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arts

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European Film  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  

It might have been suspected that his next feature film Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964), told in an almost documentary-like style, would again create outrage and receive censure. This time, however, the film was praised by Catholic organizations as one of the few honest portrayals of Christ on screen, and attacked instead by left-wing critics who accused it of pietism and hagiography. Despite all the controversy, or perhaps in part because of it, the film brought Pasolini his first international recognition.

Pasolini followed that film with Uccellacci e uccellini (Hawks and Sparrows, 1966), about the adventures of a father and son (the son was played by Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini's one-time lover). Pasolini next shifted his focus to the mythic past with Edipo re (Oedipus Rex, 1967).

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Pasolini returned to a contemporary setting with Teorema (1968), one of his most controversial works. The story concerns a handsome, enigmatic stranger who insinuates himself into the home of a bourgeois Milanese family and proceeds to physically and emotionally seduce them all, including the father and the young son. Catholic authorities were outraged by the film and had it withdrawn and the director charged with obscenity. The charges were finally dismissed two years later and the film formally released in 1970.

In the early 1970s Pasolini concentrated on lush, erotic adaptations of classical texts, which at the time he characterized as his most "non-political" films. Il Decameron (The Decameron, 1971), I racconti di Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales, 1972), and Il fiore delle mille e una notte (Arabian Nights, 1974), provided Pasolini with his greatest commercial successes and broadest audiences. Later, Pasolini suggested these were instead his most "political" films; the politics being sexual in the eroticized male and female bodies celebrated on screen.

Pasolini's final film is the intensely controversial Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, 1976), an uncompromising and explicit fusion of Mussolini's Fascist Italy with the philosophies of the Marquis de Sade. Scenes of rape, sodomy, coprophagia, sexual humiliation, and torture are repeatedly depicted. The film was released (and withdrawn on charges of obscenity) two weeks after Pasolini's death at the hands of a male prostitute. Salo was subsequently banned in Italy, and nearly everywhere else, for several years.

Fassbinder and the New German Cinema

One of the most remarkable phenomena of cinema was the brief but prolific career of German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who died at the age of 36. Few other directors in cinema history have matched his productivity. From 1966 to 1982, Fassbinder completed 44 films for theatrical or television release. His prodigious output was matched by a wild, self-destructive nature that earned him a reputation as the enfant terrible, and central figure, of the New German Cinema. Openly gay (he declared his homosexuality to his father at age 15), Fassbinder nonetheless married twice; one of his wives acted in his films and the other served as his editor.

Fassbinder's films typically detail the hopeless yearning for love and freedom and the many ways in which society, and the individual, impedes it. Many of his films deal candidly with sexuality; homosexual themes often appear, either as central or incidental to the films' plots.

Fassbinder achieved his first international success with Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, 1972), a highly stylized film that is both a tribute to and a deconstruction of Hollywood's "women's pictures" of the 1940s and 1950s. The story (adapted from Fassbinder's own play) concerns a lesbian love affair and its aftermath between a successful fashion designer and a young, working-class model.

Working again in the genre of the Hollywood melodrama, Faustrecht der Freiheit (Fox and His Friends, 1975), focuses on a gay circus worker (played by Fassbinder himself) who wins a large fortune in a state lottery and is befriended and systematically exploited by a clique of younger, bourgeois gay men. Criticized by some gay and lesbian critics as being , Fassbinder insisted that his central focus was less on sexual behavior and more on the power relations among people sexually involved with one another, and on the intersections of age, beauty, and social class.

Fassbinder explored his own self-destructive tendencies in Satansbraten (Satan's Brew, 1976), about an artist named Kranz who is no longer able to create. The film features several sexually explicit scenes played for surreal comedy. In one scene, Kranz receives a public restroom proposition from a male hustler who masturbates frankly for the camera throughout their conversation; in another, Kranz is beaten up by a pimp and discovers he enjoys the pain.

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