Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pasolini's Passion –2 days of special events celebrating the master of Italian cinema in Edinburgh

2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest Italian intellectuals of the 20th century: Pier Paolo Pasolini, poet and filmmaker, essayist and novelist.

How important is Pasolini to me? Let me count the ways...

As a schoolboy, I stayed up late into the night to watch his Medea. To be honest, I didn't know Pasolini from Palmolive, but I was studying Greek tragedy and thought this might be relevant.

Although he changed the final scene (instead of shooting off in a dragon chariot, Medea burns down her house and shouts 'nothing more is possible ever'), Pasolini opened up a fascinating new reading of the story, adding in a primal conflict within Jason (usually the story's posh and dim villain) between his cerebral and animal natures. 

When I went to University, I decided that I needed to be a bit more sophisticated: since I had heard of Pasolini, I decided to make him my favourite film director. Since this was the time during which Betty Blue defined the idea of art film, I was accidentally ahead of the curve. However, my pose did at least force me to watch as many of the films as I could... including The Gospel...

There are many ways of discussing The Gospel: it's dialectic tension between spiritual and political values, the innocent wonder of the cinematography that does not try and explain away miracles, the attention to detail in the faces of the extras, and the way that the message of Christ is neither compromised nor simple, but full of nuance and energy.

But I remember it best as moving and compassionate, a sermon that stripped away the church and revealed Christ as a complicated moral teacher who did not deny the divine. 

The film won many awards including The Silver Lion at the XXV Venice Film Festival and the prize of the Office Catholique International du Cinéma (OCIC), the highest Roman Catholic prize for cinema. The film will be introduced by Prof Robert Gordon (Cambridge University.

Stefania Del Bravo, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh says:

"Pier Paolo Pasolini’s recognition as a great artist didn't clear the way from the uncomfortable and isolated position he still holds in Italy. His private life and the circumstances of his death paved the way for a distorted and hasty criticism, and that’s why, on the 40th anniversary of his death, the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh is really keen to dedicate a central event to his remarkable work and figure, with the support of the Italian Department of the University of Edinburgh. 

We know how Pasolini is beloved in Scotland and his books and films appreciated, and we still would like to offer to the large public of all ages a good opportunity to better understand all the tremendous strength of his personality and thought."

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