Film Scouts Diaries

1995 Venice Film Festival Diaries
Venice Diary - Day 5

by Daniele Heymann

Shown in competition, Marco Tullio Giordano's "Pasolini, Un Delitto Italiano" ("Pasolini, an Italian Crime") has had a greater impact than any "festival movie", however exceptional. In fact, the film, which was slated for the last Cannes Festival but turned down the out-of-competition slot it was offered, is exceptional only by its subject. It is a fair "docu-drama" on the fatal night of November 2, 1975, when writer-poet-director Pier Paolo Pasolini met with his death.

Mixing official documents (including an almost unwatchable autopsy photograph of Pasolini's corpse), testimonies and re-enactments ("dramatized"--as if they needed to be-- by Ennio Morricone's score), the film shows a young Bernardo Bertolucci passionately defending Pasolini's memory, and writer Alberto Moravia at the funeral, his face distorted with pain.

As Moravia wrote two days later, on November 4, 1975, "[Pasolini] had reconstituted this still foggy and shapeless mass violence from a certain speech pattern, a certain cockiness, a certain attire, a certain attitude; but he'd never seen it face to face, crystal-clear. He guessed it as one guesses a silhouette in the dark; but it was a violence he had not yet suffered from nor even had first-hand knowledge of. In a famous poem, [French poet] Rimbaud writes that he 'guessed the dawn by a hundred clues', yet without seeing it wholly, 'with its immense body, till the end'. The sentence applies to Pasolini's violence as much as it does to Rimbaud's dawn: Pasolini caught a glimpse of its 'immense body' only at the very last moment, when it was too late."

Before the screening, the film's best Public relation agent was its director. He was 25 when Pasolini was slaughtered on an empty lot in a suburb of Rome. In 1980, he made his first film about him, "Maledetti Vi Amero" ("You, The Cursed, I Will Love You!"). "Fourteen years after that film," Giordano says, "I asked myself if it were still possible, I won't say to find out the truth but at least to know why the truth was never unveiled and probably will never be. If our institutions remain silent because of some inscrutable design, fatalism, entropy, because they are adrift, or because of connivance. And if the institutions compose a magma agitated by opposite pulsions, jealousies, rivalries, gang wars. And if it isn't obvious and for everyone to see today -- and therefore no longer acceptable-- what Pasolini tirelessly proclaimed when he was one of the very few, if not the only one, to see and to know. And maybe, having the decay of that unchanged ruling class finally become of public dominion, it might be easier to re-establish --with what delay!-- the trace of a logic there where arbitration, folly and mystery so arrogantly reigned."

The film received an enthusiastic response from both audiences and critics. The strangest was yet to come. First, Giulio Andreotti--senator for life, former leader of the powerful Christian Democratic Party and Prime Minister at the time Pasolini was killed--confessed that "[his] rejection of homosexuality" had then prevented him to fully gauge the importance of Pasolini the artist, and even, perhaps, of Pasolini the man whose socio-political stands were sometimes unexpectedly close to his Party's! One may smile at such belated remorse.

More important--more extraordinary--is the immediate consequence Giordano's film has had on Pasolini-the-case. Since the film was shown, Pasolini's lawyers have asked for the reopening of the investigation. It's the fourth time since 1975 that such a request has been made; for the first time it might lead to a new trial. One of the two new witnesses that make a surprising (to say the least) appearance in the film, is the now retired "carabiniere" (cop) who stated on television that the crime had been committed by a party of four and not by Pini Pelosi alone (although he was the sole "designated" culprit). He himself had heard the other participants confess to their role in the murder, but because Pasolini was "a rather disturbing character", no one, at the time, had bothered (or wanted) to write down his testimony.

Too far from cinema? Not really when one knows--or hopes-- that cinema is life. It certainly was for Jacques Demy, who directed such enchantingly romantic musicals as "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" (both starring Catherine Deneuve). Since Demy died, in 1990, his wife Agnes Varda --herself a director, often considered as the New Wave's mother (or oldest sister)-- has dedicated three films to his memory. "The World of Jacques Demy" is the third and last panel of that joyful, tender, affectionate tribute to a man and his work.

Among the many precious documents and fascinating testimonies, one proves irresistible. In 1968, after "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" became a hit Stateside, Hollywood started courting Demy. He went to California and started preparing a film called "Model Shop" which, after its release --as Demy recalls with a smile tinged with irony and melancholy-- was nicknamed "Model Flop". Searching for a young romantic lead, Demy auditioned several unknowns. One of them in particular appealed to him. Filmed by Varda (who conducted the screen-tests), we see the young man smile, talk, walk, sit down, stand up, move. He is tall, shy, a tad clumsy, and quite charming with his exquisite little scar below his lower lip. Demy decided to hire him. Columbia Pictures turned him down. The reason: "The kid has no future whatsoever in films." That "kid's" name was, and still is, Harrison Ford...

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