Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pier Paolo Pasolini


Gracing the right banner column of my blog is an homage to Pasolini. The boy with his fist raised in the anti-Fascist salute is a still from the controversial film Salo': o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. I refashioned it with a little bit of text to create a homo-erotic political statement. Following the imperative in whatever way you want is your choice.

In the film, the boy is found having sex with a servant girl, in a locked-down villa where heterosexual dalliance is forbidden. Just before being shot, in the face of pointed revolvers, he lifts his fist. In a hilarious expression of infatuation with male power, the rulers of the house gasp with lust and desire, gather themselves, remember their political convictions, and shoot him dead in a hale of gunfire.

Pasolini was gay, a poet, journalist, cinematographer, and an avowed enemy of the right. He fell out with the political left on more than one occasion and ended up dying in very mysterious circumstances after only recently finishing Salo, and before it had even been screened publicly. He slammed the established government for being conspiratorially linked to proto-fascists and elements of the Mafia of which it certainly was in the 1970s - and now may yet be.

He made a lot of enemies just before his bizarre death, being run down and mutilated on a beach in Ostia on the outskirts of Rome. Interestingly, the boy charged with his death, a young hustler named Pino Pelosi, bore a striking resemblance to Ninetto Davoli, a young lover he took after rescuing him from the Roman Borgate and placing him in some of his films. He can be seen in the previous post, in the second picture, square in the middle with the curly hair. Most likely the draw was irresistible to Pasolini and his killers were all too aware of this. What better way to smear a man's reputation than to tie him with lurid, 'forbidden' social elements?

But there are many unknowns about the night of his death and they have never been (really, may never be) adequately answered. Killing him in the style that destroyed the likes of Ramon Novarro's legacy, namely at the hands of a young prostitute, smeared his legacy and forever left a cast on his work. Certainly it was a grisly death, the charged murderer, Pelosi, breaking his silence after 30 years and telling the world in 2005 that he was, in fact, not the killer at all, but that Pasolini had been beaten by a group of men after being called a 'dirty Communist'. Pelosi drove over Pasolini in a 'state of panic' and fled the scene. He was later picked up driving Pasolini's sports car. He served 9 years.

Pasolini will, at least, never not be a controversial figure, and that finally is something that I am sure he would cherish if he were still alive. Even after more than 30 years, Salo has lost none of its allegorical or political edge. Watching it in its entirety is an exercise in unflinching Nihilism, an exhausting journey through the mind of Totalitarianism, body and soul. I think that Pasolini was interested in the expression of power, and it was a bald statement to make at that time, at the government in power, and at the invisible and ruthless figures that controlled certain aspects of Italian society.

So one of the best lessons we can garner from Pasolini's life and work (and his death) is his defiant questioning of authority, something I think every gay man has had experience with.

Thanks Brett, for the inspiration to do a little freestyle writing.

4 comments:

iain said...

Thank you very, very much for your reflections on PPP, whose films (and poems, and stories) have never been readily likeable, in the sense of easily accessible, but which continue to repay careful re-reading, re-viewing, re-considering (I first saw Teorema in 1969, and it has haunted me ever since, and his books 'Stories from the City of God' and 'Roman Poems' always stay at my bedside). The photo of PPP's body is something I haven't seen before, and it shocked me very much. Had Pasolini been alive in the age of the internet, I think the transmission of this fearful, moving image online, its ability to startle a reader/viewer (speaking for myself) out of my late-night complacency, is something of which I am quite sure he would heartily approve. Thanks again.

Starched Collar said...

Iain, thanks for the reply. Wasn't he a complex fellow? The visceral and the intellectual all bound up and spent, usually haplessly. I hesitated before I posted that picture, but funny you should comment because I asked myself what he would do. Then I posted it.

Anonymous said...

"The boy with his fist raised in the Fascist salute"

During the Spanish Civil War, the raised fist was known as the anti-fascist salute. The boy is saluting in defiance of the fascists.

Starched Collar said...

Gasp, you're right! What a stumble! I meant Communist, or at least Socialist. Thanks for the pointer! Duly changed. Sloppy editing when one edits for oneself sometimes. Apologies.