New York’s Museum of Modern Art is celebrating the pioneering work of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini with an extensive retrospective, with many films being shown in newly restored versions.
While Pasolini was openly gay, his films addressed transgression more than overt queer themes, with the exception of Teorema, Arabian Nights and the powerful but disturbing Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom from 1975.
Screening December 27 and January 2, Saló focuses on four wealthy Italians who take advantage of the chaos after Mussolini’s fall to kidnap a group of teenagers and subject them to violent psychosexual torture. More than 30 years after its release, the film is still banned in some countries. (While intense, the trailer above doesn’t do it justice)
In the on-set interview below, Pasolini explains he made the film to show how easy it is for society to “reduce the human body to a salable commodity.” The late director also shares his dismal view of politics:
My need to make this film also came from the fact I particularly hate the leaders of the day. Each one of us hates with particular vehemence the powers to which he is forced to submit. So, I hate the powers of today. It is a power that manipulates people just as it did at the time of Himmler or Hitler.
I don’t think the young people of today will understand this film. I have no illusions about my ability to influence young people. It is impossible to create a cultural relationship with them, because they are living with totally new values, with which the old values cannot be compared.
I don’t believe we shall ever again have any form of society in which men will be free. One should not hope for it. One should not hope for anything. Hope is invented by politicians to keep the electorate happy.
Other films being screened include The Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights, and Medea.
Pier Paolo Pasolini at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through January 5.