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‘…skews towards those who know the man and his remarkable, controversial canon of work…’

The death of the brilliant Italian film director Pier Paulo Pasolini is something of a JFK moment in Italian culture; conspiracy theories abound as to the circumstances that led to his body being found, murdered, apparently run over by his own car. Without delving too deeply into the mystery, this film is less a biopic than a restaging of the last days of his life, and the result skews towards those who know the man and his remarkable, controversial canon of work.

Driller Killer’s Abel Ferrara is not a director knows for his great sensitivity; films like Bad Lieutenant or Welcome to New York 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 while explanations for his demise are offered, no firm solution transpires.

One of the novelties of Ferrara’s film is that it evokes colourful scenes from a film Pasolini planned, but never got to make. This allows for the presence of some Pasolini regulars including Ninetto Davoli, adding to the authenticity, and Pulp Fiction’s Maria de Mederios captures the elan of Pasolini’s great 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, and is recommended to those who want to know more about the director’s turbulent end.


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  1. JFK moment, indeed. You did it again, pushed the magic button! How did I not know this movie existed? I watched Decameron, Oedipus Rex, the Witches, Arabian Nights… I wrote a 5 page profile on his curious and tragic life and death, beaten, burned, run over by a car. His last meal was spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. Thank you film guru; perhaps I can finish it now. He’s up there with David Lynch, Cammell, K Anger, Scorcese… was he a visionary? Was it a Mafia hit or someone from P2 Lodge? A kid named Palosi confessed, but others were involved, as many as 5. In 2005, Palosi retracted confession. around 2010 the case was reopened. Was he killed because of last film, Salo? Most interesting, shortly before he died he claimed to know the answer to several secrets. Did he leave evidence? Ahhhhh…

    • Let me just throw in the kidnapping of one of his own films to the mix? Have been in the streets, and in Laura Betti’s bed looking for evidence…

      • Oh my, wasn’t she born in 1920 something? How bout under the bed? Yes, ironic Salo reels were sadistically high jacked… I am now frantically searching for that paper I once wrote. He claimed to know more than a few political secrets related to P2, Mafia, and fringe esoteric group. My gay Key West friends introduced me to his movies in late 70s. Back to the hunt…

        • I’ve always been a Pasolini fan. So I went off to Rome to interview Laura Betti a few months before she died; she had an apartment in the city centre complete with a day bed which I interviewed her from. We had a translator who turned green listening to what she said, which was mostly unsuitable for publication anywhere. Some of it was obscene, but some of it related to what you describe. Pasolini ruffled feathers to say the least, and had a number of deadly enemies on all sides, particularly amongst the high-level Masonic communities. But his death may well have been related to his nocturnal activies, which were famously louche, or at least that provided a neat cover to shut him up before he described anything else that the ‘establishment’ would like us to forget. Keen to read your paper! Never be afraid of the truth!

          • Alas, the paper must be lost to the ages and my many moves; did find a few notes RE secrets. In Corriere della Sera, leftish paper, he wrote: I know the names of those responsible for slaughters and the powerful groups; I know who, between masses, guaranteed political protection to church, P2, … I know the figures responsible (Calabrians Ndrangheta, masons that pose as…); I know names of serious figures behind tragic kidnaps of kids, murders labeled suicides…; I know all their names, their guilt, their crimes (red brigade, gangs, thugs); I know those that saw what they did. But I can’t prove it without…I don’t have enough clues…yet. Many names mentioned of kidnap vics, near coups, massacre of Milan… the article was likely last straw; don’t think he was killed because he was gay in 70s when so much was changing? Another mystery!

            • This is very interesting. Pasolini’s younger brother’s death was part of the inspiration for Salo, right? And those of us who don’t see war as cartoon goodies and baddies recognise that many of those who committed atrocities on any side remain to be brought to Justice. Maybe Pasolini tapped into conspiracy theories, but maybe he wouldn’t take a warning when he got close to the truth. His lifestyle would have made it easy to organise a cheap death on the streets. Sure, it could be random, or an accident, but this man, at this time, seems sinister to me. And of course he would not shut up about it, as your valuable quote proves. Put some music on, we should continue this conversation by taking turns on the typewriter…

              • RE bro Guidalberto, he died age 19, WW2, artillery soldier forced to fight for Mussolini. This horror porn sadomacho film, Pasolini suggested, was a metaphor for effects of politics and corruption, consumerism and excess… not sure I see link to bro? Always easier for too many to see misfortune rather than injustice and report on it. As a poet he saw both. IMO he definitely channeled dark forces with the intent to expose the corrupt underbelly. He was pretty fearless from what I’ve read. He chose Chopin as one of the tunes in Salo. What would Pier choose today, a little Rolling in the Deep, some explicit Winehouse Back to Black, or Simone’s No u go to Hell? It does seem he had a ritualistic 5 fold death. A friend of his even speculated he knew how he’d die and added specific scenes to films to prove it. I have to wonder, what other clues might he have inserted into films? I read they found a duo of the stolen reels but reshot it anyway. His next planned film was to be on Giles de Rais, ghoulish child murderer and bestie to Joan of Arc or maligned and partially innocent man?

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