Italian Embassy Cultural Centre’s Pasolini Retrospective 2022

A Potpourri of Vestiges Editorial

By Murtaza Ali Khan

(LtoR) H.E. Vincenzo de Luca, Ambassador of Italy to India Embassy of Italy in India, Dr. Andrea Baldi, Director, Istituto Italiano di Cultura New Delhi, Sunit Tandon, Director, India Habitat Centre, Murtaza Ali Khan, Indian Film Critic

Embassy Cultural Centre hosted a week-long Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective in
collaboration with the India Habitat Centre from November 2-9, 2022. As part of
the retrospective, seven of Pasolini’s best-known films (6 feature films and 1
short film) were screened. The retrospective was inaugurated by the Ambassador
of Italy to India Vincenzo de Luca and Sunit Tandon, Director, India Habitat Centre.
Along with introducing each of the 7 films ahead of their respective screenings
at the India Habitat Centre, I also
introduced Pasolini to the audiences while touching upon the importance of his cinema
in the 21st century. Dr. Andrea Baldi, Director, Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, delivered his closing remarks on the last day of the retrospective.

For the uninitiated, 2022
marks the centenary year of the great cultural
Italian personality Pier Paolo Pasolini. A poet, writer, director,
screenwriter, playwright and columnist, Pasolini is considered one of the
greatest Italian artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century. Endowed
with an exceptional cultural versatility, he was outstanding in many areas.
However, he contributed majorly as a filmmaker, painter, novelist, linguist,
translator and essayist.

Keen observer of the
society’s transformation post World War – II until the mid-seventies, he was
very critical towards the bourgeois habits and the rising Italian consumer
society. He started his film career as a screenwriter and famously collaborated
on master Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s film Nights of Cabiria.

Pasolini’s first film as
director was Accattone in 1961, which is set in Rome’s marginal quarters, the
underbelly inhabited by pimps, prostitutes and thieves that’s starkly
contrasted with Italy’s postwar economic reforms. Despite his neorealistic origins,
Pasolini tried to distance himself from neorealism but the kind cinema he made
during his early years is often considered to be a kind of second neorealism.

Subsequently, he went on to make
Il vangelo secondo Matteo [English Title: The Gospel According to St. Matthew
(1964)], which has been described by the Vatican City newspaper L’Osservatore
Romano as the best film on Christ ever made. The film is a cinematic rendition
of the story of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. What serves as a
testament to the film’s authenticity is the fact that dialogue is taken
directly from the Gospel of Matthew.

In his 1966 film Uccellacci
e uccellini [English Title: The Hawks and the Sparrows], a mystic fable featuring
the popular Italian comic-actor Totò accompanied on a journey by his son and a
talking crow that spouts social and political philosophy. The film was a unique
opportunity for Totò to demonstrate that he was a great dramatic actor as well.
Deservedly so, Totò earned a “Special Mention” at the 1966 Cannes Film
Festival. But, sadly, this ended up as the last film to star Totò before his
untimely death of a heart attack in 1967.

Pasolini’s influence as a
filmmaker, artist, and intellectual transcends the world of cinema and arts. A
great example of this is how his 1971 short film The Walls of Sana’a helped
convince UNESCO to safeguard the capital of Yemen, the city of Sana’a’s built
and natural heritage from an onslaught of land speculation. One of the oldest
continually inhabited cities in the world, Sana’a holds an important part of
history within its walls filled with medieval architecture and culture. The
appeal that Pasolini made through his film was accepted in 1986 and the
artistic old town of Sana’a was declared a UNESCO world heritage.

In the latter years of his
filmmaking career, Pasolini continued to push creative boundaries,
experimenting with both form as well as content. This resulted in some important
films, particularly the three films which constitute Pasolini’s ‘Trilogy of
Life,’ featuring The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian
Nights (1974), based on a trio of masterpieces of medieval literature—Giovanni
Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and The
Thousand and One Nights (aka The Arabian Nights), respectively. In this
daringly bold trilogy, Pasolini explores sensuality and desire as he discovers
a rather evocative form of cinematic storytelling that would inspire many
filmmakers across the globe and across generations.

Pier Paolo
Pasolini is widely revered and sometimes criticized for limning his cinematic
canvas with such a wide array of colors that most filmmakers can only hope to
achieve in their most vivid dreams. An undisputed poet of the cinema-verse, his
films undeniably are culturally, socially, historically, and aesthetically

His films
won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Berlin
International Film Festival, Italian National Syndicate for Film Journalists,
and New York Film Critics Circle, among others. The Gospel According to St.
Matthew was nominated for the United Nations Award of the British Academy of
Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in 1968. Also, Nights of Cabiria, the film on
which Pasolini collaborated with Fellini as a writer, won the Oscar for Best
Foreign Language Film in 1958.

Nearly 50
years after his death, Pasolini’s importance as a filmmaker continues to grow just
like his critique of consumerism becomes more and more relevant. Also, his
critical examination of taboo subjects which today are finding support from
major forums in the global arena have only reaffirmed his pre-eminent stature
as an intellectual and an artist.

retrospective was followed by a ballet performance titled ‘La Terra vista dalla
Luna’ as a tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini on November 10, 2022 at the India
Habitat Centre.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated 

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