THE 220 DAYS OF ‘SALÓ’: Pasolini’s Last Film – by Gideon Bachmann

2018-06-08T16:39:49-07:00 June 7th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , |
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini on the set of Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, 1975

by Gideon Bachmann

For the last few weeks of the life of Pier Paolo Pasolini I had been working on a film in which the Italian film director was playing the part of himself in what was meant to become a document outlining the position of a typical (or, perhaps on afterthought, not so typical) intellectual in today’s Italy.
The film wasn’t planned as a documentary about Pasolini, but as a feature-length analysis of the plight in which a concerned individual finds himself, when the structure of the industrial society that surrounds him ceases to allow him a field of activity. It was meant to show the slow loss of identity in a man who finds that he is no longer useful to the people he loves.
It was a story-line that Pasolini and myself had worked out in secret and which we had begun to shoot while Pasolini was directing his last film, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Only a small portion of this projected feature, however was to be concerned with his filming activity; the other scenes we had planned were a trip to Africa, which Pasolini loved, and coverage of his political and teaching activities. A great deal of the footage was to have consisted of conversations, and a portion of these had been filmed. And we had watched, with our cameras trained upon him, the last week of filming on Salò.
As a result of this plan, and the preparations for it, I had been on the set almost the entire time during the shooting of this last film of his, and while there I kept notes in the form of a diary describing Pasolini’s activities and our conversations. What follows are random pages from this diary, which I have picked because they express the man rather than the filmmaker.
Leafing through my diary, and editing a bit, I have tried to exclude sections that concerned extraneous matter, and have slightly expanded, from memory, sections that now, in retrospect, seem more significant. The reprint here is more or less in the order in which my perusal took place: backwards.

November 2nd, 1975
There was nothing that particularly distinguished this late Sunday morning in the quiet English countryside from so many predecessors. We had risen somewhat late to a tea that had seen better and warmer moments, had taken the day’s pessimistic toll from theOfismvr and the Sunday Times on the frosty doorstep, and had just settled into that state of weekend oblivion, when each family member gamers a piece of the paper and retreats into his own mumbling world, while reality’ fences for itself in occasional, surprised spurts. When the phone rang, it was sure to be an invitation to the afternoon’s jumble sale; every lazy family member expected someone besides himself to answer it.
The prolonged ringing added an effect of drama. And the news, when it came across the wire in Annie’s excited chirping—she had just heard it on the wireless—seemed a Sunday attempt to provide it. It wasn’t any more real to us at that moment than the disasters in the papers; to be able to conceive of Pier Paolo’s death, to bodily realize the actuality content of those words, even to believe that this was more than a mistake, seemed impossible. It was only seconds before I was reminded of that very same, insane hope that this was only a totfee, which 1 had felt when the news of the shooting of Kennedy had come to me in a similar manner, in a house not far away, on another wintry morning. That drama, too, seemed shattering, and that drama, too. had proven to be the end of an epoch.
/Ml that day, I listened to the radio. On a faint wavelength I finally found an Italian broadcast directly from Rome. The initial reports had already given way to eulogies. The great literary figures of Italy were busy pronouncing their love for the fallen comrade. for the saint in a beggar’s shoes, for the loss to Italian letters, politics, cinema, poetry. Everybody suddenly called him Pier Paolo: his publisher forgave him for being difficult; his producer told sad and funny stories about their collaboration; an excited voice, speaking English with a bad Italian accent, proclaimed that it w as all a sex story. The police commissioner who had received the first and hurried confession from Pelosi, the man from the gas station where Pasolini and Pelosi had stopped the night before, some bit-actors who had once acted for him—all gave forth their view’s, sharing the limelight he was throwing back, suddenly, as a victim, more than he had been able to impart in life.
He had always had those voices that wanted to speak for him, from the day I had first met him, at the Venice Film Festival in 1961, when he had come to face the press over his first film, Accattone, and had had to accept, as accompaniment, an avalanche of Italian intellectuals, which his producer, Alfredo Bini, had organized for him. Moravia, Carlo Levi, Bertolucci (then unknown), and a few others. Like a phalanx of Roman pretoriarti they were barricaded behind some heavy tables, we critics on the other side. They played their baptist function to the hilt, spoke for him, answered questions for him, while he sat there, looking like a character out of his film, with his sharp facial features and that sadness already in the nooks of the eyes He was small, in stature and impact, in that forbidding array. I had compassion, but I was also against him at once. What had he hoped to defend himself from?
It was to take me more than fourteen years to find out that that conference wasn’t his idea but Bini’s—proudly the smart band wagon-chaser, whom Pasolini had discarded as a producer after a few films, spoke of his feat of mobilizing that slice of intelligentsia in an article in L’Europeo this year—but 1 lurched into Pasolini then, like the young pipsqueak American journalist that 1 was, accusing him of harking back to sentiment and neorealism with his stylistically mixed film about the Roman slums. I knew no better and couldn’t distinguish. He smiled and answered whatever substantial criticism my remarks contained. Never angry.
It was a first encounter and it impressed me, not because I liked the film—that came later—but because of this straightforwardness, this apparent inability to flare up, this cutting through the emotions to the rational root, a quality in which he seemed vastly different from the group that was there to defend him. It seemed so dear that he didn’t need them, and little did 1 know then that I had been witness to the typical Italian safety gim­mick: if you’re not sure of yourself, claim that you are. and get your friends to say so. If enough of them say so. it will become truth. 1 was very naive; it was my first visil to Italy. But it was dear to me even then, without knowing that this game was a natural pastime, that Pasolini wasn’t play­ing it.
Now’, fourteen years later, I knew he had never played any of their games, and had been hated by them all for it. The others he was involved with—Moravia, Dacia Maraini, Bertolucci, Parise, Miklos Jancso after his move to Rome, and the hangers-on every’ important personality in Rome is surrounded with — they all played the game, went to each other’s aid when the milieu so required, spoke about each other in the press and in their works, exploited each other’s fame and his. Paso­lini never rejected them for it; and while he certainly spread his favors in a wide arc, he never did it, like them, with the expectation of reciprocity.
I remember being out at his house one Sunday afternoon, out there in Chia in the old castle without a telephone, and at a certain moment he jumped up, took his car and drove twenty miles to the next pay station, just because he had promised to call Laura Betti at that hour. There was no specific reason, he certainly didn’t want anything from her. But lie had promised And Laura always wanted something from him, and always got it: parts in films, dubbing jobs, dinner invitations, introductions. They all got it: Ninetto Davoli, his close friend, whom he raised from nowhere to the status of star actor in Italy; Franco and Sergio Citti, whom he made into actor and director, and who remained close to him as perhaps nobody else, to his death. And all those boys who lived with him, whom he gave parts and help. None of this was ever part of the Roman game of gimme-and-maybe-I’U-give-back — if needs be. He expected nothing and gave all the time.
The information this morning is first scant, but rapidly the picture fills out. The more rapidly the crime is “solved,” the more suspect the story seems. Early in the day we hear of the confession of Pelosi, of the car chase, of the identification by Ninetto, and the quickly established theory that the kill was just a homosexual squabble. I am amazed at the reaction of the people I speak to that day—and the phone keeps ringing, friends call, to give me the news, which they can well imagine has hit me squarely—who seem to accept that theory. I try to explain that Pasolini’s homosexuality was a matter of public knowledge, and that he had often taken a public position with regard toil; that it was well known in Rome how he spent his evenings, and that we had often discussed it.
I am ama/ed how the values of people are subject to change when confronted with celebrities. Nobody in England would consider a homosexual relationship unusual, but when a killing is involved, and a famous person, in a far-away coun­try, and on top of that a person who has been associated with films that have not always been appreciated for what they are but rather for their “X” content in Bntain, suddenly an aura of shame and decadence seems to envelop the matter. It is a shocking fact, and when, in the afternoon, the newspapers come out with their stupid headlines, such as “X-film director murdered” (theSun), I begin to realize that society quickly joins in plotting the moral death of its most uncomfortable citizens w’hen they can no longer defend themselves. I feel that this defease will fall on few shoulders, and realize that it may take generations to restitute to Pasolini the evaluation that he is due, and which this form of death is threatening.

November 22nd, 1975
Twenty days have passed; the crime isn’t nearer to being solved tha n on the day it happened. In the meantime Oriana Fallaci has published, in L’Europeo, on Nov. 13th, her extraordinary evidence concerning the murder; the police seem to ignore it. The story of two drug-pushing motorcyclists, who were seen by at least three people that night in Ostia smashing Paso­lini to death with planks of wood and chains, while for more than half an hour nobody intervened, hasn’t been followed up by the official research. And all of the Italian intellectuals, leftist petite-bourgeois that they are, continue to put out their unfounded theories of a political murder, a surmise that makes sense if you realize that Pasolini made both the left and the right uneasy, but for which no evidence exists, except that the police do not follow up the track Fallaci offers. This omission in itself makes the murder political. Truth, we know, becomes political when known. Dormant, however, it carries a double punch. Italy’s age-old recipe, letting it lie until it dies of old age, won’t work here; there are too many parties who need a martyr. Already the international sky is clouding over with communist attempts to resuscitate Pasolini’s party affiliation—or at least to claim he never severed the ties with the party’ which expelled him for being a homosexual.
I am in Paris for the unveiling, at the Paris Film Festival, at the Palais de Chaillot, of Pasolini’s posthumous opus, the film I had seen grow under his last care, the work I had seen take shape in the course of the past few months, when we had been preparing the film 1 was making with him, which we had tentatively entitled Cerco, which means “I am seeking.” Knowing what was in the film. I was prepared for the worst, but the performance that actually took place exceeded my worst expectations.
A few days before, the film had been refused a censorship seal in Italy, and the producer, Alberto Grimaldi, had quickly arranged for a few press screenings. Presumably he had calculated that so shortly after the murder nobody would dare attack the work. He was proven wrong. Among a few confused, well-meaning write-ups there had been, as well, the vicious ones, those who took the opportunity to lash the dead body, parading their superficial understanding and limited ability to consider a work of undoubted novelty on its merits alone. And now here I was, hoping that the international press in Paris would be more open, more objective. How one’s illusions persist…
Salò is based on the book by the Mar­quis de Sade, and Pasolini had stated that he had not wanted to add much to what the book described: “the organization and execution of orgies.” But he has done much more: besides preserving the Mar­quis’ biting social critique, he has added a contemporary dimension. Transposing the story from its seventeenth-century setting to the 1944 fascist satellite republic in Northern Italy which gives the film its title, and using the work as a final farewell to romanticism, he has managed to show that hopelessness can be a political dimension, a statement he sealed by his own fate within a matter of days after finishing the film.
The final product could not be less erotic. The action is the same as in the book: four representatives of power (a magistrate, a president, a judge, and a bishop) prepare a group of sixteen virginal boys and girls for the spiritual and physical death they will inflict upon them at the end. The making of merchandise out of human bodies, which de Sade described and Marx codified, is here stylized into objective horror. Everything is calculated to pull the viewer down into Pasolini’s hell: the elimination of feeling, of psychology, of drama, of human interaction, of natural physical functions, and of social values. The film is highly stylized, and great care has been expended on the decorations, a sort of “imperial” Bauhaus à la Mussolini, in the architecture, costumes, and furnishings, and in the use of language, which is largely cited, not spoken. The superficiality of the philosophical positions expressed is voluntary; Beaudelaire, Nietzsche, Blanchot, and Klossowski, while they may have been important to Pasolini in designing his film, are not excluded from the rejection he heaps upon those who quote them in it. And in creating a cold, abstract language of stationary images, he forces us to forgo the defense mechanisms which the freedom of de Sade’s written word had perhaps allowed our imagination to concoct. All the walls have come tumbling, and we are exposed to the naked, cruel, infinite brutality of our social conventions.
Every modern method of conceiving reality has been carefully excised. The few flights into the realm of viewer identification (a suicide, a fist in the air at a moment of death, the musical references, and the beautiful, soft, and counterpointed ending) seem almost like breaks in style, although this film certainly represents Paso­lini’s major formal achievement. But everything works together to achieve the aim of eliminating in the viewer any possibility of aiming away from the work with hope. Like all of his other ones, this is basically a written film, but for the first time Pasolini’s doubts in the usefulness of words are apparent. His attempt to become “crystalline” in camera, cutting, and direction proves his realization that the transmission of content, the translation of images into concepts, in film, may not be this art’s prime potential.
In taking fascists from Italy’s relatively recent past as protagonists, he has also managed another, almost imperceptible tactical maneuver: where in de Sade the torturers rebelled against God and the established order, here they have become its representatives. Thus there are no more revolutionaries; the ideas that are expressed in the original book, as well as those of the failed and the failing revolutions of our and of past days, are thrown into the ring, exposed, slaughtered, discarded without discrimination. “Have you not yet understood,” Pasolini had written into the margin of the script on a day when I had gone to visit him on the set, “that I, God, am providing an example of cruelty? Why do you insist on doing good? Can’t you just imitate me?”
But to have written this sentence, and to have shot a scene in which it was spoken, only to have eliminated it in the final cut of the film, is only another proof of Pasolini’s intention to permit no Cartesian rationale, no alibi. Every scene attacks, every sensibility is ruthlessly crushed. Every form of sexual, sadistic, and psychopathic depravity is shown, but nothing separates these actions from the every day. Even a verbal description would work against his intent, since it would unjustly underscore aspects of a work whose major formal dimension is its linear, horizontal construction, its even obviousness, its metaphoric simplicity and its non-climactic temporal flow. What we are told here, again and again, is that there is no history, no change, no evolution, and that the human continuity is only a series of variations on the principle of anarchic power application. Even pessimism is feeling, and thus basically foreign to man’s cruel nature (not to speak of its opposite, or even of hope). Never has this message been more impressively and more brutally delineated, but also accepted, by an author.

October 10th, 1975
Now that a portion of the negative of Salò has been stolen, Pier Paolo has had to rework the film a bit. And our own work on Cerco will be delayed, too Pier Paolo has accepted to come to the Frankfurt Book Fair today, for the Italian publisher Einaudi, to launch the publicity of an edition to which Pasolini has written a contribution. And so on this idiotic ground, this industrial country-fair of immense commercial and physical proportions, this meetingplace of idea purveyors turned merchants, I meet Pier Paolo, lost somewhat among all that publicity, all those lights among the various exhibition stands, dressed in a curious, light-colored and checkered bolero-type jacket and beige pants; most incongruous. We had agreed to meet here to discuss the film, but it is obvious that between one handshake and another, constantly interrupted by a variety of Italians who have learned not one iota of normal European etiquette and keep cutting in shamelessly, it will be impossible to talk.
So we agree to meet in the evening, at his hotel. It turns out to be the Frankfurter Hof, the swankiest place in town, all old Prussian Baroque and velveted women, and it is just as impossible to talk here. We had waited the whole day, had spent hours at the fair looking at the world’s literary offerings, and had come through the cold German October night to this stronghold of solidity, only to find poor Pier Paolo, dressed more incongruously than ever in his light-colored sports clothes among all these noble aristocratic booksellers, sitting modestly in a corner of the lounge, eating cucumber sandwiches, and talking to the daughter of one of the many Italian functionaries present—the most simple and human person he could find in this illustrious assembly. Around him, without paying the least bit of attention to him, are all the consular officials, the Italian publishers exhibiting at the fair, and a mottled variety of intellectuals, also mostly Italians. It turns out this is meant to be a party for Pasolini, but instead it has turned into one of those literary cocktails where you go to meet your competitor on neutral ground, forgetting the official cause of the meeting. We look at each other across the room; I finally manage to mean­der over to him, exchange a few words amid the cacophony of voices. It is useless; we will meet in Rome. As I leave, I wave from the doorway; there he is, sitting small and practically hidden in his silly clothes, eating his sandwiches. It was to be the last time I saw him.

July 25th, 1975
Today I took my group of students to the Nis dubbing studio, where Pier Paolo was synchronizing the loops for the film. Salò has been finished for some time, and the final cut has been made. I had gone to see him during the cutting on various occasions, down in the basement at P.E.A on Viale Oceano Pacifico in the Roman quarter of EUR, which was originally built by Mussolini, and had seen that basically his way of shooting, this time, had been more accurate and planned than ever before. The shots matched; it was usually just a matter of finding the best one. It was especially interesting to see how his way of often shooting more than one take on the same piece of film—in other words, his habit of telling the actors to repeat themselves without taking the camera off his shoulder — showed up in the finished material. It isn’t a common method, and to see actors going through the same actions twice or more times without the film ever stopping, and without cuts, points out more forcefully than anything else the essentially fictitious character of film. For Pasolini—who had always maintained that he was basically a realist, and that the films were created under the direct influence of the reality that was created in the process of their creation—this was especially significant, and pointed out better than anything else that for this film he had actually changed method. But now the cut was finished, and in this typically Roman dubbing studio the sound was being added to the images.
This for me has always been a fascinating moment, because Italians don’t use the sound that is (sometimes) recorded on the set; everything is rerecorded later, in these dubbing studios, every word spoken, every sound heard, every whisper of wind or voice. It is a basic aesthetic decision Italian filmmakers were forced to make when sound came to their studios after they had been built: Cinecittà is still soundproofed only partially and no Italian director can do without shouting instructions during takes, a method evidently impossible to follow when one is shooting “direct” sound, as in Hollywood movies or elsewhere in Europe. I have seen directors (like Fellini) who actually invent dialogue just before it is recorded in a dubbing studio, and who shoot scenes without always being sure of the significance of the particular action. The significance is then added in the dubbing, through the invention of dialogue that fits the script, which may well have been completely rewritten after the film had been finished shooting.
But this time Pasolini doesn’t do this. He has a completely detailed script and has shot all the takes with the actors actually speaking the correct lines, so that the dubbing, now, strictly follows the sample recorded on the wild track. The actors and actresses watch the short excerpt represented by the single loop, then rehearse once or twice, and then simply repeat the lines they had originally spoken, trying, as much as possible, to find the same intonations. It is the simplest method of dubbing, and it works in almost all cases. Only occa­sionally Pasolini insists that a change in inflection or stress be made, and only in rare moments does he actually decide to change a line.
It is amazing to watch Elsa de Giorgio, for example, doing her famous dance scene, during which she tells of the “libertine” who so loved women’s backsides that he wanted to be kissing one while he died. In loving detail and highly stylized voice, Elsa goes through her lines, watching herself on the screen doing the dance, up to the point where it becomes clear that the man she was ministering to wasn’t dying at all, and had only invented the deathbed scene to suit his own particular debauchery. The film is full of items like this, of course, and the astonishing thing is that Pasolini has managed to convey the feeling of normalcy, of ordinariness, of these retold actions to the actors. Nothing in the style of the film points to the fact that what is described is in any way out of the ordinary; what he is trying to achieve, of course, is the feeling that what we consider “abnormal” is just part of basic human behavior—just as the cruelty that is at the base of the de Sade book, and thus at the base of the film, is part of “normal” human behavior.
My students watch a while, not particu­larly turned on. They do not understand the subtleties of the Italian spoken, and they have seen dubbing before. Then, when it is Laura Betti’s turn to dub, she insists that all depart. We take our leave with some relief: watching La Betti perform has never been one of my favorite pastimes. Actresses should be self-centered, I am told, to be good, but everything has limits. Pasolini asks me, discreetly, to excuse Laura, and suggests we have lunch together during the break. My students go back to Rome, and at lunchtime I go back to the studio.
We take his car; it’s that famous silver-colored Alfa Romeo 2000 in which he usually takes off in the evenings after work with one or more of the boys in the cast. He drives fast, erratically; like all Italians he changes character at the wheel, and I am somewhat surprised, suddenly recognizing elements of impatience in him that I had not suspected. We talk about the film I am making about him, and for the first time, during that drive out to the Appia Antica, to the Escargot restaurant where he suggests we eat, the idea of a film becomes fairly concrete. We had been discussing it for months, and had made a contract in writing, but every time we had discussed precise form and orientation we had become bogged down in other matters. But he is keen on my making the film, it is he who brings up the subject, and asks me to outline what I have in mind. It is easy to convey.
It is basically my view of him as a creative personality in crisis that I want the film to represent, but since it must have wide applicability, I want to avoid saving, in the film, that this is Pasolini and that this is his specific story. What I want to create is a general statement, something that many could identify with. Many, that is, among the few who feel the problem of identity in a society that no longer offers ideals. I say to Pasolini, very simply, that his life seems to me a symbol of the culture in which he and we live, the loss of quality in the everyday, the fight by an individual to find a method to derive from his society a feeling of utility. And I do not hesitate to add that, according to me and my comprehension of his personal story and the country in which he functions, this is a doomed quest. I want to show in the film, I tell him, how an individual can go on trying to be useful to people who reject not only him but his ideas, and how it seems to me that all the attempts this individual makes in order to reach the people—poetry, books, films, politics, travel, criticism, theater, etc.—are attempts eventually doomed to fail.
It is something I had wanted to say to him for a long time; now that I’ve said it, I watch him carefully. Too many times he has said to me and in print that he is a pessimist who continues to act as if he were an optimist, that he is a disillusioned re­volutionary who continues to act as if he believed in revolution. And now here it is a warm, Roman noon, we are driving through dusty peripheral streets, and he is silent, attached to the steering wheel of the car, thinking about what I have said. Was it an accusation? Or the stipulation of sanctity? It is, I know, a crucial moment in our relationship. I watch, then add another sentence, saying that to me realism is the acceptance of the pessimistic view, that nothing can be gained by the euphoria of illusions. I see things falling into place, he looks over at me, it seems to me that last sentence has added to the criticism inherent in the previous statement the aura of concern. Instead of saying “your life is useless,” I now seem to have said that the uselessness of his life is realistic, is a result, not a point of departure. It is hard for me to explain; even now that I think back to that moment I may only be imposing my own interpretation upon it. But it seems to me that I cannot be too remote from his own view of himself: that despite delusions, he has chosen to work on, and that he has realized that this continuing—this energy to go on despite failure—is the quality that I want the film to express. Showing how negative life in the Italian, industrial, social landscape can be, I am simultaneously trying to say that one man hasn’t given up being positive, and that accepting the negative is a way of being positive. After all, isn’t that perhaps what he is trying to say with Salò?
We have a pleasant lunch, just the two of us out back in the vine-bedecked garden of the Escargot served, of course, with the deference usually accorded to Pasolini everywhere. He is worried, he wants to know how those things we had discussed in the car could be turned into images. I have no ready answers, but we agree to start shooting things in his life as they happen: his forthcoming trip to Africa at Christmas with Moravia and Dacia by Landrover; his teaching activities; and to spend time out at Chia to try to catch the feeling of solitude while he is writing. What we have shot so far—the finale of Salò and his shooting it, as well as some long conversations on film— will fit in with this material, in giving the background of the multifarious activities of this “seeker,” the title figure of the film. It is a warm, pleasant afternoon.
Later, driving back to Nis, which is on the way out to Cinecittà along the beginning of the Tuscolana Road, to which in Mamma Roma he had dedicated so much poetry, we discuss individual scenes that it might be interesting to record. He suggests inducting his friends, scenes that show his life outside of the professional activities, but the “friends” he mentions turn out to be the same ones again: Moravia, Davoli, Citti, the Betti woman. Suddenly I feel a great pang of sadness: I have understood that this man doesn’t really have any friends. A wave of commotion comes over me. I almost want to take him by the hand, stroke his graying hair. What I have in front of me is not just a famous man, it is a lonely child seeking acceptance. The people he is surrounded by, and with whom he feels some measure of warmth, are the same hangers-on that dote on him, the same ones to whom he is both friend and useful. And it is clear, this need, to anybody who can look and see.
We go through life thinking that the famous are rich in human contacts, forgetting that everything history and literature have taught us points to the opposite. And I realize that if I shall manage to capture this compassion I feel for him at this moment, if I can convey this purely human need in this being who has risen so far from so little, then my film will have done more than symbolize the futility of intellectual and political pursuit in modern society, it will also have shown the disastrous effects in terms of human loneliness, the price an individual is prepared to pay for love.

July 2nd, 1975
Dante Ferretti, the architect of Saló, has built some rooms for Pasolini into the ruins of an old medieval castle on a hilltop near Viterbo, at Chia. In the steep, Etruscan valley below, ten years earlier, Pasolini had shot the scene of The Baptist for his Gospel film. This morning I took my students there. Hobart Taylor is a Lawyer’s son from Washington; Oren Jacoby is the son of Irving Jacoby, the filmmaker. Gus Vansant is from Connecticut, and Donatella Gallo is from Vicenza, Northern Italy, and is there because she is in love with Pasolini. In the meantime she is helping me translate.
Imagine a solitary, hexagonal tower in a wooded landscape, stark and phallic, a broken parapet flaunted against the winds that sweep Etruria. Four thousand years ago these same winds kept an entire culture in caves cut into the soft Tuffo mountainside, paradise of today’s tomb robbers. Feudal stubbornness raised the tower, as we approach, it grows as the land subsides: half its height just served to get it above the level of the surrounding hills.
Pasolini has bought the entire area and has refurbished the walls. There is no ivory to this tower, it’s all cold stone and heavy iron doors against the Clockwork Orange gangs, and yet we find him here entirely alone. He walks out smiling across a moat, and we realize that two concentric walls protect him, and beyond the villa the sharp abyss of the gorge. Neither Big Sur nor the Tibetan heights ever expressed so dearly the isolation of a man from those he cares and works for.
Chianti Soave, some anisette biscuits, a long morning stretching into alert, sunny hunger at midday. No telephone, no servants, just rustling of olive branches and bird cries, jasmine tea to tide us over until a late lunch nearby. But we don’t take it until four in the afternoon; nobody wants to break up the conversation. Although we start, quite naturally, with a discussion of the film Pasolini has just finished shooting, it rapidly becomes dear that these kids are interested in more, that they want to understand the person behind the work. It is exactly what I had hoped for in setting up this meeting.
I have read all the things he has said about de Sade and have written up a few interviews with him myself. But it takes these three twenty-year-old Americans to make me understand things about this man that had eluded me to date. I had seen him with students—he allows them on the set, goes and talks to them in schools, invites them to his summer house on the beach, and once, in Mantua, a few busloads of schoolchildren had practically brought production to a standstill for a morning—but I had never watched him in juxtaposition to another culture. Suddenly he was obliged to dig into his sack of intellectual provisions deeper than usual, suddenly I felt that he had as much to learn from them as they had to receive from him. These thinking American kids were not unpolitical, but unlike their Italian peers they didn’t repeat phrases read in Unità, and they didn’t limit their search to fighting the established powers. “Why are you not opposing your government more forcefully?” Pasolini asked them. “Don’t you know that the fascist bombs in Italy are placed by the CIA?” To which Oren, after some thinking, calmly replied that government and the established powers didn’t mean as much to American youth because they felt that the people had more control over them and that in any case they were not allowing their lives to he influenced by peer-group norms as much as it seemed to them Europeans did.
It has become terribly easy in Italy to be political; the phrases are on the walls. Pasolini had taken many a courageous stand against the political hermeticism and conformism of his brethren on the left, but the security of the communist ambience which envelops much of Italian intellectual life had failed to wash off him completely. “It is true,” he says, “I no longer believe in revolution, but I continue to act as if I did. The basic realizations and conclusions of Marx are unavoidable in today’s world. The differences between the camps may be oversimplified, but the direction is pegged. Those who wield power wield it in a similar way everywhere you look. I must show this.”
Amazingly, he seems unfamiliar with Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman when Hobart brings these up in an attempt to juxtapose an American type of opposition to what Pasolini termed industrial decline. Rather, he seems obsessed with power and its misuse, power and its various forms of imposition in fascism, consumerism, ecology, human relationships, and modern ways of sociological convention. Even Catholicism is a form of power structure to him, inasmuch as it is a morality imposed by an elite and not conquered by the mass out of its own heredity. “And modern Marxism,” he admits, “is much the same. Again it is a system thought up by an elite and imposed from above. But I still believe that it allows the individual to think that he shares the responsibility for the texture of his existence.”
I had felt a conflict in him all along, as during the production we had chatted from time to time; and the conflict wasn’t, as I had thought for many years, that of a Catholic attempting through rationality to strip himself of bonds, but that of a Marxist who was seeking a new, larger faith than could be found through the employment of rationality. That exchange between Blangis and Curval which didn’t stem from de Sade but from Pasolini’s reading of Blanchot, Lautreamont, Nietzsche, and perhaps Klossowski, suddenly made sense to me. God being unavoidable, Pasolini had redressed him. The Marquis de Sade couldn’t have found a better interpreter. Pasolini was making a film against fascism, maybe, but he was also making a film that showed how deeply anchored in our souls cruelty and destructiveness really are. A film that was both ethological and Marxist, surely an operation of major tactical rafinesse.
The things I had seen him shoot sud­denly made a new sense to me.

May 17th, 1975
Relief hangs in the air like a heavy fog. Everybody is aware of the fact that the film is basically finished; yesterday was the last shooting day, and today, Saturday, Paso­lini has made a date with some of the boys from the crew to play a game of soccer against the Panorama magazine eleven, out in front of the “P.E.A.” offices at EUR. Umberto has organized it all; in the morning, at Pier Paolo’s house, where we discuss the possibility of my students coming out to see him at Chia, the phone rings, and Umberto confirms that the game is coming off, at four this afternoon. We take some cameras and drive out there. The sun is out, the summer is coming on, the film has been shot, there is jubilation everywhere, but as soon as I see Pasolini I realize that he is not happy. He greets us again, we place ourselves at the sidelines, along with Nico Naldini, his cousin and publicity man, and a few of the crew people who are not playing. Pier Paolo is in soccer shorts, he is number 11, it is the big figure painted onto his sweatshirt on the back. What’s the matter with him?
There are these small soccer fields everywhere in the Roman periphery. They are used for playing the favorite Italian game in the daytime, and in the evening the boys meet there, with their small motorcycles and their girls, for other things.* They are surrounded, usually, by gas stations, juice bars, and those typical Roman public telephones that hang on a pole right out in the open, mostly nonfunc­tioning because somebody has stolen the receiver. There is a fence at this one, it is a fancy one, there is even a tennis ground next door, and the Saturday afternoon crowd is out there, in white shorts, the hefty girls trying to work off some pasta, the boys watching them do it. Flowers grow along the edge; lying down in the grass Pier Paolo and his players at the other end of the field seem like small puppets seen by a poetic filmmaker through the romantic, impressionistic foreground. It is not a very stormy game, but it goes on and on, the Pasolini crew isn’t exactly winning, but I see that Pier Paolo loves the thick of it, pushes himself forward, not always without a bit of wasted energy, and that he is quite a good player. But I still cannot get rid of the notion that he is not happy.
As the game proceeds and they change sides, he plays closer to me, and I get a few good shots of him in the process of kicking, and once I get him as he falls down, having missed the ball. Against the background of the modern skyline, the “B.P.” (British Pet­rol) signs, the famous watertower of EUR immortalized in Antonioni’s Eclipse, and the parked motorolas of the curious, this lithe fifty-three-year-old intellectual looks for all the world like one of the boys. I remember another soccer game, that he played a few months previously in Parma, when his crew was shooting in Mantua and Bertolucci’s crew were in the neighborhood of Parma, and the two film crews played each other. Pasolini had lost that game, but he knew why, and didn’t care. Bertolucci had won it, and he, too, knew why, but did care. And now, today, two months later, here was Pasolini playing another soccer game, and losing it again, as it happens, and this time he didn’t seem happy. But it was more a sadness, something he had brought with him that day, nothing to do with the game. It was the sadness of having finished the film.
I knew that the major work was still ahead of him, and that he still had not seen his work except for some rushes. It was a new departure for him, this pessimistic work, and he knew as well as anyone that it was a dangerous film, a film that would lend itself to misunderstandings and attacks. But I don’t think that’s what made him sad that afternoon. And it wasn’t the usual sadness that overcomes almost all directors and crew members when a film, a great mutual sharing experience like no other, is finished. And it wasn’t the worry about the work to follow. I think that Paso­lini knew what he had made, and that he knew he had said what he had wanted to say as well as he could say it, and that what made him sad was the fact that he had to say it.
I had seen all the torture that went into this film, had seen him again and again sitting alone and contemplating a shot, while all around him hushingly waited. I had seen the modest smiles during interviews, and his attempt during a press conference on the set—the only one that had been called, the one that Nico had said couldn’t be avoided—to play down the explosive aspects of his material. But it was obvious that a creator can only control his side of a work, only make it the way he knows how to make it, and that no artist can control or hope to influence what the public will do with or to his work.
Pasolini is a linguist, a communicator, a salesman of ideas, and he had devoted his life to finding a language that would reach the hearts of the people to whom he hoped to give some of his insights. He had written in dialect, had used every conceivable medium, all in order to reach the men and women in the terms they understood best. But he knew that with Salò there was more than a language problem; there was a problem of habit, and of the values that our society attaches to certain ones of its symbols, especially when these express matters of sexual or sadistic nature. He knew, undoubtedly, that he had to say what he felt needed saying, but that there was no optimal language for saying it. He had tried to play down all drama, all explanations, all rationale, but he had spoken to them in his language, with his symbols. He had said to me, in one of our many conversations, that he neither expected to be nor wanted to be “understood,” but I knew that deep down he hoped he would be.
And now, this sunny and apparently careless afternoon, while trying to kick a goal on the soccer field, it was constantly with him, this thought, this fear: will the meaning of the work be clear, and will the language be heard? I cannot be sure, of course, that this is what went through his head, but as the game was over and he was walking back from the shower, he looked over at us briefly as we were about to drive away, and said, “This one, we’ve lost it.” Perhaps the bigger game, the film, he was hoping not to lose.

May 16th, 1975
Today is the last shooting day at Cinecittà, where Pasolini has come for the filming of the end sequence of the film—the scene in which he kills all the boys and girls who hadn’t been tortured to death in the scenes that were shot in the area of the historical republic of Salò (the northern Italian puppet state Mussolini created after his liberation by German paratroopers and before the partisans executed him), in which Pasolini had placed the original de Sade story.
This had been his culminating moment of creation, he had told me, when he had thought of transferring the story from a vague seventeenth-century Swiss locale to this short-lived anarchy of power which de Sade had only been able to imagine and was finally manifest. Here the domination of the German-supported Quislings had been absolute, men and women were reduced to being objects, and Marx’s “mercification of the body” found a pristine example. Pasolini knows, because as a student at Bologna University he had been evacuated into this area in 1943, his brother was shot by the Germans for partisan activities, and Pasolini’s own first poems were written here, in his mother’s birth town of Casarsa.
There is only a single set: an enormous courtyard built in one of the largest studios at Cinecittà by Dante, representing the view from the villa in which all the previous orgies had been set. Each one of the four Sadean protagonists had had his turn at being inventor, accomplice, executor, and voyeur of the tortures, and sitting on a special chair each had watched, through binoculars, from a special window, what the other three were concocting in this courtyard; but the courtyard itself had never yet been seen. It was to be the culmination not only of the film, then, but also of the ideology reinvented after de Sade: the boys and girls were to be violated, tortured, and killed, in that order, to underline the idea of mercification.
Pasolini had told me that the pleasure obtained by a single human being stemming from the total subjugation of another represented the precise relationship between boss and worker in capitalism. But because in sex the gestures are repetitive, and in sodomy they are, furthermore, sterile, only in killing was there a finality of an action initiated and carried through to a logical conclusion. In fact, one of the “inventions” that he has added to de Sade is the fake executions with dud bullets, thereby allowing the more normal repetitiveness to be extended to the act of execution; a human victim, this way, can be put through the torture of death-fear more than once.
The most striking aspect of watching these scenes actually being shot is the sheer lack of extravagance and emotion with which they are set up, rehearsed, and shot. I do not seem to be watching a girl’s stomach cut open with broken glass, or another girl’s scalp lovingly removed in close-up, but the well-oiled activation of an industrial process. This is in fact Paso­lini’s aim; he does not want these scenes, which he says he abhors, to stand out in any dramatic way, but rather appear to be logical conclusions to a philosophy which is not particular to the monsters he portrays. But although I know that it is a plastic skin with a bag of red paint inside that is being cut, and although I have watched for two hours the make-up men place a false scalp over a girl’s real hair, the effect of seeing the scenes shot is incredible. There is no way of telling how all this will look on film. The photographs Deborah Beer and I take that day look horrible enough. But Pasolini is totally calm, almost removed, angry only at the time it takes to set up each trick shot. And the crew rather take it all as a joke; the enormous false penises with which he has equipped all the executors arouse an unending stream of double entendre.
Peter Dragadze, a reporter for the Rome Daily American, quietly asks Deborah if they are real. She transmits the compliment to a beaming Sergio Chiusi, head of Special Effects, who, with make-up man Alfredo Tiberi, had already produced, in the course of the last few weeks, false breasts for burning, false testicles for burning as well, false nipples for shearing off with old-fashioned razors, false tongues for cutting out, a variety of false bottoms for sticking long pins into, necks for hanging, the scalps and stomachs we have seen disfigured today, and boxes of these mammoth rubber penises. In the afternoon, as I follow Pasolini into a hut on the set where he has taken the one-year-old son of visiting Ninetto Davoli, duly named Pier Paolo, I run across a deposit of these objects. Efisio, one of the amateur recruits who plays the part of a sodomizer, explains to me that the apparatus is constructed in such a manner as to contain, in the space of one rubber testicle, their real biological machinery.
The one thing that even Chiusi has had trouble in supplying, in the quantities needed, has been the Swiss chocolate that was mixed with biscuit crumblings, marmalade, and olive oil for the section of the film that dealt with excrements. I remember a morning in an old Napoleonic villa near Mantua (birthplace, among other things, of the International Red Cross, if plaques can be trusted), when during the morning sandwich break I had come upon Chiusi in the middle of the formal gardens, squeezing this mixture through plastic tubing in order to dress it in its habitual form, and had tried a bit of it with my ham roll. Not a moment easily to be forgotten.
But, unfortunately, this is not a funny film. As on all Italian sets, the people who work with Pasolini are all old hands at the trade, and have seen a thing or two. But even these hardy souls shake their head doubtfully and prophesy that the film may never pass censorship in Italy. And yet, so strong is the esteem and respect they have for Pasolini that there is no reflection of a personal kind, no sly smiles flying about, no allusions beyond the most obviously superficial benevolence.
We finish late. The last shot is outdoors and set against the sinking sun and Rome’s ugly peripheral skyline. Inside, he had shot the shadow of a boy’s penis on a drying, laundered sheet; now he needed the reverse angle. At last a bit of joy breaks through the glum faces of the crew, as against the fading light Guido produces his durex object to the camera. When it is all over, we walk back to the studio as if from a country picnic. Orange dusk envelops the flaking Mussolini buildings. It’s over. I can feel the relief in Pasolini, just watching him walk away.

April 14th, 1975
It is the second time that I have come to watch Pasolini shooting a scene from his adaptation of de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, and again I find him shooting in a deserted Emilian villa. He is using a number of them, each one offering either an exterior or an interior that fits the image of the place he has imagined as the center of the orgies planned and executed by the basic four de Sade characters, in what seems to be a fairly accurate transcription of the book. Of course, the de Sade opus is enormous—the longest book the Marquis wrote—and since he managed to write it in only thirty-seven days, being allowed only the dusk hours in the Bastille prison to do it, the book is necessarily sketchy, with the second half being more or less just a numbered list of tortures.
Having taken the basic de Sade story which extends over 120 days, Pasolini has chosen a few basic ideas from the book and in what he calls a Danteesque way has divided his films in segments, “like The In­ferno: the cycle of manias, the cycle of excrements, the cycle of blood, and so forth. Originally he had wanted to pick three out of the 120 days and describe these in detail, but in the making of the film, he tells me, this idea more or less fell by the wayside and there is now no clear distinction between days and nights, the lighting, as well, is always even, and adds to the feeling of ritual that he wants to give to the film. Ritual, he feels, the idea of order, is always a means by which authority, power, suppression, and fascism manifest themselves; and I see, in this morning’s scene, which is the choosing of victims, his main characters walking around with notebooks into which—as I seem to remember from school—they make notations and from which they read laws which they themselves have concocted.
Since the film is being made without apparent emotions—this is one of Pasolini’s main tenets—I find it hard to understand the willingness with which these boys, even as film characters, let down their pants for the camera’s inspection, and the apparent lack of a sense of fear and doom which I would have imagined to permeate the set.
Outside, peasants have grouped; at first I see only their faces and think they are the curious mothers and fathers; then I recognize the black shirts under the ragged, double-breasted jackets. They are the actors who play the fascists of their day, for once not the uniformed, symbolic marchers, but the grass-roots peasants, the ones who had supported Mussolini in 1922 when they still believed, perhaps, that a man who starts out as a socialist must needs remain one.
Actually, there are few indications of the period; the film makes no direct reference except in decor and costumes to the period which it depicts, and that, as Pasolini tells it, is because the story is timeless. “Essentially I am describing a common phenomenon,” he says, “and placing it in the Salò atmosphere was simply an expedient for myself, because it is a time and a place that I have lived and which at the same time is not too remote in the past for people to consider it pure allegory, as the case would be if I stayed with de Sade in his eighteenth-century imagination. The common phenomenon is the instinct of submission, which in man is as strong, undoubtedly, as that of domination. Throughout history there have been stratifications of a social nature based on this dialectic. What we call the class struggle today is only one form of it; it was neither de Sade nor Marx, and certainly not myself, who have invented the tensions between the oppressor and oppressed; these are as old as agriculture and perhaps as old as hunting. Most likely all our social organization, our pecking order as you might say, is based on it. In a world which is getting steadily more over-populated, birth-giving can no longer be considered a virtue, and thus many of the basic concepts we have concerning the sanctity of life, for example, must be put into question.
“What I am hoping to help propagate with films like this one is not that the illusion of equality is wrong, but that we must approach things more realistically, with more sense of perspective on ourselves and our motivations. Fascism is just a useful metaphor, and since it is a very real danger in today’s Italy, I want to fight against it in the first rank, but I also want us to realize that there are basic human instincts that must be recognized. We have always thought of God as the ultimate Good, but de Sade has shown the relativity of this idea; I am not inventing it. But where de Sade says God, I say Power; he was against the power over man’s beliefs, I am against the power over man’s body. In fact, in history it has always been man’s body that has been exploited by the powers, be they religious or feudal, and today we have come full circle, because what is being exploited is man’s mind and his body.
“In consumer society, where we are being given a false sense of freedom because we are suddenly allowed to do things that were always taboo, we are much more subject to suppression, because, as one of the characters says in my film, in a society where nothing is permitted, everything can be done, but in a society where something is permitted, only that something can be done. When Curval says that we are all God on earth, what he is really expressing is the false liberation of consumer permissiveness—the idea that we must each become fighters for a higher standard of living, we must all fight for “equality” in what we buy, we must all become, as in the business world, more cruel in order to “succeed.” Isn’t that what Hit­ler wanted? Today the only difference is that all of us, each one, wants to become a little Hitler, a little God on earth. De Sade was a romantic: he thought what he was describing was special. Today we know that it isn’t. What these men do slumbers in the soul of each one of us.”
There is no doubt that the ideas he wants to express are more important to him than the form in which he expresses them, and that even when he is behind a camera (which he handles himself, by the way) he is still basically “writing” his film. A content-oriented director par excellence, sometimes misled by oneiric elements and tempting visuals, he had allowed himself in the past to “collect” films from among the images that assault him in his travels and his imagination.
When I went with him to Persia to see the shooting of Arabian Nights, it was as if he had exploded upon a culture and was voraciously digesting, imbibing, taking, full of the sheer gourmandise of the event; he seemed to be in a hurry, to be shooting impatiently, to be accumulating more and more artifacts, tidbits of language and culture, faces, always faces, walls, mud constructions, palm trees, sounds of desert winds, architecture and landscapes, geographical and human. Now, in his home country, in a social landscape of great familiarity, it’s all the opposite: carefully chosen faces, carefully written script, rehearsed lines, repetition of shots even with amateur actors, accurate camera progressions and angulation, impatience with improvisation, utilization of actors (even if not many), careful period research and great expenditure on recreating the typically Italian “Imperial” Bauhaus style, furniture rebuilt and curtains rewoven at great expense (to end up at his own home after the film), paintings by Feininger and Duchamp copied, and above all a rigorous self-discipline in regard to creating a planned, ideological structure of a work, and not a “magmatic” (favorite word of Italian directors, and meaning lava-like) one. “De Sade,” he says, “was a structuralist, not a writer who cared for his page or his style. I care for style but I am creating a structure. For me this is new and important; I tried it in Teorema and Pigpen, and in The Hawks and the Sparrows; but here I am proceeding more carefully. To make this film with emotions and stylistic flair would make it only banal.”

April 1st, 1975
I have come on a pleasant day—apparently it had rained for days and tem­pers had faltered, but today the sun early sweeps away the Po Valley fogs—and the shooting is in Cavriana, in a place called the Villa Mirra, one of those “Napoleon-slept-here” places from the Umbertine days, later used as headquarters, after World War I, for a variety of well-meaning international causes. A few weeks ago. I am told, the whole fantastic place, its formal gardens and towers, including the period furniture and the Napoleonic bed, were requisitioned by the bank to whom the owner was in debt, and quickly the furniture disappeared, the gardeners were “liberated,” and had it not been for the fees paid by the film crew and the refurbishing they undertook, the place might have been turned into a sanatorium or a hotel within a brief period. It is still magnificent, however, despite its decline, its overgrown formal gardens, its rose bushes choked by wisteria, and the cemetery smell of its hedges.
They are shooting one of the scenes of the excrement cycle, and first I watch the rude awakening, in the morning, of a group of girls, as their night pots are being controlled. Since the fruits of their digestive systems are strictly reserved for the delectation of their tormentors, the girls who in the nights had liberated themselves of those blessings are to be punished. The scene is a parade of nude teen-age girls presenting, sheepishly, their pots for the nasal and visual control of Valetti, one of the four tormentors. One, the prettiest one of course, had had access to the receptacle that night, and is duly chosen for punishment.
It is hard, of course, to take all this seriously: this is one’s first glimpse of a film which has a considerable ideological premise. I find that the professionalism of both actors and technicians is immense. There is no telling, from watching the shooting, that the subject matter is in any way odoriferous. I realize very quickly that Pasolini enjoys total confidence from those who work with him, and that, although he never divulges the meaning of individual sequences to any one involved with the production (least of all the actors and technicians), they are all convinced of being involved in an enterprise of total respectability. Great commotion is caused by a photographer who has sneaked in and snapped a few unauthorized shots before being discovered and removed. A few days later the shot of the naked girl with the night pot appears in Italy’s news magazine Panorama, with some snide comments. Evidently only he who knows nothing of the film will be snide about it. Pasolini smiles. He feels publicity can only be controlled up to a certain point, any way.
Today I get a chance to talk to Tonino delli Colli, my old friend, who is the lighting cameraman on this film. Since I consider La ricotta (an episode from Ro.Go.Pa.G.) to be Pasolini’s best film and since Tonino shot that, I had always wanted to see the two of them at work together. We talk about the feeling that Pasolini had about this film, wanting to make it “crystalline” and almost dry in its formal construction. Tonino tells me that in the beginning Pasolini had actually wanted to shoot it in black-and-white, but agreed to the producer’s demand for color with the reservation that he might still decide to print the color negative in a special process which would create a black-and-white effect on color stock, in order to increase its feeling of astringency.
Tonino is a small, wiry man, who has been a cameraman for almost forty years, and has shot some of the most important films in the history of Italian cinema. He says that Pasolini never uses a normal lens—it’s either long-focal or wide-angle—and often goes to a zoom in order to change focal length, not for moving in and out of a face. Often Pasolini does a scene and without stopping repeats it, keeping the camera running and giving verbal instructions while he is holding it. He keeps it almost always at shoulder level, likes back-lighting, and likes to get a shot over with as fast as possible. He sometimes instructs an actor, according to Tonino, not to be too fancy or get too close to another, for fear he will have to do another shot as a reverse angle, feeling this to be an unnecessary burden. At the end, Tonino explains the business of shooting everything from the shoulder, since both he and Pasolini are not particularly tall, what I had thought was their shoulder height, was actually the level of their eyes.
In the noon recess, we go out together to a nearby restaurant, just Deborah and Pasolini and myself and Claudio, who also has a part in the film. I manage to get the restaurant’s music turned off, a not minor feat in a country where people can’t stand to be alone, and doubtlessly attributable to Pasolini’s reputation, but it does get us to talk about music, the only thing in the film I had no information about. “There will be no accompaniment,” he says. “All the music will be dramatically motivated, if I use it at all. At the moment I am planning to use some Orff, his adaptation of Carmina Burana. Typical fascist music.”
As this somewhat surprising statement rings in my ears, we return to the set, where in fact German singing soon fills the halls in playback. Fix a medieval oratorium dedicated to corporeal pleasures, using Orff’s adaptation as fascist music seems strange to me, but it does fit in with the Feiningers and the Kokoschkas on the walls. “You see,” he says, when my puzzlement abates, “these are cultured people. These four men are not proletarians. They are, as they were in de Sade, intellectuals who read books, and in my story they do in fact quote from recent French philosophers. They are in a villa which they have perhaps confiscated from some rich Jew who owned all these paintings, and they are cultured in the same pseudo-cultured way as the German and Italian party hierarchy were, with pseudo-scientific ideas and pseudo-racist rationalizations. It was what Hitler and Mussolini called a ‘decadent’ world, and just because of this it so well expresses this era of fascism, when all real values had disappeared under a heavy covering of power-seeking and exploitation. It was the last time that the human power-drive expressed itself in such direct, linear, almost symbolic terms. Today all has become covered with sophistication, education. The failure of the systems that we have invented has blinded us to the basic, underlying causes for those failure’s, because we tend to lose track of the problems in our need for rapid solutions, and in the illusions we hasten to believe.”
That weekend, I was told, after I left, Pasolini and his crew went to play a game of soccer against the crew of Bertolucci’s film 1900, who were shooting nearby in Parma. I wasn’t there, but I am told that Bertolucci didn’t play himself, and that some professional players helped his crew win. Pasolini, on the other hand, played himself and they lost. There is a magnificent shot that I have seen, a photo snapped after the game, of a sheepish handshake between the two men, the one all success and glory, the other all simplicity and a sort of shoulder-shrugging, I’ve-done-what-I-could face. I don’t know what Pasolini’s film will be like, but I know that if will be that kind of film, a work created with the full use of a single mind’s resources, saying ‘I’ve done what I could.” There are not many films I’d be ready to say that about.

Note

* It was just this kind of football field where Pasolini was murdered on the night between Nov. 1st and Nov. 2nd, 1975—CB.

Film Comment, Vol. 12, No. 2 (March-April 1976), pp. 38-47

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