As Italy marks the centennial of Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s birth with a series of special events, the Academy Museum is honoring the influential film director, poet, writer and intellectual, whose 1975 murder remains a mystery, with a complete retrospective.
Titled “Carnal Knowledge: The Films of Pier Paolo Pasolini,” the Los Angeles tribute in the Academy’s Renzo Piano designed temple of cinema opened Feb. 17 with Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti on hand.
Ferretti, in a moving tribute, said he owed his career to Pasolini, having worked on nine of his films, starting with Pasolini’s first work “The Gospel According to Matthew” and ending with his incendiary condemnation of the Italian upper classes “Salò – or the 120 Days of Sodom,” released in Italy just a few weeks after Pasolini’s murder on Nov. 2, 1975, at age 53, in the seaside town of Ostia outside Rome.
The Academy’s complete retro of Pasolini’s fiction films interspersed with some shorts and documentary works from his prolific career is made up almost entirely of 35mm prints recently restored by Cinecittà and the Cineteca di Bologna, the prominent film archives known globally as a prime film preservation entity. Bologna is also the city where Pasolini was born on March 5, 1922.
The retro, which runs through March 12, covers what are considered the three main phases of Pasolini’s work: his earlier works which sprung from neorealism, such as “Accattone” and “Mamma Roma”; Pasolini’s subsequent depictions of the depravity of European society, “Teorema,” and “Porcile”; and his later trio of pics adapting masterpieces of medieval literature—Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” and “The Thousand and One Nights,” which are considered his boldest works, all designed by Ferretti and featuring evocative Ennio Morricone soundtracks.
Despite having been a film director for just over a decade, Pasolini’s influence has been deep. Outspokenly gay at a time when this was uncommon, and a fierce critic of capitalism and the European bourgeois establishment, Pasolini ruffled feathers throughout his career, becoming one of the most controversial film directors ever.
The Pasolini series launches the Academy Museum’s partnership with Cinecittà in support of an annual programming series of Italian Cinema, Italy being the first country to sign a long-term agreement of this type.
“Despite his fierce criticism of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, Pasolini was fascinated by the United States,” Cinecittà chief Nicola Maccanico said in a statement underlining that the partnership with the prominent L.A. museum “intends to give new life and visibility to [Italian] auteurs whom, like Pasolini, have influenced great international directors” in hopes that impact can now reach younger up and coming helmers.
Meanwhile in Italy a slew of Pasolini celebrations are planned across the country, first and foremost in Bologna where a major exhibition will open on March 1 titled “Folgorazioni Figurative,” which can be loosely translated as “Struck by Images.” The show will seek to reconstruct the genesis of Pasolini’s gaze and his creative universe starting from his University years in Bologna, where Pasolini studied with Italian art historian and critic Roberto Longhi.
Rome will also be paying tribute to Pasolini with a trio of exhibitions scheduled later this year. And a selection of his restored works will be playing in cinemas across the country.
Elsewhere around the world, Barcelona in May will host the large exhibition “Pasolini Roma” comprising original manuscripts of poems, novels, essays and articles, letters, screenplays, storyboards, drawings, paintings, sequences from Pasolini’s films, interviews, documentaries, photographs and installations.
New Italian publications are now expected to delve into the mystery surrounding Pasolini’s unsolved murder at Ostia, based on DNA samples from the clothes Pasolini was wearing the night he was beaten to death, allegedly only by Pino Pelosi, a 17-year-old hustler who during the trial said the director attacked him sexually. But the murder is believed to have been carried out by more people.
Many Italians have long considered Pasolini’s death a political assassination executed by a group of right-wing thugs due to his radical views and homosexuality and because his work in several fields — films, essays, poems — was seen as a destabilizing threat by the country’s Christian Democrat-dominated establishment. However to this day there is no solid evidence to conclusively support this.