Thursday, October 1, 2009

LA RABBIA DI PASOLINI opens NY Film Fest's "Views from the Avant-Garde"

What a moviemaker, what a groundbreaker, what a man was Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975)! Ahead of his time in so many ways, he gave us the gospel without the usual religious frou-frou and histrionics, was the first to set the criminal poor to soaring classical music, and was certainly one of the earlier homo-
sexual champions of the right to be homosexual. Brave, talented, foolish and strong, the man and his work remain standard bearers today.

Pasolini was a poet of visual cinema, but I was not nearly as aware of what a verbal poet he could be. Listening to the striking words that accompany his remarkable La Rabbia (from 1963) -- recon-
structed by Giuseppe Bertolucci and making its American debut as the opening attraction of the New York Film Festival's annual Views from the Avant-Garde -- I was taken aback by the beauty of his language (at least in the fine, subtitled translation). The verbiage here speeds by awfully fast, so I know I missed some of what was going on, but what it pleasure it was to even try to keep up! (This is a film that demands two -- maybe twenty -- viewings.)

The history of Pasolini's La Rabbia is fascinating enough: Contracted to make the film, once he'd made it, Pasolini was forced by his producer -- who had decided that such a left-wing screed would not fit into the current Italian marketplace -- to cut his version short and accept an additional right-wing look at the world from another director in order to make the movie more balanced and "commercial." It didn't work. Now, thanks to the labors of Signore Bertolucci, we can see more of what Pasolini originally intended. And what a piece of work it is!

With lightning speed, the writer/director gives us history, from the leftist viewpoint. Not just any leftist, however: Pasolini skewers hypocrisy wherever he sees it, whether in Russia, Cuba or at Queen Elizabeth's coronation (Terence Davies would appreciate these moments!). Full of righteous anger, the movie demands a lot of knowledge of history -- particularly Italian history -- about which most of us American come up short. Still, so dense with ideas and connections is this film, that I suspect anyone with any interest in Pasolini or history will find it utterly fascinating. (It also makes a wonderful bookend to the Chris Marker movies, A Grin Without a Cat and The Case of the Grinning Cat. These two leftist filmmakers could hardly be more different in some ways, yet their films bounce off each other wonderfully well. Imagine a dialog between them!)

La Rabbia di Pasolini (that's the writer/director shown in all the photos above) is being screened only once -- Friday, October 2, at 6:30 PM at the Walter Reade Theater, during Views from the Avant-Garde (the complete schedule is here, but let's hope it makes its way to DVD (hello, Facets? Kino?).

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