Pier Paolo Pasolini: Bodies and Places, Dis-articulation and Distance

“… no matter what conjecture there is about his death on the beach of Ostia under the wheels of his own car, genital’s hammer-smashed and reeking of Vatican gasoline, throat laced with limp skin from broken bone between sand and sea, his light lingers on…”

The Films of Pier Paolo Pasolini are without doubt established within cinematic history as a catalogue of revolt, social and political criticism, but also of a blinding and searing metaphorical spectacle for a mind trapped between body and spirit with all the desires that occur in between, whether political, erotic, or horrific bear weight within the larger context of the medium. The idea of the excessive or transgressive spiritual exists in films such as “Salo”, “The Gospel According to St. Mathew”, and also “Accattone”. The scandalous nature of these films and the author’s communist (later exiled from said group) anti-globalist leanings in an age of rapid change and its distortion of traditional culture combined to create one of the most vociferous and anxious bodies of work in Italian or International cinematic culture and its histories. To be associated with Pasolini’s thought is to incriminate oneself in an apotheosis, and simultaneously wade in an exultation of a contrary  but humanist energy uneasily duplicated. It is to sip milk through the hawk’s hollow bones as spirituality and euphoria manifest themselves in many indecent ways. And from the sky falling, the bird of prey seeks benediction through the cracking of its hollow bones-the adornment of which are canonized on the altar of cannibals and saints alike.

In the manner of a traditional cineaste, for which I am not, it is of consequence to speak about sequence, the effects of narrative, and setting. Of the few books I have read on cinema, Truffaut/Hitchcock comes to mind as being the closest comparison study that I can make to “Pasolini’s Bodies and Places” published by Edition Patrick Frey. And I draw those comparisons very much from an askance and limited view. The compression of Pasolini’s “Bodies and Places” by Giuseppe Perrella is similar in the exacting weight of its psychological and metonymic view of Pasolini’s films ordered not by the over-arching grasp of technicalities, but rather through the emotional reservoir that he taps into considering the movements of actors and locations in the symbiotic, spiritual, and political order of the times. The Hitchcock/Truffaut book covers similar psychological territory in the sense that it is not a book about Hitchcock’s films, but about the ego-logical makeup of the author himself, cleverly and at times excruciatingly drawn out by Francois Truffaut. Perrella endeavors to make a similar non-interview study, but in doing so insinuates his own reading of the complex personality that Pasolini presented by grouping figures, characters and location in historical relevance to Pasolini who was not involved in the book itself and that is the key difference between the two. That and the Hitchcock/Truffaut book is by comparison almost bereft of imagery, which Bodies and Places uses in abundance as a renewal of perhaps Charles Darwin’s ‘Catalogue of Human Expression” or more precisely, in the directorial mode “La Mecanisme de la Physionome Humaine” by Doctor Duchenne de Boulogne in which faces, bodies, emotion and catatonic hysteria become conditional to society at large and not just the chateau of Salo, nor the asylum. Perhaps these associations are loose, but in my defense, I would suggest and point out that any environment psychological or terrestrial is a continuation of a stage, only the actors change or impede its status as such.

“…“being on the street”, “the destined house”, “the river” etc. are categories juxtaposed by the elemental and almost excremental (positive abjection a revelation) in 2nd wave neorealismo. Here views of the body “unburied corpse”, “looking into the camera”, “cuckold horns and sneers”witness the elemental tropes of human condition and the apparatus of definition. This is where the spiritual and mythological reign of Pasolini becomes evident.”

Pasolini’s Bodies and Places is not perhaps as subversive as it sounds. The categorical examination of fragments from his films are cut, made static and examined and calibrated along with hundreds of other stills that Perrella and Michele Mancini ordered to taxonomic specification originally in 1981 when the first two versions were published. The familiar tropes of sex, death and religion of course are intertwined to create subversion, but are not necessarily the focus. Though the catalogue does read like an anthropological case study of humankind in base assertions regarding the above topics, it also secretes an illusory pre-text for such matters by developing corollary interests within the fragmentary systems of examinations-“being on the street”, “the destined house”, “the river” etc. are categories juxtaposed by the elemental and almost excremental (positive abjection a revelation) in 2nd wave neorealismo. Here views of the body “unburied corpse”, “looking into the camera”, “cuckold horns and sneers”witness the elemental tropes of human condition and the apparatus of definition. This is where the spiritual and mythological reign of Pasolini becomes evident. It is not about sideways glancing, but rather about sideways and horned grimaces, the folds of disheveled rape fabric, and the behavioral situations and patterns that gifted his eye for political resistance writ large and also in minutiae. To focus on the abject through the base passage of excremental is to situate the work in its worldly realities with an err towards the extreme side, which perhaps tells you more about the world under the oppressive weight of globalization and Italian post-fascism than has been previously suggested than it does about Pasolini himself. That Catholicism’s own lament for the body of Christ in all its forms from walking above the world (on water) and his revival from time and alleged putrefaction (3 suspended days, Resur(e)rection) inspires but one very base political reading of the work no matter what conjecture there is about his death on the beach of Ostia under the wheels of his own car, genital’s hammer smashed and reeking of Vatican gasoline, throat laced with limp skin from broken bone between sand and sea, his light lingers on.

The book itself is a fantastic reading of culture at large through cinematic modality. The book’s political discussions about Pasolini and culture in general were part of the reason I added it to my list of inspiring tomes of 2017 for photobookstoreuk. I was surprised to not see it on more lists, but that is perhaps a photographic problem. Its not a photography or a cinema book per se, but rather an intense and scrutinizing look at a spiritual leader depending on your view, of Pasolini’s enduring permanence and his prescient discussion of global politics that are bearing a sick fruition in our current times facilitated by the bulwark of neo-liberalism’s oppressive side affects. It is current and it is important. You do not need to be a film buff to appreciate the depth of study found in the book. The purpose of the book exceeds its own categorization. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Bodies and Places

Edited by Giuseppe Perrella & Michele Mancini

Edition Patrick Frey

(All Rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @  Pier Paolo Pasolini.)

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