Stark and opulent
The Italian classics were studies in simplicity and magnificence
FRAMES THAT SPEAK The Virgin in The Gospel According to St. Matthew and a voluptuous Anita Ekberg in
In 1962, Pope John XXIII invited a radical atheistic filmmaker to attend seminar as part of dialogue with non-Catholic artists. The streets of Assisi were jammed because of the papal visit and the filmmaker was stuck in his hotel room. For want of anything better to do, he read the hotel Bible and decided to make a film based on one of the gospels. The director was Pier Paolo Pasolini and the film was The Gospel According to St Matthew.
Following the tenets of Italian neo realism, the film has ordinary people as actors. A Spanish student, Enrique Irazoqui, met Pasolini about work and was cast as Jesus. While other movies about greatest story ever told come with immense baggage - either too serious, too pious, too distant - perhaps because he was an atheist, Pasolini, tells the story as it is. There is no preaching, moralising, nothing. His Jesus is gentle but is also sarcastic, caustic, irritable with an irrepressible passion for life.
Pasolini shot without a screenplay. The dialogues are all from the gospel and as Jesus says the lines we have heard so often, the sheer simplicity has an incredible power. The miracles - walking on water, the multiplying of bread and fish, all have a muted, matter of fact appeal that is nothing short of miraculous.
The film was shot in the Italian district of Basilicata and the capital city of Matera, the same place that Mel Gibson chose to shoot his ultra violent The Passion of the Christ. Where Gibson chose to focus on the suffering and the torture, Pasolini has chosen to make a film documenting the life of an extraordinary man whose life and teachings have changed the course of world history.
And incidentally the controversial line "may his blood be on our children" that Gibson removed from the sub-titles is very much there but does not feel inflammatory in keeping with the straight talking tone of the film.
The famous Trevi Fountain scene in La Dolce Vita
Pasolini also wrote contributed screenplays and one his famous contributions, Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita was also screened by Collective Chaos as part of the festival. The film, from its opening shot of the statue of Christ suspended over the Eternal City on a helicopter to the final monster in the fishing net is all about layers of meaning. Quite like the proverbial onion that one peels for different realities.
Marcello Mastroianni is a world-weary gossip columnist who moves through life observing the shenanigans of the patriarchs, the plebeians, the movie star, the whore, the priests and the clown.
Trivia junkies would be pleased to note that the film apart from being a super important milestone in the history of cinema contributed the word "paparazzi" to the lexicon.
Fellini named a press photographer Paparazzo, which means sparrow in Italian because he felt photographers were like birds fluttering around celebrities!
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