Archive for the ‘trilogy of life’ Category

Notes on Comizi d’amore for possible paragraph in Trilogia Della Vita chapter in Cinema And The Meaning [strikethrough] Of “Life”

Pasolini had already begun to historicize sexuality through cinematic means in Comizi d’amore (1963,) a film of interviews with Italians from various classes and regions about erotic mores. If a genealogy seeks to mobilize values by historicizing them, thereby dispelling the glamor of seemingly natural self-evidence, the genealogist must identify the values in order to put into in question. Comizi d’amore establishes the values that dominate the sex lives of Italians in 1963 by considering the silences of Pasolini’s interview subjects as well as their answers.

Pasolini’s decision to interview people grouped according to class and region allows him to begin denaturalizing the values pertaining to sexuality in the very act of documenting them. The values expressed by the interviewees vary with the region and class of the subjects and cannot appear as self-evident universals to the audience of Comizi d’amore. The film’s ethnographic categories make it clear that social relations determine values related to sex. Sexual mores appear as the effects of economics and physical surroundings, not for example, as the commandments of a god. Pasolini emphasizes differences based on income and location can be found throughout the film, though they might be clearest for some audiences in a segment which contrasts responses to the Legge Merlin, a 1958 law that made bordellos illegal, among Neapolitans and Sicilians.

Pasolini’s presentation of sexual values as a series of antagonisms reflects his understanding of ideology in general as the result of class conflict and his long standing commitment to regionalism.  Comizi d’amore articulates tensions, making the existence of an “Italian people” seem dubious. Audiences should hear a complex irony in Pasolini’s voice when, near the end of the film Pasolini, asks Alberto Moravia whether the novelist thinks he had captured the “real Italy.” Any notion of the real Italy dissolves in the variation between the values, the differences among the settings for the interviews, as well as the audible distinctions among regional dialects and accents. The film could serve as an illustration of Gilles Deleuze’s by now cliché  formulation “the people are missing.” If one were to continue to understand Comizi d’amore through the lens of Deleuze’s Cinema II: The Time Image, the film might even be said to call an Italian people into being through the more or less falsifying fabulations of the interview subjects. More plainly, a collective image of Italians emerges only from the contradictions among the all of the responses harvested by Pasolini.

When Pasolini asks Moravia whether Comizi d’amore captures the real Italy, Moravia responds that only bourgeoisie remained silent out of fear that of the possible social damage incurred by their answers. The capitalist class resists genealogical procedures because their ideology and habitus rely on the naturalization of values and the practices they justify. An obvious seeming national and linguistic unity linked to a coherent system of sexual values support the economic interests of the bourgeoisie.

Another silence structures the film in addition to the capitalist class’s: when Pasolini inquires about attitudes towards homosexuality, no one says, “I’m gay.” That silence unifies Italians more strongly than anything else in the film. Regional dialects, class and attendant differences in attitudes about sex divide the Italians Pasolini encounters, but not a single one professes queerness. In a film signed by a gay man who lived as openly as possible, that form of national unity can only be understood takes on a strong critical power.  Although Pasolini himself was out and his homosexuality was well known, he does not avow it in the film, probably in order to avoid conflict with his subjects and to encourage them to speak. Today, pathos saturates the film when we listen to the interview subjects moralize about homosexuality in response to Pasolini’s questions and realize that the interviewer has no voice in his own film and cannot be included in “the real Italy” except at the price of his silence. The section on homosexuality bares the title “”Disgust or Pity,” indicating the two poles of Italian response to gays.  If Comizi  d’amore calls an Italian people into being, it is a homophobic one.

The poles of disgust and pity are not those of the Trilogia Della Vita (1971-1974), in which various forms of homosexuality are practiced more or less openly. Even if such practices are judged by characters or religious systems within the films, the narrative agency of the Trilogia does not judge them.

Between Comizi D’amore and the Trilogia Della Vita Pasolini passes from contemporaneous to historical sexualities. Comizi d’amore  investigates sexualities, or attitudes towards sexualities which were actual in Pasolini’s lifetime. The Trilogia imagined past sexualities as potentials for the present. The Trilogia adapts three texts from pre-capitalist periods, seeking an alternative to commodified sexuality. This does not mean that Pasolini considered pre-capitalist sexualities to not involve economic exchange, but that it participated in a different form of economic exchange.

At the time when he shot the Trilogia,  the aim of Pasolini’s genealogical method was to understand the past as a means for changing the present as well as a means of explaining the present.

 Pasolini only used the technique of the potentialized past for a short period. In the mid 1970s, around the time of the neoliberalism’s onset, an “anthropological mutation” occurred. He came to believe that if sexuality has become intolerably degraded in the present it must have already been capable of such degradation in the past. The genetic tendency toward what Pasolini would call “racism,” “anthropological mutation” and “anthropological genocide” can already be found in the films of the early 1960s, especially Comizi D’amore and Mama Roma.


An Incomplete Annotated Anglophone Pasolini Bibliography (Part :1 Books)

January 7, 2012 2 comments

Works By Pier Paolo Pasolini in English Translation in book form

Heretical Empiricism. Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett Trans. New Academia Publishing. Washington, DC. 2005. Translations from Empirismo eretico. Aldo Garsanti Editore. 1972.

Linguistics, Literary Criticism, Film Theory. Revised (2005 edition includes “Repudiation of Trilogy of Life” written as an introduction to the publication of the screenplays in 1975.)

In Danger. Jack Hirschman Ed. City Lights Press. San Francisco. 2010

Anthology. Poetry, Literary Criticism, Political Essays, Interviews. Translators include Jonathan Richmond, formerly of the modern lovers.

Petrolio. Anna Goldstein, Trans. Pantheon Books. New York. 1997. “Unfinished” Novel.

Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poems. Norman MacAfee, Trans. Ed. Far, Strauss Giroux. New York. 1982. Selections from Le ceneri di Gramsci, including the eponymous poem; La religione del mio tempo; Poesia in forma di rosa; Trasumanar e organizzar (from all of Pasolini’s non-self published  poetry books from 1957-1971 except L’usignolo della chiesa cattolica.)

Roman Nights And Other Stories. John Shepley. The Marlboro Press. Marlboro Vermont. 1986. Stories from Alì Dagli Occhi Azzuri (1965)

Roman Poems. Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Francesca Valente, Trans. City Lights Books. San Francisco. 1986. Preface by Alberto Moravia. Includes poems from of Le ceneri di Gramsci.

Theorem. Stuart Hood, Trans. Quartet Books. London 1992. Translation of Teorema (1968 novel.)

A Violent Life. William Weaver, trans. Carcanet. Manchester, UK. 2007. Translation of  Una Vita Violenta. Aldo Garsanti Editore. 1972. Novel.

Books on Pier Paolo Pasolini in English:

Acker, Kathy. My Death My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini. In Literal Maddness. Grove Press. New York. 1987. “Experimental” “fiction” very useful. Develops a queer and poetic context for Pasolini. Focuses on his death.

Friedrich, Pia. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Twayne Publishers. Boston. 1982. Two chapters of intellectual biography. Chapters on the posthumous works, Le meglio ginoventù (1954 edition of the complete Friulian poems;) Ragazzi di vita; Le ceneri di Gramsci; Teorema; Manifesto per un nuovo teatro” and  Orgia (play staged in 1968;) and Pasolini’s last poems. Special attention paid to style and ideology.

Gordon, Robert C. Pasolini: Forms of Subjectivity. Clarendon Press. 1966. Sections on Pasolini’s journalism, poems, cinema, and Petrolio (unfinished novel.). Each section takes its object as an expression of a fragment of Pasolini’s subjectivity.

Greene. Naomi. Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema As Heresy. Princeton University Press. Princeton. 1990. Chapters on Pasolini in Casara, his move to Rome and his relationship to the cinema; Accattone, Mamma Romai and the neo-realist inheritance; the “end of ideology” in Le cenri di Gramsci, Uccellacci e Ucellini, La Religione del mio tempo, La ricotta and Comizi d’amore and Il Vangelo secondo Matteo; Pasolini’s film theory; myth in Pasolini’s films after Uccellacci e Ucellini; the Trilogia della vita, Salò o le 120 gionate di Sodoma.  eros and the rise of the ultra left in 70s Italy.

Maggi, Armando. The Resurrection Of The Body: Pier Paolo Pasolini From Saint Paul to Sade. University Of Chicago Press. Chicago. 2009. Pasolini as ambassador from Sodom, the “land of total destruction,” with attention to “the internal logic of his artistic expression.” Chapters on Saint Paul (unfilmed screenplay;)Porno-Theo-Colossal (unfilmed screenplay;) Petrolio, (unfinished novel;) and Salò o le 120 gionate di Sodoma.

Peterson, Thomas Earling. The Paraphrase Of An Imaginary Dialogue: The Poetics and Poetry of  Pier Paolo Pasolini. Peter Lang. New York. 1994.   Chapters on Paolini’s dialect poetry (Del dairio, “La scperta di Marx,” Roma 1950 — un diario, Il canto poulare, Le ceneri di Gramsci;) Pasolini’s use of Giovanni Pascoli’s poemetto (a “deviant” mode of the cyclical tercet) “Il pianto della scavatrice,” La riligione del mio tempo; and Pasolini’s essay on Pascoli “Passione e idologia;” Pasolini’s thoughts on dialect poetry in the eraly 1960s, Paolini’s essay on Andrea Zanzotto entitles “La belta (Apunti;)” Clemente Robora, Poesia in forma di rosa and its predecessors; La divina mimesis; “Manifesto per un nuovo teatro,” Calderòn, Trasumanar e organizzar. Features (Peterson’s ?) translation of “Il pianto della scavatrice” under the title “The Steam Shovel’s City.” Partial translations of Pasolini and poems from his contemporaneous and historical context, analyses of the critical reception of various Pasolini works, close readings of poems, attention to the poetic and overall literary context as well as the Italian Marxist context.

Rhodes, John David. Stupendous Miserable City: Pasolini’s Rome. University Of Minnesota Press.  Minneapolis. 2007. Chapters on 20th century the urban history of Rome with special attention to development and the roots of Italian urbanism; Pasolini’s arrival in Rome, his work as a screenwriter and its cinematic context, his poetry, and Raggazi di vita; Accattone as an urbanist critique of neorealism; “Il pianto della scavatrice” (poem from Le cendri di Gramsci) and the construction of Roman housing projects in the 1950s; Mamma Roma, the Tuscolano II housing project and contemporaneous INA Casa development; Pasolini’s later films as allegories with emphasis on Uccellacci e Ucellini. This book is the best reading on Pasolini’s political potential in English. Clearly written, through, precise and engaged with various styles of Marxism. It is also the book that convinced me that Pasolini’s expressive production should be understood as a movement away from aesthetic production, despite the fact that the author does not make the argument.

Rohdie, Sam. The Passion Of Pier Paolo Pasolini. British Film Institute / Indiana University Press. Bloomington, IA. 1995 Experimental theoretical text on Pasolini and contemporaneous would culture with a focus on cinema and film theory. Contains fragments of writing from Pasolini and others. Emphasizes mythopoeic approach to Pasolini. Attempts “free-indirect” or “dialogical” composition.

Rumble, Patrick and Bart Testa. Pier Paolo Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives. University of Toronto Press. Toronto. 1994. Articles on Nico Naldini’s (Pasolini’s cousin) recollections of Pasolini (Naldini;) the Roman Novels and the Italian Communist Party, 1956 (Joseph Francese;) Pasolini, Andrea Zanzotta (linguist and school teacher who worked on language acquisition in children) and pedagogy (Jennifer Stone;) Paoslini’s writings of the 1970s (Walter Siti;) Free indirect discourse (oratio obliqua , but confused with “reported speech” as such. Reported speech also includes direct and indirect discourse.)  Argues that Pasolini uses “free indirect” to mean any device that produces ambiguity (Paolo Fabbri;) Pasolini’s film semiotics as interpretation and not ontology (Giuliana Bruno;) Pasolini and materialist linguistics (Silverstra Mariniello;) Pasolini, the long take, editing and knowledge (David Ward;) “The Manifesto for a new Theater” (translated and introduced by David Ward;) Accattone, Mamma Roma, Dante and the way of the cross (P. Adams Sitney;) Deindividuation in Il sangelo secondo Matteo and Teorema (Bart Testa;)  Social and economic analogies in the Trilogia della vita (Patrick Rumble;) S Salò o le 120 gionate di Sodoma. and the refusal of cinematic consumption (Naomi Greene;) “Tetis” a short text on the Trilogia della vita Pasolini wrote in 1973 (Translated by Patrick Rumble.) Some of the articles are considered standards (Greene, Rumble, Testa, Ward,) some are filled with ad hoc psychoanalytic theory and shallow research (Stone, Fabri.) Schwartz, Bath David. Pasolini Requiem. Pantheon Books. New York. Biography of Pasolini with a somewhat conservative liberal humanist bent. Stylistically messy. The author feels free to judge Pasolini and as a correspondent writes, seems to have published every note he has ever taken. Worth consulting as it contains some useful data.

Schwenk, Bernard and Michael Semff eds. Pier Paolo Pasolini and Death. Hatje Cantz. Munich. 2006. Texts on “Pasolini and death” (Giusepe Zigaina;) Pasolini’s aesthetic of the “drawn out moment” (Schwenk;) the influence of Roberto Longhi on Pasolini’s use of art (Marc Weis;) The theme of motif in Pasolini (Roberto Chiesi;) “Transmediality” and pastiche in Pasolini (Benjamin Meyer-Krahmer;) Pasolini’s drawings (Smeff;) Pasolini’s 1969 poem Patmos (in Italian, not translated;) a conversation between Peter Kammerer and Zigaina; the “new fascism” ( Loris Lepri;) Paoslini’s last television interview (with Philippe Bouvard.) Also a photographic timeline and plates, plates, plates (including some Pasolini drawings and paintings … )

Siciliano, Enzo. Pasolini A Biography. John Shepley, Trans. Random House. New York. 1982. Biography of Pasolini by a friend and collaborator of Pasolini’s who also worked with Moravia and was at one time head of RAI, Italian state television. Original version published in 1978. Bent on proving that Pasolini’s murder was a right wing conspiracy. Very vague Marxism. As a correspondent writes “a whiff of homophobia.”

Viano, Maurizio.  A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini’s Film Theory and Practice. University of California Press. Los Angeles. 1993. Chapters on Accattone; Mamma Roma; La Ricotta (contribution to collective film RoGoPaG😉 La Rabbia; Comizi d’amore; Sopraluoghi in Palestina; Il Vangelo secundo Matteo; La Terra vista dalla luna (contribution to Le streghe) and Che cosa sono le nuvole? (contribution to Capriccio all’italiana;) Edipo Re; La sequenza del foire di carta (segment of Amore e rabbia,; Apunti per un film sull’India; Toerema; Porcile; Medea; Apunti per un’Orestiade Africana; Le Mura di Sana’a (documentary short / appeal on Yemen;) La trilogia della vita; Salò o le 120 gionate di Sodoma; as well as Pasolini’s film and literary theory and its intellectual context. The introduction compares Pasolini to Nietzsche. Though it reads a bit like a post modern chestnut, Viano almost works enough to establish the genealogical dimension in Pasolini. Throughout the book, Viano shows that Pasolini constantly questioned dominant values without necessarily pointing to the role history and philology play in Pasolini’s films. Perhaps if he had included poems …

Ward, David. A Poetics Of Resistance: Narrative and the writings of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Associated University Presses. Ontario. 1995. Chapters on the Friulian Novels (Atti Impuri, Amado mio, Il sogno di una cosa;) the Roman Novels (Ragazzi di vita, Una vita violenta;) Empirismo eretico; Pasolini’s journalism, six verse tragedies and “Il Manifesto per un nuovo teatro.” “The Manifesto for a New Theater” translated as an appendix. Considers Pasolini’s revolutionary ,or resistant, aspects in light of his “poetic” historiography. Comes close to presenting Pasolini and a genealogist. Introduced with a useful short survey of Italian, British and US critical reception.  

 Watson, William Van . Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Theater of the World. University Microfilms Inc. 1989. Chapters on psychoanalysis (death drive) in Pasolini’s work, life and critical reception; the contemporary (contemporaneous) Italian theater; “The Manifesto for a New Theater;” Calderòn; Affabulation; Pylades; Porcile (play;) Orgia;, Bestia da Stile; productions of Pasolini’s plays; and Pasolini’s plays and post-modernism. Useful for information on Pasolini’s theater.

(on very late Pasolini)

Pier Paolo Pasolini on the Aesthetic’s Fading II

The films in the Trilogy Of Life are “my most ideological films of all” because they are set in periods “before the body had become merchandise … But I don’t believe in them any more.”

Pasolini. Svenska Filminstitutet. Stockholm, 1975. Cited in B.D. Schwartz. Pasolini Requiem. Page 13

Il fiore delle mille e una notte Hypothesis 1

If, unlike the other two films in Pasolini’s trilogy of life, Il fiore delle mille e una notte does not end with a scene in which an artist played by the director completes a work of art, perhaps the film’s complete diffusion of aesthetics in the plane of life motivates this difference. In Il fiore delle mille e una notte the shimmer of material culture creates sexual potentials, which, when actualized, lead Nuredin to the city ruled by his first love.

The shooting style of the film as well as the props, costumes and locations express the material culture of the world of Il fiore delle mille e una notte. The shooting style mimics various forms of Islamic art through it’s framings and color palate in a clear example of what Pasolini called the pretextual indirect.  In his essay The Cinema of Poetry” Pasolini shows that the styles of certain films by Godard and Antonioni mix various modes of subjectivity with the highest level of the films narration. In Deserto Rosso (Antonioni, 1964) the camera sees in the same way as Giuliana throughout most of the film, even when the narrative positions certain shots as objective. The character’s eyes seem to determine the look of the film starting at a point before the text begins and they provide a pretext for certain visual effects that critics and other sales people sometimes call “painterly.” The pretextual free indirect functions somewhat differently in Il fiore delle mille e una notte. Visual tropes from the complex set of historical cultures woven into  كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة‎ (Kitāb ‘alf layla wa-layla) or هزار و یک شب (Hezār-o yek šab) and many of it’s later presentations such as those by Burton and Berger, Powel Korda et al.

The folktales in A Thousand and One Nights were collected over a long historical period encompassing a variety of mentalities linked to a closely related but differentiated cluster of material cultures, all determined by variations on feudalism trapped in its moment of primitive accumulation in the Middle East, Asia and the Persian Gulf. As in the other films in the trilogy, Pasolini uses historical visual topes as traces of material cultures invoked in A Thousand And One Nights to open up a set of potential sexualities determined by the life-worlds of non-capitalist and pre-capitalist economies.

The props, costumes and other elements of the mise en scene play an important role in articulating the imagined economic base with the sexualities within the life world of Il fiore delle mille e una notte. Pasolini’s Marxist attention to modes of production and the economic base can be felt in the film’s use of goods and their circulation as causes of action and as a means of connecting the stories to one another. The film starts with Nuredin purchasing Zummurud as a slave and moves onto its next phase when he sells a tapestry she weaves. Later a demon will find his captive’s lover by asking if anyone recognizes the owner of his shoes. The film connects the story of Aziz and Azizi to the next tale via a scroll Azizi leaves Aziz. While many of these props might be considered works of art, the film prioritizes their economic circulation not so as to make economics dominant, but so as to make it impossible to disassociate sensation and affect from forces of production. An attentive viewer cannot watch these films and dream of aesthetics as an autonomous sphere of human activity; in them aesthetics becomes a thing of the past. Il fiore delle mille e una notte completes the anaesthetic work of the trilogy of life in the context of an imagined economy based on various features of the multiple historical circumstances in-forming it’s source text. Pasolini’s choice of a work marked as lacking a single author and his displacement of Sherazade from her common position as the teller of all the tales to that of a minor character, an extra, in one of the episodes complete the dissolution of art and aesthetics into immanence  of life-forms precisely by making it impossible for the film to end with an artist as figure of authorship in the film’s finale. The conclusion of Pasolini’s work on aesthetics ends the trilogy of life and includes it in a quartet of films opening onto the irremissible.

If Pasolini’s life/death quartet (Il Decameron (1971,) I racconti di Canterbury (1972,) Il fiore delle mille e una notte (1974) Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975)) rewrites aesthetics in the past tense, obviously, the films don’t consign attention to and pleasure in sensation to the dustbin of history. The traces of material culture that refer us to economies which produce sexualities and subjectivities solicit affects that include the quartet’s spectators, but those affects cannot be separated from historical potentials. The post recently brought me a letter from a friend articulating the link between materialized actuality and subjectivity — a letter which, without wanting to, describes the precise process at work in the Quartet:

If the subjective process is something like a new creation in the world, we have an infinity of consequences. In fact, there are no limits. There are potentially—virtually (to speak as Deleuze)—we have virtually an infinity of consequences. But this infinity is not a transcendent one; it’s an immanent infinity. It is the infinity of the body itself in relation to the trace. So we have to understand what is an immanent infinity and not a transcendent infinity.

How can we speak of the affects that traverse the infinity of consequences issuing from the traces of material culture?  A forthcoming book by another friend inadvertently rises to the challenge via a genealogical articulation of “pretty” as a concept. In Pretty: Film And The Decorative Image, Rosalind Galt transvalues the eponymous term so that it’s disparaging sense of  “cunning and art” becomes a virtue, a gesture which completely repositions decoration as decoration within our affective relations to cultural production. Her chapter on Soy Cuba (Kalatosov, 1964) clarifies the role of the film’s prettiness in producing a transnational revolutionary affect that cannot be separated from the historical specificity of Soy Cuba’s production or the culture it was released into. Unlike the quasi- autonomous aesthetic sphere, the pretty cannot be disassociated from gendered bodies and forces of production in the strictest sense. Galt allowed me to understand how forces of production generate affects and material simultaneously.

Galt’s uncompromising philology cites the difficulties encountered by Sianne Ngai in her re-articulation of cuteness as a “minor taste concept” particularly suited “for the analysis of art’s increasingly complex relation to market society in the twentieth century.” Ngai’s “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde” (Critical Inquiry 31 (2005): 811–12.) and Ugly Feelings work through a set of affects that, like “prettiness” cannot be disassociated from the material conditions giving rise to them and which have therefore been devalued in the atavistic aesthetic sphere. Although both authors seem committed to retaining some version of the concepts of “art” and “aesthetics” in relation to contemporary cultural practice, their deeply transvaluative approach harmonizes with Pasolini’s passage beyond them and into the lived. I have found no better term for Il fiore delle mille e una notte ‘s mise-en-scene than “pretty” and no better word for Ninetto Davoli’s performance as Aziz than cute.

Sex Quartet, Hypothesis 1a

If, as Marazzi claims, financialization, counts language among the forces of production, the “communication” of percepts and affects also become productive in that period. Looking back from the 1970s, artistic forms of pervious periods appear as historical material and as expressions of material history. The conditions of late capitalism’s emergence transform Pasolini’s free indirect: it starts as a depiction of contemporaneous subjectification as class conflict and by the time of the Sex Quartet has become the genetic image of historical socia. These movies fade the 19th century aesthetic by presenting it’s objects as a historical series rather than as their own project.

The Sex Quartet, Hypothesis 1

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy Of Life and Salo, released between 1971 and 1975, expresses the secular downturn, which begins in 1973 as a fading of aesthetics and the emergence of an analysis of the production of sexuality within historical/material life forms. That analysis prepares for the emergence financialization, an era when  “necessary cost of production becomes the life itself of the community” (citation adapted from Marazzi.)