The winner of the Best Director’s Award at the Berlin Film Festival, Pasolini’s The Decameron proved to be the most successful of his comedies, fulfilling to every degree, his intention to make a film that was earthy, frolicsome, crowded with people and full of light. The linkage between Boccaccio’s time and the present is obvious at times, although Pasolini remains true to the spirit of the original work, avoiding professional actors for the most part, casting his film with strong, appropriate faces from the streets of Naples. Pasolini’s visual inspiration for The Decameron is the work of Giotto, the great 14th-century painter and contemporary of Boccaccio. The sweeping colors and visions of this artist unobtrusively pervade the film and, to be certain that Giotto’s spirit lives in the images, Pasolini plays the role of the painter in The Decameron. Only seven tales are presented (there was, alas, one more, but Pasolini was persuaded to cut it) but these are magnificent glimpses into the bawdy, violent world of the Renaissance. Six of the tales are richly comic, the other, a perfect example of the revenge tale, tragic and memorably imagined. Linking these episodes is the character of Giotto, working joyously on his giant church frescoes and awakening to bizarre visions of Heaven and Hell, and the hypocritical Ciappelleto, who enigmatically fades in and out of the stories with a totally mysterious effect. The Decameron is a paean to mankind’s lust for living, and one cannot help but respond to its magical humor and undeniable naughtiness—one laughs because he can sense the shocks felt by others and this was the way of Boccaccio, the interplay of men and women, the disaster of love and the tricks that fate can play on us all—these were not quite so different centuries ago, but somehow they seem more humane through Pasolini’s vision of the ribald past. —Albert Johnson
Born in Bologna in 1922, Pier Paolo Pasolini left behind a searing legacy that haunts contemporary Italy more than thirty years after his death. More than anyone, Pasolini gazed deeply into Italy’s role in the spread of Fascism and, more controversially, the continuing influence of its ideas in post-war Europe. For him, this was a matter of great personal significance; his father was a soldier in the Fascist Army (he had once protected Mussolini from an assassination attempt) while his brother joined the resistance only to be murdered in an ambush. This personal trauma coincided with a period of intellectual development as Pasolini engaged with Marxist philosophy; especially the works of Antonio Gramsci, the founder of Italy’s Communist Party (PCI). His relationship with the PCI, however, was tense. As a poet and intellectual, Pasolini scrutinized his fellow Communists as critically as he did bourgeois society. His enemies retaliated by targeting his personal life; the first instance… read more
Through Pasolini's lens, societal contradictions are blatantly obvious and overt. With the first of his TRILOGY OF LIFE, Pasolini shows the manipulation of body and faith in order to remain righteous within a heavily religious society.
"Why a complete work when it's so beautiful just to dream it?" Pasolini confronts the audience with that question in the final moments of THE DECAMERON, the first in his TRILOGY OF LIFE and an extension of continued subversive exploration of the line between sacred and profane. Inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio's frame story, the film memorably explores the at times absurd relationship between sex and religion.
Pier Paolo Pasolini is among the most controversial figures of the 20th Century. Known… read review