Il Decameron (Decameron), 1971, Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini / Mauro Bolognini / Carlo Lizzani

January 12 to March 1, 2023
We kick off the year with a focus on a trio who would have turned 100: three prominent Italian filmmakers who each made critical, modern films in their own way and were close artistically and as friends. As one of the major artistic personalities of the 20th century, Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–1975) stands at the center: As a poet and author, Pasolini was already a cultural star in postwar Italy when he made his directorial debut with Accatone (1961). A key figure of the country's national cinema in the 1960s, the Film Museum devoted a series to him in 2009; this year, we expand this frame with a complete retrospective through Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), which was first released after the filmmaker's unsolved murder.
We will combine Pasolini's films with a broad selection of work by his cinematic mentor Mauro Bolognini (1922–2001). Bolognini insisted the controversial literary figure Pasolini act as his screenwriter and the pair produced important work between 1957 and 1960, ultimately paving the way for the production of Accatone. At film festivals like Cannes and Locarno, Bolognini found success as one of Italy's major socially critical directors from the 1950s to the 1980s. His productions featuring international stars such as Marcello Mastroianni (the Pasolini co-scripted tragi-comedy Il bell'Antonio, 1960, the psychiatric drama Per le antiche scale, 1975), Claudia Cardinale and Jean-Paul Belmondo (La viaccia, 1961), Ingrid Thulin (the Moravia adaptation Antonio, 1962), and Anthony Quinn and Dominique Sanda (L'eredita Ferramonti, 1976) made Bolognini a worldwide success, but he has since, irritatingly, fallen into neglect. This may be due to the fact that his cultivated, class-conscious films have been overshadowed by the similar but essentially complaisant work of Bernardo Bertolucci.
The third member of the gang, Carlo Lizzani (1922–2013), played a key part in renewing Italian cinema via neorealism. Alongside Luchino Visconti, Giuseppe De Santis and others, Lizzani first took part in the movement as a film critic in the 1940s before making his directorial debut with neorealist-style portrayals of the struggle against fascism: Achtung Banditi! (1951) deals with communist partisans in World War II (in a cameo: future star Gina Lollobrigida) and Cronache di poveri amanti (1953, here with Mastroianni on the path to international fame) tells the story of anti-fascism in 1920s working class Florence, which the government responded to with reprisals. The same year, Lizzani also contributed to the omnibus film L'amore in città, whose episodes displayed the division of the neorealist legacy into auteurist films and popular cinema.
Lizzani himself preferred genre films with politically engaged subjects. These include Il gobbo (1960), about a partisan fighter in World War II who becomes a robber, and L'oro di Roma (1961), about the 1943 crackdown in Rome's Jewish ghetto. Lizzani's later interweaving of genre and social critique during the dark "Years of Lead" can be seen in Banditi a Milano (1968, a documentary-style action film about the new urban crime wave) and Kleinhoff Hotel (1977, a German-Italian erotic thriller focusing on fears of terrorism). Pasolini made two unforgettable appearances in Lizzani's films (both men were also responsible for episodes in Amore e rabbia, 1969): In Il gobbo as well as in the Spaghetti Western Requiescant (1966) as a revolutionary priest. This interweaving of communism and Christianity was also formative for Pasolini's self-perception – both as an artist and public figure. Pasolini's approach to Marxism and religion was decidedly anti-doctrinaire and his homosexuality created scandals his entire life (just like his filmmaking), while he provocatively involved himself in discussions of current events: a skeptic of the declared triumph of the economic miracle who also glorified simple folk and their culture. Pasolini was in his element when using contradiction as a productive force allowing him to reach – and polarize – the masses in a singular manner: In the interview film Comizi d’amore (1964), he travels across Italy from north to south openly and charmingly questioning his fellow citizens about their love lives in a kind of disarming expression of his gift for communication that moved an entire nation.
As a filmmaker, although Pasolini did belong to the post-neorealist auteurist generation, he himself emphasized that he only wanted to make films for an audience. His unmistakable touch began in Rome's suburbs in the borgate milieu studies Accatone and Mamma Roma (1962), which were followed by the radical re-interpretations of myths, both Christian (in 1964, Il vangelo secondo Matteo told the story of the New Testament as if it were a documentary set in contemporary southern Italy) and ancient (Oedipus in Edipo re, 1967, Medea, 1969). With the comedian Totò, Pasolini created a feature (Uccellacci e uccellini, 1965) that was just as much of a diagnosis of the times as his portrayal of the bourgeoisie in Teorama (1968) and the allegorical diptych Il porcile (1969). Following these endpoints, in the 1970s, Pasolini dealt with meaning entirely through the body (and sensuality): In the utopic "Trilogy of Life," he turns towards popular tales – Boccaccio's Decamerone, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and the 1001 Nights. With the De Sadian counterimage of Salò came a conclusion that was not meant to be one but does feel like a final work.
The cold nudity of this jolting farewell work does not lack a certain irony if one considers that Pasolini  once had a – respectful – falling out with Bolognini over aesthetics because of the latter's undercooked direction of his borgate theme in La note brava (1959). Bolognini's elegant, distant style came to fruition in the screenplays he collaborated on with Pasolini: Between the sinuous tracking shots in the deceptively light comedy Marisa la civetta (1957) and the imposing images of Rome in La giornata balorda (1960, based on a novel by Moravia), a distinguished philosophy is on display. As a filmmaker, Bolognini is, like Pasolini, a master of form and sensuality, and both filmmakers are unified by a certain despair in their outlooks on the world despite their very different personalities and manners of expression (Bolognini dealt with his homosexuality very discreetly).
The fact that the apartment hunting comedy Arrangiatevi! (1959, with Totò) winds up in a bordello is a kind of symbol for Bolognini's portrayal of social interactions as an equivalent for the trade of goods that dominates them (everything else is self-deception). Nevertheless, his films, especially the period pieces, convey a moving sense for the tragedy of an era and its characters who are pulled along by the forces of history. L'eredita Ferramonti – a film Bolognini made because Pasolini, shortly before his death, told him he had to make it – is a story of people so obsessed with getting rich that they lead poor lives as a result. In the darkness of a new era of mediocracy and selling out around 1880, it is not hard to see a reflection of future declines in the 20th (and 21st) centuries, and not only in Italy: A critique that Pasolini expressed more sharply and with more foresight than anyone else, but that Bolognini and Lizzani also stood for. Pasolini's friend, the writer Dacia Maraini, called this a prediction of "Berlusconism": "A mass culture based solely on the laws of the market, on arrogance and power. It displays wealth and honors fraud, and tramples on every form of loyalty and integrity. It is a soulless culture, one lacking all social solidarity." (Christoph Huber / Translation: Ted Fendt)

Introductions by Alberto Crespi, Christoph Huber, and Giovanni Spagnoletti
Our presentation of the complete works of Pier Paolo Pasolini (only two contributions to omnibus films are currently unavailable) will be complemented by a reading of Pasolini's writings with Christian Reiner and Wolf Wondratschek as well as an Amos Vogel Atlas featuring a rare documentary about Pasolini's death and two short films by Ludwig Wüst, who will be present for a workshop talk.
In collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute Vienna, the Cineteca Nazionale, and the Istituto Luce – Cinecittà
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