Accattone

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Screenplay: Pier Paolo Pasolini (& Sergio Citti – additional dialogue)
Starring: Franco Citti, Franca Pasut, Silvana Corsini
Producers: Alfredo Bini & Cino Del Duca
Country: Italy
Running Time: 117 min
Year: 1961
BBFC Certificate: 15

Eureka's Masters of Cinema turn their gaze towards Pier Paolo Pasolini for their latest couple of Blu-Ray releases with Accattone getting packaged alongside the documentary Comizi D'Amore and The Gospel According to Matthew getting a release on the same day (a review of this will follow in the next week or so).

Accattone was Pasolini's debut feature and he didn't wait to establish himself as a rebel and a portrayer of the darker, dirtier sides of life (he was known in Italy as a poet, author and screenwriter anyway). Growing tired of the popular Italian neorealism from the 50's, he cut his directorial teeth on a curiously cinematic adaptation of his own story of a pimp, Vittorio "Accattone" Cataldi (Franco Citti), living in the slum-like suburbs of Rome. Accattone gets his only 'employee' Maddalena (Silvana Corsini) into trouble, resulting in her getting abused and arrested after she refuses to turn in the true antagonist. He struggles to make ends meet, refusing to work for a living or stoop to the levels of a group of thieves he knows. Meanwhile he meets a seemingly innocent girl, Stella (Franca Pasut) who he tries to forge a normal relationship with, but fails, falling into his usual traps which sends him into a spiral of self-pity and his ultimate destruction.

Pasolini wanted to move away from the forced 'grit' and occasionally sentimental view of the working classes of the classic films of Italian neorealism. In Accattone we are still focussing on the 'lower rungs' of society and their struggles, but Pasolini forges characters that seem to have almost chosen a life of destitution, refusing to work for a living or withhold any meaningful relationships. Our protagonist isn't particularly likeable, pushing his girlfriend towards prostitution, swindling his friends, and even stealing from his own son in one scene. This means the film is hard to warm to, but is also one of the keys to it's importance and makes for a more rich overall experience.

What separates Accattone from previous works of neorealism more clearly though is it's style and presentation. Eschewing the use of handheld cameras or other 'rough' cinematic techniques such as overlapping dialogue or a lack of non-diegetic music, Pasolini presents his authentic slum locations and tales with more classic, occasionally beautiful techniques. He employs dolly shots quite often and adopts a standard editing format of keeping long shots for movement and short close-ups for static dialogue scenes. These almost Hollywood influenced visuals are combined with a glorious Bach score, giving the film a romantic sheen to the dark and dirty content within. It's this strange combination of the beautiful and the brutal that I found most captivating and it reminded me at times of the films of Francis Ford Coppola, particularly The Godfather and not just because of the Italian connection. Coppola in fact used the lead actor Citti in the first and third films of his classic trilogy.

It's a film I certainly admired for it's technique, but I did find something lacking. Although there was enough plot to keep the film fairly engrossing and easier to watch than say La Dolce Vita (co-written by Pasolini) which I found overlong and a little dull, it still felt slightly rambling and never quite grabbed me or made the impact I'd have liked it to. Perhaps, as mentioned, it's down to the lack of likeable characters or those you can relate to, but something didn't quite click for me, even though I could appreciate its quality. I'd still certainly recommend it to any film lovers out there, but something I can't put my finger on prevents me from listing it as one of my favourites.

Comizi D'Amore

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Screenplay: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lello Bersani, Io Apolloni
Producers: Alfredo Bini
Country: Italy
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1964

Comizi D'Amore is an odd little film which I won't spend a lot of time analysing as it seems to be more of an 'added bonus' to the Blu-Ray/DVD package of Accattone, much like Nishi-Ginza Station was in the Insect Woman release. In form, it seems more like an experiment or survey that Pasolini wanted to conduct rather than his next directorial showcase (The Gospel According to Matthew was released in the same year to greater fanfare).

Comizi D'Amore is a documentary that consists of Pasolini travelling around Italy asking the public various questions about sex. In his opinion, as he states at the start of the film, Italians were far too reserved about discussing sex. He believed the devoutly Catholic society did not feel comfortable talking about such matters and this was not healthy. So he met a cross section of groups around the country, speaking to sociologists, university students, the working classes, the middle classes, celebrities, footballers and so on. Topics range from asking young children where babies come from to discussing the laws on prostitution with local men and the prostitutes themselves.

It's an interesting exercise and illuminates some dated views on sexuality, marriage and other related issues. The section on 'sexual abnormalities' (their chief example being homosexuality) is particularly backward with pretty much nobody sharing any open views on the subject, instead feeling 'pity' for these people who some claim to be afflicted with something. As a look into how the world has changed in such opinions (on a broader scale at least), it makes for an interesting watch, but ultimately it feels overlong and gets quite repetitive and tiresome by the end.

Little more than a curious period piece it's not a film I'm ever likely to watch again and fans of Pasolini don't need to rush out to get it (although the fact that he himself was a homosexual makes the section on that subject all the more interesting). As an added bonus to the Accattone release it is welcomed though and is worth a watch, especially if sociology is of interest to you.

Accattone & Comizi D'Amore are out now together in one set on Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD, released by Eureka as part of their Masters of Cinema Series. The transfer on Accattone is superb. The picture is crisp and the contrast between black and whites is strong. The audio is a little thin, but I imagine that is as intended or at least as it stands now compared to the 7.1 ground-shaking brutes we get in cinemas these days. Comizi D'Amore is hard to judge transfer-wise as it's roughly presented anyway, using low-tech equipment and many shots are out of focus due to its spontaneous approach. It looks clear enough though and I didn't notice any obvious signs of print degradation. The sound was recorded on the fly so again it's hard to judge the remastering, but it seems clear enough.

Included with Accattone is a commentary by Masters of Cinema favourite Tony Rayns. This is a little dry, but incredibly rich in terms of detail, background and analysis of the film. We also get the usual leaflet included in the package, which I didn't get with my screener this time around, but I'm sure is packed to the gills with essays and interviews about both films.

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Editor of films and videos as well as of this site. On top of his passion for film, he also has a great love for music and his family.

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