Pasolini 2014 ****

The death of the brilliant Italian film director Pier Paulo Pasolini is something of a JFK moment in Italian culture; conspiracy theories about as to the circumstances that led to his body being found, murdered, apparently run over by his own car. Abel Ferrara is not a director knows for his sensitivity; films like Bad Lieutenant make a virtue of their brutality, but he shows considerable skill in marking out this sympathetic portrait of a creative mind at the end of its tether. As played with customary precision by Willem Dafoe, Pasolini is shown somewhat spent after the catharsis of making Salo in 1975, and one of the novelties of Ferrara’s film is that it evokes colourful scenes from a film Pasolini planned, but never got to make. The presence of some Pasolini regulars including Ninetto Davoli adds to the authenticity, and Pulp Fiction’s Maria de Mederios captures the elan of muse Laura Betti; perhaps this film aims for a niche audience, but that’s no bad thing. Rather than a biopic, Pasolini offers a concise portrait of the artist as a middle aged man, short of love, but still burning with questions that would not be answered in his too-short lifetime. It’s certainly a subject that brings the best out of both director and star.


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