted by earlier Hollywood moguls, this supposedly indie-friendly distribution entity, whose roots extend to the Independent Film Channel and Sundance (the Filmmaker’s Nirvana), insists on compromising the work, of an independent director. IFC’s demands come far too late in the process, to not impact upon the film’s artistic integrity and overall quality. Paramount did a similar thing to Sam Fuller on his film White Dog (1982). This layer peels away quite easily. Sundance Selects/IFC Films is Corporate Hollywood, even if its HQ is in NYC – (it would be truly sad and an admission of defeat if we labeled it Corporate Indiewood)… owned by AMC Networks… traded as NASDAQ: AMCX… in 2013 with $1.6 billion in revenue, $582 million operating income and $290 million net – pretty nice margins! The company owns the cable channels AMC, IFC (73 million subscribers which launched in 1994), WE tv, and Sundance TV (57 million subscribers launched in 1996 and acquired from Robert Redford and Showtime Networks in 2008 for $496 million). It also owns the Art House movie theater IFC Center, in New York City (opened in 2005), the film company IFC Films, AMC Networks International and 49.9% of BBC America… the fragrance now recognizably oniony. Although the vast majority of the 90 million or so viewers, of IFC and/or Sundance Channel, are probably not aware of these channels’ true non-independence – savvy, filmmakers are. Would it not be good business to, at least, demonstrate, the kind of “independent spirit” that IFC Films has built its reputation upon, with the more than 300 films it has taken to market, since it first distributed Tom Gilroy’s Spring Forward in 1999?

Cutting to the business, at hand, i.e. IFC’s acumen, in this case, leaves a lot to be desired. Seriously buying rights to his unfinished film and hoping Abel would deliver an “R” was a questionable proposition in the first place. Then, after seeing the film get good critical response, perform so well straight to VOD (which has no ratings issues) and owning their own flagship Art House as well as a growing VOD division; why let a fresh product potentially rot? As the folks at Indiewire pointed out:

Frankly, we’d wager the same amount of people will pay for this movie in either an R-rated or unrated version – there are certainly no teenagers aching to see this, and it’s not like Welcome To New York would’ve screened in multiplexes anyway…

That argument would seem borne out when examining IFC’s 34 film, 2014 distribution slate through mid-December. Aside from the phenomenal $24 mill that Boyhood (2013) had so far garnered playing on 775 screens (whether a result of IFC’s great skill or timing or luck), only three grossed more than $400,000 or played on more than 45 screens. Only seven, showed on more than 24 screens. Then of course, there’s Wild Bunch with their new “e-distribution” company – IFC might possibly engender a formidable new competitor. Very likely, they will spoil what has been a profitable relationship with the hip French sales agents, just as they have already done with Ferrara, who thundered, in September:

Welcome to New York is not being distributed in the U.S. because of this company, IFC, which I’m totally disgusted with… I’ve fucking had it with this corporate assault on the artists and the freedom of the artist, period. It’s like a war against movies, Because 90 percent of the marketplace is owned by five guys masquerading as corporations. They’re vultures and they’re vampires, and they’re trying to suck the blood out, of the life, of the filmmaking community.


Sold out Knicks game at MSG – see if you can find Spike Lee in the picture

When slicing the last parts out of an onion, there isn’t any blood but the odor reaches its greatest intensity and brings some people to tears. Pulling back more layers of AMC Networks corporate history, I located a couple of those masked men Abel was referring to – Charles and James Dolan, the MSG/Cablevision family. AMC Networks was originally launched in 1980 and formerly known as Rainbow Media Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Cablevision, but was spun off as a publicly traded company in July 2011 as was MSG Holdings in 2010. Eighty-eight year old Charles Dolan is executive CEO of AMC Networks and his son James is Chairman, CEO and President of Cablevision (Founded 1973 NYSE: CVC). Cablevision 2013 consolidated net revenues $6.232 billion… consolidated operating income $699.2 million… net income $465.641 million… average Monthly Cable Revenue per Video Customer was $166.66. Cable assets include Optimum-branded digital cable television, high-speed Internet and phone services as well as Optimum WiFi network… total customer base – 3.2 million. The other assets consist of Lightpath, provider of integrated business communications solutions, Newsday, amNewYork, News 12 Networks, Cablevision Media Sales Corporation and MSG Varsity. The Madison Square Garden Company – MSG (NASDAQ)… James Dolan Founder and Executive Chairman… 2013 Operating Income $1.31 billion… Net Income (LOSS) $142.4 million. MSG Entertainment is the operating arm of the company. It controls live events at Madison Square Garden, both in the arena and in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. In addition to the Garden itself, MSG Entertainment owns the rights to operate two theaters in Manhattan: Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. Outside New York City, MSG Entertainment controls the operations of the Chicago Theatre (acquired in 2008), and ownership (acquired in 2012) in The Forum in Inglewood, California. MSG Entertainment also produces the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (starring the Rockettes), both at Radio City Music Hall and in venues around the United States. MSG Media controls the company’s cable television channels. These include the regional sports networks MSG and MSG Plus, as well as the music-oriented Fuse. MSG Sports is the division that manages the company’s professional sports teams. These include the NBA New York Knicks, Westchester Knicks and WNBA New York Liberty basketball teams, and the NHL New York Rangers and AHL Hartford Wolf Pack ice hockey teams.

AF continued in the same interview: And as for my brother and sister filmmakers, don’t roll over to these punks {Referring to the IFC execs} and the other thousand just like them that come on as big friends of the independent film community. They don’t give a shit about movies or the people that make them.

Ferrara’s point here is nearly incontrovertible. Consider the peanuts, for first run TV, to first and second time filmmakers, that both “indie” channels have historically offered – numbers, Hollywood’s studios might consider on third or fourth run. For two decades they sliced and diced their way to three times the typical cable company profit margins… growing their subscriber base to $1 billion+ in value, without even cooking the books much. I would add that Corporate Hollywood doesn’t give a pail of veggie slop for its audience either. In the mid-2000s, IFC shifted away from running only independent films and added original and acquired television series to the channel’s programming. In March 2010 (16 months prior to AMC Networks public spinoff), IFC became an advertiser-supported service and started commercial advertisements between programs. Theatrically released feature films, many that AMC holds TV rights to, became part of IFC’s schedule as well and in December of that year, IFC even began airing commercials within its programming. Kind of smells mercenary, I think. But don’t just blame the Dolans. There are about 50-100 similar fat cats that now control almost all content in the greatest concentration of media consolidation, in this continent’s history – which seems enough for the courts to believe, we have sufficient ownership/distribution competition. For example, take the Sci Fi channel, which throughout its history, has run less than 10%, of its programming, that could seriously be called Science Fiction. Once their subscribers hit a large enough number, they insulted all true fans of the genre by changing their name to Syfy. Or MTV and VH1, almost from day one, owned by the same people and music content no longer predominates. On January 9, 2014, the IFC’s network general manager, announced: The name ‘Independent Film Channel’ has been legally retired… starting today, IFC is legally IFC. Just, THREE letters – now that stinks! Please note that this site does not advocate that any readers, of this article, attempt to launch any channel called Science Fiction Channel, Music TV or Independent Film Channel. You will surely be sued – even if you try it on YouTube.

IFC still plans to bring the film to the big screen early this year for U.S. audiences. Wild Bunch should do the right thing, take the heat and show Ferrara proper artistic respect. So hopefully, Abel will stick to his guns, which he shows all indications of, IFC will put up a great mock fight, and then get out of the kitchen using the free publicity to drive ticket and VOD sales; thus winning when losing – (a common result during the Dolan’s tumultuous reign) and everyone will find the outcome digestible.


Gérard Depardieu as DSK relaxing in one of NYC’s more luxurious holding cells

Me, DSK & Bobby D.

At this point, I’m going to tell you a story that those of you who aren’t Hollywood movie or East Coast literary ‘brats’ or don’t come from wealthy or artistically accomplished families, should relate to. Even those aspiring filmmakers among you, who did have these advantages, and after a decade or so in “the biz”, somehow didn’t break through with your calling card shorts, features or screenplays; can probably empathize. Every time we attend larger family gatherings, they ask, “What are you doing with your life – you making any money?” Back in the 20th century, after I said I was a filmmaker, my Uncle Louie would always ask, “Are you making porno movies?” Nowadays, since the wide advent of the American Paparazzi/Red Carpet/Celebrity machine, the question has become, “Who are the famous people that you know?” They better be really big-time, or the response is a deafening silence.

So I’ve been shooting my still unfinished Festival Junkies documentary (an indie film about indie film with the film festival circuit as the maguffin) for way too long. Ever since the Tribeca FF launched, I’ve been all over it and I’ve videotaped more Red Carpets, Q & As and press roundtables than I really want to think about. However, that’s how Robert De Niro became my ‘bud’. I have incredible respect for Mr. De Niro and not just, because he’s a great actor and his films have been so successful. More so, because having come from a working class family, I appreciate how hard the man works to make the festival thrive. Bob De Niro is actually a very reserved man but after the 9-11 disaster, he took it personally – he said, “they, attacked, my neighborhood” and he started the festival to help downtown NYC recover. He went around and evangelized it to any number of people he’d never met to get it off the ground – not an easy thing for a basically shy person. So after the fest was up and running, he’d show up at almost every Red Carpet Premiere – the big Hollywood opens to the unknown first time directors and obscure docs, usually the last celebrity to arrive. A few times, even the Paparazzi had packed up and left but I knew Bobby D. (No, disrespect to, Mr. Duvall, who has a legitimate claim to be considered the original Bobby D.) would show – and he did. He’d briskly roll his way up or down the Red Carpet not stopping to be interviewed by anyone since he’s just not a talkative guy. So in 2011, Tribeca’s tenth fest, I’m on a carpet way at the end (where I’m usually assigned) but I only had an audio recorder and no video since I had a severely injured shoulder.

2011, was the year that the Cannes Film Festival had chosen De Niro to head the jury at the fest – a major achievement for Tribeca since some extremely misinformed executive committee originally decided to stage the festival in early May just a couple weeks before Cannes’ half century established annual dates. This miscalculation caused some bad blood between the two fests and made Tribeca FF work uphill for years to find its niche, since the whole world film circuit traditionally begins each year, with the most prestigious premieres and the most important market occurring at Cannes.

Now here I was, at the end of a carpet with an audio recorder and a subject who doesn’t stop for interviews. As it happened, Bob got held up at the end of the carpet waiting for the big star of the film who had arrived even later than him. So I decided that I’d been shooting this dude for ten years now and we’d never talked. I put down my recorder, went over to De Niro, shook his hand and said, “Good luck in France”. He said, “Thanks.”

This is where Dominique Strauss-Kahn comes into the story. At the very beginning of the 2011 Cannes FF, good old DSK got caught up in the lurid affair with the maid, in the hotel, in SoHo on the edge of Tribeca. The escapade dominated the press coverage in France and relegated De Niro’s stint, as Cannes’ Jury Chairman, to the interior pages of the French newspapers. Ten months later, I was invited to a screening and after reception, of Beth Murphy’s post Iraq war film, The List (2012) – one of those really important docs that went unnoticed, as it was only distributed and shown on ITVS. The film dealt with how we left thousands of Iraqi’s, who had befriended us, in the lurch, when we were so hell bent to get out of the country – a major reason, we almost had to start all over in Iraq, to put up serious resistance to our new enemies from ISIS. The film won a grant from the Gucci documentary fund and the company threw the party as well – a pretty good one too… open bar… really nice food…

So I’m getting ready to leave and I go over to pay my respects to the Guccis in the VIP corner of the room. I turn to leave and surprisingly right next to me is Mr. De Niro. I go, “How are you?” and then I couldn’t help myself and said, “Too bad that asshole Dominque Strauss-Kahn ruined all your headlines in France.” He gave me the same quizzical smile he continuously treated Ben Stiller to in Meet the Parents (2000).

"The King of Comedy" Closing Night Screening Gala - 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Robert de Niro the 2nd – Prince of Tribeca

So you see, Uncle Louie, Bob De Niro’s my bud and I hang out with him at exclusive Industry parties with big directors and celebrities like the Guccis. Yeah, THAT Robert De Niro, Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980)…

But wait, there’s a hard punch line and some true synergy here. Welcome to New York has a dispute with, IFC owned by AMC Networks, run by the Dolans. The movie profiles DSK, whose screw up in New York ruined De Niro’s trip to Cannes. Guess, who now owns 50%, of the Tribeca FF? Right you are – James Dolan.

As reported by the New York Times, on March 22, 2014, MSG paid approximately $22.5 mill to purchase a 50% (but, go figure, not controlling interest… yet) stake in Tribeca Enterprises which owns the Tribeca FF, about 45 indie films – mostly low and micro-budget and the two screen Tribeca Screening Room & Café. Why was the price so low when almost every festival screening sells out? Probably because MSG’s P&L projections factor in, the almost unheard of Film Festival practice of sharing box office returns with the filmmakers – what else, could it mean? Although the 30 films, that Tribeca Enterprises had distributed, as of the deal signing last March, had grossed less than $1 mill, the VOD market has come to life. Welcome to New York recently did more than that in France, in a month.

At the moment, Tribeca’s two screens total less than 200 seats. However, once MSG retrofits screening capabilities into the Beacon, Madison Square Garden, Radio City, the LA Forum, the halls in Boston and Chicago plus the minor league hockey and basketball arenas, etc. – the numbers will morph fast. In addition, reach will surely expand exponentially when they finally launch the, yet not conceived and unannounced but inevitable, year round Tribeca Virtual Media and Film Festival cable channel. According to Tad Smith, MSG’s CEO, You put these two companies together, and the world is our oyster. Ultimately though, Jim Dolan will call the shots, and right now, it looks more like French Onion Soup – served up by two Italian American Auteurs. Art vs. Power – the money should come if the goose lives.

So, don’t… play around with Abel’s film… or mess with Bobby D’s fest… if you please… Mr. James Dolan.  


Young Pasolini – Poet, Novelist, Screenwriter Extraordinaire


“The mark, which has dominated all my work, is the longing for life,

this sense of exclusion, which doesn’t lessen, but augments this love of life.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1966)

Pasolini always identified himself as a writer – a term he used to encompass all his multiple talents and artistic and intellectual pursuits. He particularly related his poetry to his filmmaking, ascribing a profound unity between the two As far as I’m concerned, it’s as if I were a bilingual writer, he said.

As, mentioned earlier, Pasolini also developed a philosophy of language mainly related to his studies on cinema. Below, in his own words, are some salient points on how he approached his own films.

I’ve trained by watching films, starting with two great and precise passions, Charlie Chaplin and Kenzo Mizoguchi. They are the two poles within which everything happens in my films. In fact, my movies are a mix of what stylists call “comic” and “sublime,” intended here as stylistic categories. Even in Oedipus Rex, which is supposed to be a highly stylistic and sublime work, the comic aspect sneaks in. In fact, I have always seen reality in cinema as a comic element. But we have to be careful, to not attribute too ordinary a meaning, to the term “comic.”

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.

All my films start from a formal idea, which I feel I must do. It is an idea I have of the kind of film it must be. It cannot be expressed in words – you either understand it or you don’t. When I make a film, it is because I suddenly have an inspiration about the form that particular subject must take. That is the essence of the film.

I thought the following, from the James Blue interview, in 1965, rather useful myself, as a filmmaker and from the perspective of indie film history, so I have quoted the entire passage. Hopefully, you will find it as enlightening as I did.

If I believed in a teleology of the cinema, in a teleology of development, if I believed in an end-goal of development, in progress as improvement… but I don’t believe in a “bettering” – an improvement. I think that one grows, but one does not improve. “Improving” seems to me a hypocritical alibi. Now, believing in the pure growth of each one of us, I see the development of my style as a continuous modification, about which I can say nothing.

But let me say this now, in a very schematic fashion. At this point, the cinema is dividing itself into two large trunks, and these two different types of films correspond to what we already have in literature: that is, one type on a high level and another type on a low level. While cinema production until now has given us films of both a high and low level, the distribution apparatus has been the same for both. But now the organization, or structure of the cinema industry, is starting to differentiate… the cinema d’essai is becoming more important and will soon represent a channel for distribution through which certain films will be distributed, whereas the remainder of the distribution will take place normally. This will bring about the birth of two completely different cinemas. The high level of cinema – that is, the cinema d’essai – will cater to a selected public and will have its own history. And the other level will have its own story. 

In this important change, the selection of non-actors will be one of the most important structural aspects. Probably the structure, of this high-level cinema, will be modified, by the fact that no longer will there be an industrial organization hanging over it. And so all kinds of experiments will be possible, including that of using non-actors, and this will transform the cinema even stylistically.            


Pasolini ‘writing’ with the camera

Pasolini was right on point here, at the time of, what I consider the early phase, of the first stage of modern indie film. He died close to the end of the second stage. I believe we are now in the fifth period, the beginning of which coincides with Google’s purchase of YouTube and several other formative events. His loss was especially costly to Independent filmmakers in terms of developing, theoretical and tactical, solutions to our somewhat chaotic and stressful progression.

The structure of cinema has a special unity. If the structuralist critic were to describe the structural characteristics of the cinema, he would not distinguish a story cinema from a non-story cinema. I don’t believe that this story distinction affects the structure of cinema; rather it affects the superstructureI mean the style. The lack or the presence of a story is not a structural factor. I know that some of the French structuralists have attempted to analyze the cinema, but I don’t believe that they have succeeded in making these distinctions.

Literature, is unique, it has unity. Literary structures are unique and include both prose and poetry. Nevertheless, there is a language of prose and a language of poetry, although the literary structure is one. In the same way, the cinema will have these distinctions. Obviously, the structure of cinema is one. The structural laws regarding any film are more or less the same. A banal western or a film by Godard has structures that are fundamentally the same. A certain rapport with the spectator, a certain way of photographing and framing are the identical elements of all films.

The difference is this: the film of Godard is written, according to the typical characteristics of poetic language, whereas the common cinema is written, according to the typical characteristics of prose language. For example, the lack of story is simply the prevalence of poetic language over prose language. It isn’t true that there isn’t a story… there is a story, but instead of being narrated in its integrality, it is narrated elliptically, with spurts of imagination, fantasy, allusion. It is narrated in a distorted wayhowever, there is a story.

Fundamentally, the distinction to be made, is between a cinema of prose and a cinema of poetry. However, the cinema of poetry is not necessarily poetic. Often one may adopt the tenets and canons of the cinema of poetry and yet make a bad and pretentious film. Another director may adopt the tenets and canons of the prose film – that is, he could narrate a story – and yet he creates poetry.

“It is only at our moment of death that our life, to that point

undecipherable, ambiguous, suspended, acquires a meaning.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1967) 

Notes on PPPs Death:                      

Regarding the public’s fascination, with the various, who-why-how aspects of, Pier Paulo’s murder; and even, the when and where questions, from some later and more uncommon theories, Dennis Lim has remarked: There is a cottage industry of investigative books on his death, which has also been the subject of works ranging from Marco Tullio Giordana’s docudrama Who Killed Pasolini? – {1995 – AKA Pasolini, an Italian Crime – Italy}, to Elisabetta Benassi’s, installation, Alfa Romeo GT Veloce 1975 -2007… which evokes the crime scene with a model of Pasolini’s car (and blinding headlights that echo a moment from Accattone). There are also two essay films on Pasolini’s death and legacy: the artist-architect Alfredo Jaar’s Ashes of Pasolini – {Le ceneri di Pasolini – 1994, documentary, Germany} and the experimental filmmaker Cathy Lee Crane’s Pasolini’s Last Words (2012).


Poster from Pasolini – An Italian Crime

Other films made on the subject include: Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die (Wie de Waarheid Zegt Moet Dood – 1981 documentary, Holland directed by Philo Bregstein), Nerolio (1998, Italy docudrama Aurelio Grimaldi, director/writer) and Vie et mort de Pier Paolo Pasolini (2004, TV Drama, France directed byCyril Legann and Antoine Soltys, Writer: Michel Azama – from his play).

As mentioned earlier, Ferrara and Braucci chose not to go there, since the film is about Pasolini’s life, work and ideas. The case is technically unsolvable, after 39 years, and three formal inquiries and any truly plausible amateur detective work, would never fit the timeframe and structure, Abel’s team devised, to approach the story. The crime mystery angle distracts from, and debases, the major importance, of PPP’s socio-political writings, and the real fight for individual and intellectual freedom. Realistically, few people in Italy, and fewer in the rest of the English-speaking world, would be entertained or fully comprehend the complexity, of the political philosophy and convoluted politics involved.

But, since this is a very long article, and you’ve made it this far, there is one important thread of reality and a number of illustrative PPP murder case analogous current event clusters complete with genuine factual records that have occurred, in recent times here in America. I am specifically referring to the accountability of the presiding governments and commercial power structures in Italy from say 1968-79 (a Christian Democrat Capitalist country with major power exercised by the Mafia and the Catholic church) and the U.S. from 2003-14. Let’s take a few small pieces of this reality thread – Pasolini’s murder and subsequent investigation, law enforcement and security mechanisms of those Italian authorities. Let’s look at that, with the perspective, of the recent grand jury results from the Brown and Garner cases, and the just released CIA torture investigation, in tandem with some representative statistics on, indictments of FBI, Border Patrol and Police fatal shootings. Let’s consider Pasolini, and his activist stance of Art fighting against Power – Truth to Power… in Rome, the ultimate symbol of Western Empire – in the country where Machiavelli wrote the book.

Geoff Andrews: The recurring theme dominating Pasolini’s life was power. In his work, as in his personal experiences, he encountered power in all its hidden, conspiratorial and censorious forms. More than thirty legal cases, were brought against him, for blasphemy and obscenity, arising from his films and writing. His confrontations with power kept him simultaneously at the margins and the centre of Italian public life. He was a dissident – {not such a safe handle, here in America in 2014}, not only from the Italian mainstream, but also from the Italian Communist Party (PCI)… in Pasolini’s analysis of power, the failure to take responsibility for the past is a critical component.

Some non-homicidal examples, of this failure in the U.S., during the 11 year reference period, include: The BP oil spill, in the gulf – no one was criminally prosecuted, despite deaths and permanent maritime destruction; the unaddressed coal ash piles, in North Carolina, from closed plants, left to seep into rivers that supply water supply – no prosecutions there, either. Or consider, the 2008 mortgage financial meltdown – just fines, no criminal indictments. Only a small percentage of the fines set aside for the thousands of “little” people who lost homes (most of that money was never even distributed and stayed in the government’s coffers).

PPP (From the La Stampa interview): Power is an educational system that divides us into subjects and subjected. Nevertheless, it is an educational system that forms us all, from the so-called ruling class all the way down to the poorest of us. That’s why everyone wants the same things and everyone acts in the same way. If I have access to an administrative council or a Stock Market maneuver, that’s what I use. Otherwise, I use a crowbar. And when I use a crowbar, I’ll use whatever means to get what I want. Why do I want it? Because I’ve been told that it is a virtue to have it. I am merely exercising my virtue-rights. I am a murderer but I am a good person.

My feeling is that Pier Paulo Pasolini’s murder was ordered by a powerful mob connected Christian Democrat leader – perhaps from the very top. Working backwards from this conclusion, we can then examine the most commonly known facts and see if the logic holds. Bear in mind that, because of the timeframe and distance between the beach in Ostia and any, “higher level” perpetrator; the murder sequence scenes on screen in AF’s Pasolini have no impact on this “mastermind” theory.

Andrews again: The starting-point for any criminal investigation is the underlying motive; who had reason to kill Pier Paolo Pasolini and who benefited from the death? It is impossible to answer these questions without considering Pasolini’s role as a dissident and one of Italy’s most prominent intellectuals. In an extraordinary series of articles in Corriere della Sera and Il Mondo in AugustSeptember 1975, Pasolini argued for the Christian Democrat {DC} leaders (including Giulio Andreotti and others) to be put on trial. The only way to remove these leaders from their centers of power (what Pasolini called the “palace”), was a full criminal trial. The DC was guilty of a series of crimes, he argued – including complicity with the Mafia in government decision-making; covering up the neo-fascist bombings in Milan, Brescia and Bologna, between 1969-1974; misuse of public funds; collaboration with the CIA; and conspiring with the military and CIA to halt the rise of the left.

PPP: Over the whole of Italy’s democratic life, there looms the suspicion of Mafia-like complicity on the one hand and ignorance on the other; from this is born almost of its own accord a natural pact with power – a tacit diplomacy of silence.

Andrews: His warnings were accompanied by an appeal, to citizens, intellectuals and movements, to demand the truth from Italy’s rulers.

PPP: Until they know all these things… the political consciousness of the Italians will be incapable of producing a new awareness. That is to say, Italy will be ungovernable.

The 1970s were a violent decade in Italy, with opposing groups of neo-fascists and communist guerrillas committing many murders and several other atrocities exclusively in the name of ideology. For Pasolini the main blame lay with Italy’s degenerate political class. The Christian Democrats, which had ruled Italy virtually uninterrupted since the defeat of fascism, now assimilated the values of the capitalist revolution, despite the fact that its “hedonistic ideology” was some way from Catholic values. Yet as the remnants of the “clerico-fascism” of the post-war years adjusted to meet the demands of the “new economic power”, it only intensified the contradictions at the heart of the Italian state. To Pasolini, Italy in the 1970s was not a normal country, but one run by a parliamentary regime, corrupt to the core, complicit in Mafia dealings – it was “a ridiculous and sinister country”. The spate of, neo-fascist, bombings which had gone unpunished and the so-called “strategy of tension”, in which fear of a communist takeover was triggered by violent terrorism, continued to prevent any kind of political and social change.

Now, consider how we in America can barely raise our voices in opposition to anything, with swat and military equipped police and security details nearly everywhere, carrying really nasty looking machine guns – all resulting from the “war on terrorism” and “zero tolerance” for even the smallest infractions. Anytime there is any kind of public protest, we can count on scores of arrests. One per cent of the population is in jail and three – four per cent have criminal records. Yet, there have been hundreds of ‘illegal’s’ shot and killed in the past several years – no one has ever been charged. In NYC, the last 180 fatal police killings, have brought zero indictments.The FBI, polices itself, yet has not charged a single agent, from their last couple hundred “fatal incidents”. The new CIA report contains admissions to numerous torture crimes but all their people (including Bush and Cheney who knew about the torture), will be given immunity – their names redacted before reaching the public record. A national study of Grand Jury indictments for non-law enforcement acts of violence showed that they failed to return criminal indictments, in well less than one per cent. It really seems true that, If you’re not cop, you’re “little people“. It’s not just a line from a movie (Bladerunner – 1982). It seems like more and more of us are “little people” and identity and racial politics have just allowed the powers that be, to more easily take advantage of classic “divide and conquer” tactics. The NSA, the FBI, the CIA, local-state-federal law enforcement; in collaboration with the main oil/gas, pharmaceutical, banks/financial industry, defense industries (the most destructive… coterminously the biggest revenue generators); and many elected government officials who, are either under their pay or, share their interests; possibly constitute a more powerful “mob” and represent a richer “ruling class”, than Pasolini faced, in 1975.

Andrews: “Why the Trial?” appeared in Corriere della Sera on 28 September 1975. Just over a month later, Pasolini was murdered. A lot of people had motives – leading Christian Democrats, who, three years later, sat by and watched ex-prime minister Aldo Moro die at the hands of the Red Brigades – after he too denounced them, as people who “lived for and by power”. Mafia bosses with direct access to the centre of power, in Rome, had reasons to kill PPP, and so did the neo-fascists of the MSI the heir to Mussolini’s Fascist party. Pasolini had repeatedly denounced the perceived cover-ups, which followed fascist bombing campaigns.

One could argue that the communists might have been motivated to rid the world of PPP. Though there was a big surge in the PCI’s support, in the mid-1970s, this had been followed by a controversial “historic compromise” with the DC as a way of asserting greater influence. Pasolini’s thinking had already taken him to a place, radically beyond 20th century eco-political systems and philosophy, including communism. Like many on the left, PPP disagreed with this strategy. He thought the communists were being submerged, into the trappings of power, through their pragmatic negotiations with the DC and faith in the state as a repressive instrument.

Salò Poster

Salò Poster

I think the threat from the mob connected right was far more tangible. Pier Paulo’s last film, Salò – a brutal adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s catalog of degradation and torture; had both satirized Mussolini’s fascist regime and depicted his followers as sadistic sodomites. Pasolini is known to have, received death threats from neo- fascists over Salò.

PPP (from an interview conducted on the set of Salò): My need to make this film also came from the fact I particularly hate the leaders of the day. Each one of us hates, with particular vehemence, the powers to which he is forced to submit. So I hate the powers of today.  It is a power that manipulates people just as it did at the time of Himmler or Hitler.

The Mafia exercised controlling influences at the heart of the Italian state throughout the 1970s. In 1993, Giulio Andreotti, several times Italian prime minister, faced charges of Mafia association and conspiracy to murder for which he was initially sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. In 2004, the charges were dropped on appeal due to “insufficient evidence”; the court conveniently found that Andreotti had Mafia associations prior to 1982, the point at which this became illegal, but evidence could not be produced to show these associations extended further.

The response of Italy’s political class, to the Andreotti decision, confirmed the relevance of much of Pasolini’s analysis of power. Variously lauded as a “great statesman” or “wise leader”, Andreotti remained a life senator and appeared regularly, as a pundit (just like Dick Cheney), on the Italian media, until his death, at the age of 94, in 2013. Thirty years after, PPP’s mutilated body was found in Ostia; much is known, about those who benefited, from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s death. His pessimistic prognosis of Italy’s decay proved prophetic. The early 1990s confirmed Pasolini’s arguments about corruption, at the heart of the Christian Democrat state, as the party collapsed in the face of the Tangentopoli (“bribesville”) scandal from 1992-1994. The magistrates in their mani pulite(“clean hands”) investigations finally brought Italy’s rulers to justice – (for a time).

Pasolini’s murder occurred seven years before associations between government officials and the Mafia had become illegal. PPP was quite aware that, if he took a “Mafia hit”, for example, the authorities certainly might not be likely to conduct very thorough investigation or prosecution. Since, tracking down the perpetrators on all the neo- fascist-bombings was so ineffectual, he could also assume the death threats, from the right, were more than empty. In the Furio Colombo interview (the last before Pier Paulo’s death) mentioned earlier, as well as significant passages from it in Abel’s film, Pasolini said:

Here is the seed, the sense of everything. You don’t even know who, right at this moment, might be thinking of killing you. Use this as a title, if you like: ‘Because, we are all in danger’

With the caveat, that the following commonly known and accepted details, have been collected from just a sampling of other writer’s short references derived from hundreds of pages of legal documents and credible recorded statements; l have provided a short summary and you can form your own opinion.


Ninetto Davoli Plays Epifanio from Pasolini’s unmade PTK script

On the night of his murder, Pasolini had dined with Ninetto Davoli and his family at the Pommidoro restaurant in the San Lorenzo district of Rome – shown in the movie. Pasolini was murdered, by being run over, several times with his own car, dying on 2 November 1975 on the beach at Ostia, near Rome. His mutilated body was found, in the early hours of the morning, in a vacant lot (sometimes said to have been found on wasteland). Several hours later, Pino Pelosi, was arrested speeding along the Ostia seafront in Pasolini’s Alfa Romeo. The authorities alleged that Pasolini had picked up Pelosi, outside Termini train station, taken him to a pizzeria and then driven to Ostia for sex. The 17-year old street hustler confessed to murdering Pasolini. It was Davoli, who had to identify Pasolini’s corpse the following day. Pelosi himself claimed that he had killed Pasolini in self-defense after the latter had attempted to sodomize him with a wooden stick. He was convicted after a lengthy trial in 1976 and sentenced to nine years in jail (despite, later, recanting his confession). Forensics found that more than one person had been involved in the murder, but the other men arrested were released. Other friends and supporters of Pasolini, like the film director Bernardo Bertolucci, used the absence of blood on Pelosi’s clothes and the nature of the marks on Pasolini’s body to cast doubt on the notion, that Pelosi alone could have committed the murder.

The first hypothesis, of the investigators, ascribed complicity, in the crime to the brothers Franco and Giuseppe Borsellino, Sicilian-born criminals and known in the underworld as “chop” and “Bracioletta” – considered drug traffickers and activists in the MSI, with political sympathies to the extreme right. Brought in, a few months after the crime, they were alleged to have taken part in the massacre, since their alibi, for that night proved inconsistent. They also had been heard to have bragged about their participation. However, before the magistrate, both denied any wrongdoing, claiming to have invented everything to gain a reputation as “hard”. The trial pathologist, Faustino Durante, suggested that the murder was likely to have been committed, by more than one person. The newspaper Paese Sera published a letter, from a witness, saying that a car containing four people, from Catania in Sicily, followed Pasolini to Ostia. This material, though submitted, was never used in the trial. These concerns were partially reflected when a court decided, in 1977, that Pasolini had been “murdered by Pelosi and persons unknown”; but at the appeal in 1979, this judgment was amended and Pelosi was regarded as the sole murderer. This conclusion is the same one presented, in Giordana’s Who Killed Pasolini, in which Pelosi was solely responsible for the death.

PPP with Laura Betti

PPP with Laura Betti

Many people were unhappy with the murder verdict. Actress Laura Betti, who had appeared in many of Pasolini’s films, organized a campaign for an inquiry into his death. She argued that it had a deeper political significance. Bertolucci, spoke of the way Pasolini’s life and public image had been “savaged” in the period leading up to his murder. However, many of Pasolini’s friends felt that the real truth would never come out since, at the time of the original trial, Italians wanted a quick judgment. The implicit assumption, of much of the media, was that the life of a homosexual and troublesome intellectual was bound to end in such circumstances.

Twenty-nine years later, on 7 May 2005, the 46-year-old Pelosi (a lifetime petty criminal), retracted his confession, which he said was made, under the threat of violence to his family. He claimed he did not participate in the first assault on Pasolini, but that three people, “with a southern (Sicilian) accent” not known to him, had committed the murder. After meeting Pasolini at Termini station, and going with him to Ostia, he claimed that three “mysterious” individuals were waiting for them. After restraining Pelosi, they dragged Pasolini from the car, insulting Pasolini as “a dirty communist” and a “piece of shit” before beating him to death. Pelosi claimed he panicked and drove over Pasolini’s body – trying to escape. In support of his reticence, about the responsibility of the murder, Pelosi claimed to have been threatened with death, along with his parents, by one of the attackers. He therefore waited until their death, by natural causes had passed for some time, before deciding to speak. As it so happens, both of the Borsellino brothers died of AIDS in the 90’s.

Sergio Citti & PPP early in their careers

Sergio Citti & PPP early in their careers

Sergio Citti, who had collaborated on many movies with Pasolini, gave yet another version of the events, in an interview with the Rome daily newspaper, La Repubblica. He said that someone, who knew the truth, had told him that Pasolini had been killed by five people. Citti’s account differed from Pelosi. According to City, five men murdered the director 30 years before – Pasolini was murdered elsewhere and then his body dumped, on the beach, near Rome where he was found. He said that, Pino Pelosi was only a boy. He acted as bait for those five. They only used him, they needed somebody to blame for the crime. Pelosi, had to play the game played by these people, the ‘respectable’ people who ordered the murder. Citti also suggested Pasolini might have been murdered by an extortionist. He said that some of the rolls of film, from Salò, had been stolen, and that Pasolini had been going to meet with the thieves, after his earlier visit to Stockholm, on November 2.

Walter Veltroni, Rome’s mayor in 2005, responded to these statements by calling for a new inquiry. There was, a need for truth, he said; Pelosi’s statements rekindle doubt and questions, which the poet’s friends, many intellectuals and a good part of public opinion, have always had, on what really happened that night.


Dafoe… or is that Pasolini? Behind the wheel of his Alpha Romeo

From the perspective of pure logic, the sole murderer decision pronounced, at Pelosi’s appeal in 1979, makes little sense, thus justifying Veltroni’s action. Several clear indications and pieces of evidence showed more than one person physically participated in the crime. No one questions that and Abel just discounted the factor’s dismissal and used the prior trial’s conclusion in Pasolini. However, the dismissal itself could only have happened if higher authority authorized it – we can only speculate. Logically again, if Pelosi killed PPP acting totally alone then why was he only given a 9 year sentence – again there would seem to be some external reason that the judges went so lightly on him. The most illogical thing though – why was Pelosi still driving the Alpha around in Ostia several hours after the murder? If he committed the crime alone, only a fool or insane person would not have hightailed it out of town, and ditched the car far from Rome. With the certainty, that others were involved, in the crime, Pino still should have driven away when he had the chance – unless threatened convincingly enough to stay and take the “fall” for the crime. In that case, the murder had to have been planned (whether Pelosi was in on it from the beginning or simply used as bait and induced after the crime), in advance and ordered by extremely powerful people with serious motive. Fascist or thugs of any persuasion could not conceivably have kept Pelosi in Ostia waiting for arrest – unless they were “connected”.

Italian magistrates reopened the case in May 2005 following Pelosi’s statement and promised to consider the new evidence. Ultimately, the judges charged with the investigation still determined the new elements insufficient for them to continue the inquiry. Sadly, on that same day, in October 2005, Citti died.

Sergio Citti on set Directing

Sergio Citti on set Directing

Thirty years after the crime, a different logic necessarily was in place. Pelosi had changed his story at least three times. Citti’s ‘new evidence’ contradicted Pelosi’s account on the specific details of the physical murder (how many people were there as well as where it really occurred) and added a new wrinkle with the extortionist postulation. The Borsellinos were long dead. Andreotti was still alive and considered a “revered statesman” – the magistrates’ decision was only logical in 2005.

This all leaves us with Ferrara’s elliptical snapshot of the crime and varied interpretations more or less misinformed, prejudiced, confused or frustrated. Consider the Hollywood Reporter, for example. THR’s comment on the murder’s presentation in the film seems somewhat off base, in my opinion:

Despite setting up Pasolini’s perception of having personally paid the price for his outspokenness, Ferrara doesn’t buy into the many conspiracy theories that have circulated for years around the artist’s death. Unlike anything else in this film, that tragedy unfolds in straight-ahead dramatic fashion. His death is depicted as a spontaneous hate crime when, a group of, homophobic thugs catch them together.

I don’t believe that Abel’s Pasolini actually obviates any of the ‘conspiracy’ theories nor is it obvious that the ‘hate crime’ comes across as totally ‘spontaneous’. By employing the multiple attackers, in the pre-DNA era, Ferrara and Braucci clearly acknowledged that the final verdict did not truly solve the crime. Intriguingly, Ferrara’s choice of anti-gay insults rather than communist ones (as in Pelosi’s final version), might well be a good use of possible trickery under the guise of “artistic license”… ‘trickery’, with all due respect, to Ferrara, as in, the Amerind Trickster tradition – which nearly always serves the filmmaker well. For the U.S. audience calling PPP a commie is clichéd to the point of banality while unjustly insulting him, as gay, sets off the intense emotions of loathing and pity as well as attracting more of the film’s natural audience of artists, intellectuals, artistically and politically correct Cinemagoers and the LGBT film community. For Italian and European moviegoers, the misdirection, from the obvious anticipated right wing perpetrators, eliminates conspiratorial interpretation by the general public – steering them towards the intended artistic/intellectual homage to PPP. For more politically sophisticated viewers, the choice minimizes repercussions or downside from pointing a finger in the direction of villains, impossible to ever practically pursue or accurately identify – the advanced political discourse and literal quotations make the point well enough.

Variety’s offering on the subject is even further off track:

An industry friend who knew Pasolini well offered this critic an intriguing alternate theory, suggesting that the helmer had a self-destructive streak and sought out punishment and perhaps his own death.

Both these big instantaneous reviewers make my research seem extensive by comparison. I agree with Abel that’s a total misplaced conception – not only because of the daybook Ferrara referred to. One only has to note how many posthumous works Pasolini had in his vault (particularly the essays), to see he would have desired to observe the public’s reactions.

His colleague Michelangelo Antonioni once remarked that Pasolini had become… the victim of his own characters. Salò came to be, viewed, all too neatly as a death wish.

That’s too artistically cutesy to be taken serious. Pasolini was too feisty to die on the parry – he would more likely have wanted to view how his “death wish” played out psychically upon his chosen targets. If anything, Pier Paulo may have simply been very rash – he lobbed quite a bomb at the authorities and vested power with his demand for criminal trials, in Corriere della Sera.

Collider asked Abel: Is it true you interviewed the man who actually killed Pasolini?
AF: Well, we interviewed 90 people. He was one, in 90. That’s all. We don’t know if he really killed him. He says he killed him, but who the hell, knows what happened that night?

It would be interesting to hear what Abel might have found about the Salò film rolls.  With the film already in distribution at the time, one wouldn’t imagine the possible “extortionist” had much of a bargaining position.

Sergio Citti called the Pasolini murder a political conspiracy and said, His death was convenient to many, to all those, who were afraid of his mind and free spirit.

PPP30in stockholm int 2

Art & Truth vs. Illegitimate Power

PPP (From the La Stampa interview): All I want is that you look around and take notice of the tragedy. What is the tragedy? It’s that there are no longer any human beings; there are only some strange machines that bump up against each other. And we intellectuals look at old train schedules, and say: “strange, shouldn’t these trains run by there. How was it they crashed, like that? Either the engineer has lost his mind, or he is a criminal.” Or even better, it’s all a conspiracy. We are particularly pleased with conspiracies because they relieve us of the weight of having to deal with the truth head on. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, while we are here talking, someone in the basement were making plans to kill us? It’s easy. It’s simple. And it’s the resistance. We might lose a few friends, but then we’ll gather our forces and wipe them out. A little for us, a little for them, don’t you think? It’s simple. I’m on this side, and you’re on the other. Let’s, not joke, about the blood, the pain, the work, which people then too, paid to “have a choice”. When one keeps one’s face flat against that hour, that minute in history, choice is always a tragedy. But let’s admit it. It was easier then. With courage and conscience, a normal man can always reject a Fascist of Salò or a Nazi of the SS, even from his interior life (where the revolution always begins). But today it’s different. Someone might come walking toward you dressed like a friend, very friendly and polite, but he is a “collaborator” (let’s say for a TV station). The reasoning goes that, first of all he needs to make a living somehow, and then because it’s not like he’s hurting anyone. Another one, or others, the groups, come toward you aggressively with their ideological blackmail, their admonitions, their sermons, and their anathemas that are also threats. They march with flags and slogans, but what separates, them, from “power”?  

I offer one last current reference in regards to this point: On December 13, Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an eloquent speech against a last minute insertion (among numerous questionable un-debated provisions), into a basic appropriations bill to keep the U.S. government running. She argued quite sensibly against a rollback of a regulation that mandated our biggest banks to cease certain potentially reckless practices that could bring our entire financial system to the brink of disaster. However, as good as her intentions and populist cred, she said nothing about another concession to the very wealthy (an amendment that allowed political donors to increase, by a factor of ten, their annual contributions {and logically their political influence}, from $32,000 to $320,000 – not many Americans even considered very prosperous can afford these numbers). Not coincidentally, Ms. Warren has quite a surfeit of donors committed to her electoral advancement. In the end, after demonstrating her prowess, as a future gadfly for the big banks, she didn’t filibuster and delay the bill to possibly modify it, or bring to the public’s attention, some of the other un-debated legal changes. For example, allowing governmental entities, to lower years-ago negotiated pensions, of one million+ retirees, without their ability, or actually anyone’s, to question the decision. She signed the bill like nearly all the rest of our millionaire representatives and went on recess for the holidays – two weeks before of the rest of us can.

PPP (From the La Stampa interview): First tragedy: a common education, obligatory and wrong, that pushes us all, into the same arena, of having to have everything at all costs. In this, arena, we are pushed, along like some strange and dark army in which some carry cannons and others carry crowbars. Therefore, the first classical division is to “stay with the weak.” But what I say is that, in a certain sense, everyone is weak, because everyone is a victim. And everyone is guilty, because everyone is ready to play the murderous game of possession. We have learned to have, possess and destroy.

But the educational system as it is cannot but produce desperate gladiators. The masses are growing, as is desperation and rage. Of course, I lament a pure revolution led by oppressed peoples whose only goal is to free themselves and run their own lives. Of course, I try to imagine that such a moment might still be possible in Italian and world history. The best of what I imagine might even inspire one of my future poems. But not, what I know, and what I see. I want to say it plain and clear: I go down into hell and I see things that do not disturb the peace of others.

PPP (From, the interview, on the set of Salò): I don’t believe we shall ever again have any form of society in which men will be free. One should not hope for it. One should not hope for anything. Hope is invented, by politicians, to keep the electorate happy.  

PPP (From the La Stampa interview): What really prevents a real dialogue is that somehow we are not seeing the same scene, we don’t know the same people, and that we do not hear the same voices. For you and them, things happen when it’s news, beautifully written, formatted, cut and titled. But what’s underneath it all? What is missing is a surgeon who has the courage to examine the tissue, and declare, “Gentlemen, this is cancer, and it is not benign.” What is cancer? It’something, that changes, all the cells… causes them to grow, in a haphazard manner… outside of any previous logic. I listen to all the politicians and their little formulas, and it drives me insane. They don’t seem to know what country they are talking about; they are as distant as the Moon. And, the same goes, for {today’s} writers, sociologists and experts of all sorts.

This disconnect in contemporary political philosophy – the dysfunctional “isms” (distinct, from the religious such as Catholicism, or philosophic, like stoicism, or negative behaviors like narcissism and terrorism, or territorial as in nationalism and regionalism)… communism… socialism… capitalism… liberalism… conservatism… libertarianism… anarchism… progressivism… Islamism… radicalism – Pasolini given another 20 years, might have solved this and separated humanism from secularism.

PPP (From the La Stampa interview): Most of all, history gives us the best example. Contestation has always been an essential act. Saints, hermits and intellectuals, those few, who have made history, are the ones, who said “no,” not the courtesans and Cardinals’ assistants. So, as to be meaningful, contestation must be large, major and total, “absurd” and not in a good sense – But change in a drastic and desperate manner such as the situation dictates. It cannot merely be on this or that point. The Radical Party is a motley crew who is able to influence the whole country. You know that I don’t always agree with them, but I am about to leave right now for their conference.

He never had the chance…

In 1975, Pier Paulo left a letter to Congress with Radical Party written on it:

Dear Pannella {Marco Pannella – leader of the Radical Party}, dear friends, dear radical Spadaccia: You don’t need to do anything else (I believe) but continue to be yourself which means continuously be unrecognizable. Forget immediate grand success and continue straight ahead, obstinate, eternally opposed, to demand, to want, to identify yourself with the other, to shock, to blaspheme.

As our society restages the struggles of the sixties and seventies and sets out to reverse the senseless human setbacks of the eighties and this century so far we at IndieNYC and the indie cinema community are counting on Abel to take this tradition to heart and carry on the fight and we expect Dafoe to play his part – as always precisely right… sensitively, stubbornly, salaciously and seriously sentient. Personally, I’m eagerly anticipating Abel’s completed epic-mythic-comic production of Pier Paulo’s PTK coming soon to a silver screen or digital projection room near us. Now, if  someone could only translate PPP’s socio-political and cinema essays to English. Viva Citti and Fellini. Viva Bertolucci and Davoli. Viva Braucci, Dafoe and Ferrara. Viva Pasolini!


“What really prevents a real dialogue is that somehow we are not seeing the same scene, we don¹t know the same people, and that we do not hear the same voices” – Pier Paulo Pasolini (1975)



Affabulazione (1977)

Pilade (1977)

Bestia da stile (1977)


Lettere luterane (1976)

Le belle bandiere (1977)

Descrizioni di descrizioni (1979)

Il caos (1979)

La pornografia è noiosa (1979)

Lettere (1940–1954) (Letters, 1940–54, 1986)


Reality (The Poets’ Encyclopedia, 1979)

Amado Mio—Atti Impuri (1982, originally composed in 1948)

Petrolio (1992, incomplete)

Roman Poems. Pocket Poets No. 41 (1986)

The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition (2014)


Laboratorio teatrale di Luca Ronconi (1977 TV Movie documentary) (play “Calderón”)

 Mulheres… Mulheres (1981 story “Morire d’Amore”)

Calderon (1981 play “Calderon”)

L’altro enigma (1988 TV Movie) (story)

Complicity (1995 story)

Il pratone del casilino (1996 novel “Petrolio”)

Le bassin de J.W. (1997 text “Descriptions de descriptions”)

Una disperata vitalità (1999 Documentary) (poems)

‘Na specie de cadavere lunghissimo (2006 Video)

La rabbia di Pasolini (2008 Documentary) (commentary)

Some Works on and by Pasolini in English:

Stack, O.  Pasolini on Pasolini (Cinema One). Dunfermline, FIF, UK: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1969.

Greene, NaomiPier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1990.

Rohdie, SamThe Passion of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana UP, 1995.

Schwartz, Barth DPasolini Requiem. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.

Siciliano, EnzoPasolini: A Biography. Trans. John Shepley. New York: Random House, 1982.

Willemen, Paul. Editor Pier Paolo Pasolini. London, UK: British Film Institute, 1977.

The Chaotic Age: A Canonical Prophecy, Part IV of Harold Bloom’s Western Canon (1994)

Lim, Dennis. Pasolini’s Legacy: A Sprawl of Brutality. The New York Times: 26 December 2012.

Pasolini, Pier Paolo.  Collected Poems. Noonday Press: 1996. ISBN 9780374524692.

Pasolini, Pier Paolo. Heretical Empiricism. Louise K. Barnett. Editor. Translated by: L.K. Barnett, Ben Lawton. New Academia Publishing: 2005. ISBN 9780976704225.

Celluloid Liberation Front. Translators. The Lost Pasolini Interview – Roundtable of Swedish Critics: Stockholm, 30 October 1975. In December 2011, the Italian newsweekly L’espresso posted the audio recording and published an Italian transcript. English translation: Posted 17 January 2012 @CLF_Project   — Celluloid Liberation Front is a multi-use(r) name, an “open reputation” informally adopted and shared by a desiring multitude of insurgent cinephiles, transmedial terrorists, aesthetic dynamyters and random deviants. For reasons that remain unknown, the name was borrowed, from a collective of anti-imperialist blind filmmakers, from the Cayman Islands, whose films have rarely been unseen.

 The Ashes of Gramsci: Pier Paolo Pasolini (1957)

“Between hope
and my old distrust I approach you,
chancing upon this thinned-out greenhouse, before

your tomb, before your spirit, still alive
down here among the free (or it’s
something else, perhaps more ecstatic, even

humbler: an intoxicated, adolescent
symbiosis of sex and death….)
And in this land where your passion never

rested, I feel how wrong
– here, among the quiet of these graves
and yet how right – in our unquiet fate

– you were,
as you drafted your final pages
in the days of your murder.”

PPP17PASOLINI MonumentinLido di Ostia, where he was killedcourtesyGNU-Free Software Foundation

Pier Paulo Pasolini (1922-1975) Gravestone in Ostia










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