Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 3:40 pm 
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Loving recreation, of great interest to students of Pasolini

Rage/La rabbia is a 1963 film commissioned by documentarian Gastone Ferranti in which gay Italian poet, novelist, filmmaker, and leftist filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini uses found documentary and magazine images for a mournful, arbitrary, and poetic 53-minute rumination on the joys and sorrows of the postwar period. The story goes that due to Pasolini's controversial nature and his strong Marxist bent, the popular "Don Camillo" novelist Giovanni (or Giovannino) Guareschi was asked to present a "right-wing" counterpart to Pasolini's film, and this annoyed Pasolini so much, he cut out a large early segment of his own film to "make room" for the Guareschi segment. Guareschi's film was a "reply" to and debunking of the original Pasolini segment. Pasolini wrote a fiery response in the paper Il Giorno saying of the Guareschi segment: "If Eichmann were to rise from the grave to make a film, he would make a film like this."

This augmented and restored film shown as part of the "VIEWS FROM THE AVANT GARDE" sidebar section of the NYFF is a restoration of the whole Pasolini segment (not including Guareschi's), with an effort to recreate the lost first part Pasolini cut out and to provide some context on Pasolini's thought and his difficult position in Italy. Everything Pasolini did was censored and blocked and he had to go to court to get each of his films released.

Details are given by an Italian IMDb contributor, and more can be found in Italian on the website Cinemafrica. And there's a brief interesting note in the French Wikipedie.

Giuseppe Bertolucci is the brother of Bernardo, and the latter worked on the crew of Pasolini's Accatone. The restoration was sponsored by the Film Archive of Bologna, Pasolini's birthplace (though he grew up with his mother in Friuli). Another Italian IMBd Commenter on the film as issued in 1963 with both the cut Pasolini and Guareschi segments writes:
Quote:
Pasolini stages such a dismal representation of the world and its sufferings, that even the liberation of Cuba from the dictatorship of Batista is represented in sadness and mourning. I would have expected a bit more depth from this brilliant director. His representation of Marxism is religious to say the least. Guareschi too is disappointing, he is way too biased - he defends the atrocities of France in Vietnam and Algeria! - and his traditional sense of humor is almost absent. Some footage is quite interesting from historical point of view, but I would suggest to watch without audio, the commentator is simply too dull and rhetorical.
There is truth in this. The writer is not unjustified in referring to Pasolini's "dismal representation," though there are also passages that soar and are moving. His comments on Guareschi's segment are worth noting. Pasolini is particularly concerned in his film with Algeria, with the joy of the Algerians at winning independence; with Vietnam; and he celebrates the Cuban revolution even if his vision of it is sad. Where this writer is absurd is in suggesting we watch "Rage" without audio, because the chief interest of the film is in how it illuminates the mind of Pier Paolo Pasolini and displays his poetic language. The poetic passages are read by novelist Giorgio Bassani; the prose ones are read by the artist-designer Renato Guttuso. Some additional voiceover passages retain the voices of the original source documentaries or newsreels, with implied irony in the new context Pasolini creates.

Particularly fascinating -- and non-political, and presumably unironic -- is a passage that pops up almost out of nowhere in which Pasolini poetically celebrates Marilyn Monroe, recently dead, as a sad little girl, with striking, rhythmic use of stills from magazines.

At the end following the Pasolini "La rabbia" film there are several segments showing how cruelly the filmmaker and intellectual was attacked and lampooned for being gay, for repeatedly using sometimes some of the same people in is films who were rough-looking and not famous or pretty, and for being a leftist. Finally there is a passage from an interview in which Pasolini talks about being "arrabiato," angry, and explains why he thinks (because its bourgeoisie is too "small") that Italy has not produced a group of Angry Young Men and he stands along as a unique angry man of Italy. The greatest angry man, he says, was Socrates.

Pasolni was always fascinating, always stimulating, always brilliant and passionate. Let's hope he is more recognized in Italy now as what the novelist Alberto Moravia called him: the greatest Italian artist-intellectual of the twentieth century.

The film, alas, fails to speak to us very much as relevant today other than as a valuable document of its moment and of the mind and art of Pasolini as a postwar European intellectual torn between hope and pessimism. The difficulty in responding to this as a contemporary statement goes back to two main things: the overly familiar found documentary footage; and the fact that we are used to documentaries being enlightening sources of new information. In his partly lyrical, partly prose written texts to accompany Rage, Pasolini gives virtually no specific information and does not identify the footage, and some passages, such as one depicting women in scarves, are impossible to identify. This in spite of the fact that he chose the figures and events to be included in the images very carefully, as is indicated in the "case study" by film critic and curator of the Bologna Pasolini study center Roberto Chiesi. Chiesi has written a book about the history of "La rabbia" in addition to oveseeing this production. This film provides rich material for scholars. For the general viewer, it remains somewhat remote even in this excellent restoration.

Shown as a "VIEWS FROM THE AVANT-GARDE" sidebar in the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, September 2009.

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