Pasolini’s ‘Decameron’ at the Film Festival
Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Italian director, has always been something of a puzzle for American critics, not simply because we have to reconcile his announced Marxism with what appears to be a kind of reformed Christianity (as reflected by the neo-realistic “The Gospel According to St. Matthew,” as well as by the austerely allegorical “Teorema”), but because he forces us to keep shifting critical gears. No three Pasolinis are ever quite alike. At best, they come in pairs, like “Oedipus Rex” and “Medea,” neither of which have yet been released here.
There is, however, a peculiar kind of romanticism throughout all of his films. It is a middle-class romanticism that idealizes the spiritual and emotional freedom that Pasolini sees in what we used to call The Common Man, who, in slightly more straightforward, class-conscious Europe, is still The Peasant. As if he were some medieval maiden locked in a tower, Pasolini seems to long for the freedom to do what the simple folk do, which, to Pasolini, evokes sexual liberation as much as anything else.
In none of his films has this been more apparent than in his marvelous new work, “The Decameron,” which is as close to being uninhibited and joyful as anything he’s ever done.
Eve Charlier is poisoned by her husband, an unscrupulous state official, so that he can marry her younger sister. At the same moment that she dies, a political agitator, Pierre Dumaine is shot dead by a police informer on the eve of an uprising against the state. Eve and Pierre meet up in the afterlife, where they can observe the world of the living but cannot alter anything. When they appear to fall in love, they are allowed to return to the land of the living for one more day. If they can prove that they love each other sincerely, they will be permitted to live out the rest of their lives together. Otherwise…
Plot: A biker comes upon a girl with a flat tire and offers her a ride home. He winds up at a drug party with the girl’s sister, then follows her to a turkey farm owned by her father, a mad scientist. The father turns the biker into a giant turkey monster who goes after drug dealers. Continue reading
Story of a slave revolt on a 19th-century Caribbean island. Continue reading
Hanni (Eva Mattes) is only 13, but mature at an early age. Her Franz (Harry Baer) is 19 and an unskilled worker. His relationship with the minor does not go undetected.
Based on Franz Xaver Kroetz’s play, which is in turn based on a true story, this film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder tells the story of a very young girl who, after persuading a local boy to become her lover, induces the lad to kill her father, whose incestuous sexual attentions to her have grown unbearable. The site they choose for this deed, which gives its name to the film, is a wild-game crossing. Continue reading
Coup de Grâce (German: Der Fangschuß, French: Le Coup de grâce) is a 1976 West German film directed by Volker Schlöndorff. It was adapted from the novel by the same name by the French author Marguerite Yourcenar. The title comes from the French expression, meaning “finishing blow”.
Synopsis: A countess’ unrequited love for an army officer leads to disaster. Latvia, 1919: the end of the Russian Civil War. An aristocratic young woman (brilliantly played by Margarethe von Trotta) becomes involved with a sexually repressed Prussian soldier. When she is rejected by her love, the young woman is sent into a downward spiral of psychosexual depression, promiscuity, and revolutionary collaboration. A startling tale of heartbreak and violence set against the backdrop of bloody revolution, Volker Schlöndorff’s Coup de grâce is a powerful film that explores the interrelation of private passion and political commitment.
Consul Werle holds a reception in honour of the homecoming of his son Gregers. At the
reception, Gregers meets his childhood friend, Hjalmar Ekdal, who is married to Gina, a former maid of the Werle family. Hjalmar is unaware that Werle had an affair with Gina and that their 14-year-old daughter Hedwig is not his child. Gregers moves in with the Ekdals with the intention of allowing unsuspecting Hjalmar and his family to share in the “happiness of truth”.
Hedwig is entirely devoted to a wild duck, which lives on a pond outside their house.
When Hjalmar learns the truth about his daughter, he wants to leave his family. Gregers advises Hedwig to kill the wild duck so that her father, impressed by this sacrifice, will return home. On the following day, Hedwig’s birthday, she doesn’t shoot the duck, but shoots herself instead. Continue reading