Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pigpen

Pigpen
Original Title: Porcile
Aka. Pigsty
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Italy, 1969
Drama, 99 min
Distributed by: Studio S Entertainment.

I’ve enjoyed a long time relationship with the movies of Pier Paolo Pasolini and I really do love his movies. For some odd reason they have always been close at hand in my cultural field of reference, be it the big boxed rental video’s with the big yellow censors squares proclaiming that the movie contained “images so vile that we can’t use any on the cover” on the front and back of the artwork to Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom) 1975 that intrigued me as a youngster in the early eighties and made me take notice of this director and the movie. Or the late summer night screenings of the “Trilogy of Life” during the late eighties, the bizarre situation that arose when Barth David Schwartz came to the Stockholm Film Institute in the early nineties to read and discuss his book on Pasolini - Pasolini Requiem - only to find out that the only film they had brought up from the vaults was a print of Salò – not the movie he had intended them to screen, but I had the privilege to see Saló in a glorious 35mm print with about twenty other people. (I seem to recall that it actually was a rare 75mm print…) Or the insatiable demand for the wholesale tape in the mid nineties when the movie was still banned in the UK. I must have bought at least thirty copies of that damned film only to use as trade fodder with UK cineastes. Then there’s the many and strangely frequent references in pop vulture like the experimental music of Coil that on occasion refers to his life and death, the more recent referrals to him in the lyrics of good old Morrissey, and not forgetting Pinku master Hisayasu Sato’s Kurutta Butokai (Muscle) 1989 where both Pigpen and Teorema 1968 as well as Coil's track Ostia (the Death of Pasolini) are part of the narrative.

Indeed Pasolini made some amazing pieces of art, some fabulous depictions of decadent perversion, and some stunning portrayals of passionate characters unlike the regular gallery of romanticized figures and some shockingly provocative and hilarious movies that are timeless cornerstones of alternative pop culture. But there’s one thing, or rather two that more or less tie all his movies together the two themes of religion and politics.

Pasolini’s own life itself is the stuff that one would merely expect to find in an exaggerated biography movie, over dramatized and pimped for Hollywood, but it’s all true - try child progeny who wrote poetry from the age of seven, soldier in the second word war, taken prisoner of war, making an elusive escape, kicked out of the communist party for on charges of corrupting underage men, and almost his entire body of work was shrouded in controversy and scandal for starters, and then murdered under extremely bizarre conditions. Most recognize him as the director of the provocative Saló, but at the same time even way back before he started with movies, whilst he was a writer for an Italian paper he was a noted persona, and his first novel Ragazzi di Vita approx (Men for Rent) 1955 just like his first feature film Accattone (The Scrounger)1961 - the one Mozza refers to in You Have Killed Me - where both met by criticism for their hardened realistic approach to their topics. So the idea that he went out with a bang, signing off with the profoundly disturbing Saló is completely wrong. Pier Paolo Pasolini was always a man of controversy, out to provoke, raise hell and at the very least open his audience eyes to an intriguing topic of discussion.

Pasolini’s Pigpen is a splendid example of this as it deals with two themes that certainly have made up the basis of many a great exploitation films: Cannibalism and Bestiality.Certainly two taboos not to be broken and Pasolini uses them perfectly as he merely suggests the events than actually shows them on the screen. It’s an intellectual approach that works for the movie and at the same time foreshadows the atrocities to come in the last couple of movies that he would write and direct before culminating with the infamous Saló, a movie that definitely wouldn’t have worked at all with pure imaginative setups. That one demanded the visualisation of key themes as they are of importance to the narrative. And with that reason, it could lead one to argue that Pigpen could have earned from one last harrowing image, that of the pigs eating Julian. This would probably have enhanced the vile former Nazi doctor Herdhinze in his firm position of keeping it all a secret, just like all those actions of his that took place during the war. But being Pasolini, these powerful themes are also elegantly fused with his regular religious and political themes.

Bestiality and Cannibalism - strong themes that a few can get away with using in their movies without being frowned upon as exploitation films. It’s also because of directors like Pasolini that I feel a certain ambiguity towards the splitting of hairs that we commonly refer to as genre. Sure genre is important as long as it stays related to its peers and not perverted into some cultural elitist bollocks that it constantly is twisted into. The stuff that Pasolini was making is easily comparable to the stuff that the so called low budget exploitation directors where making, but that stuff rarely get's referred to as art. It’s all about the same themes and plays within the same genres, even if their movies are looked at as being more exploitation than art. Why is it that movies like Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust 1980 or say Walerian Borowzcyk’sThe Beast 1975 are looked at and referred to as trashy exploitation and not the movies of Felini, Pasolini and Marco Ferreri? I find it intriguing and provocative that this is the case, as I can easily see all these directors’ movies and still find the same level of entertainment value.

Told through the use of two separate non-linear timelines one featuring Pierre Clémenti and Franco Citti as the cannibals in the story that takes place in a non descriptive past and the second featuring Jean-Pierre Léaud as Julian (who later starred in a couple of Kaurismäki movies) his girlfriend Ida (Anne Wizaemsky – once wife of the great J-L Godard), and the magnificent trio of elderly gent’s with dark secrets Alberto Lionello as Mr Klotz, director of Le grand bouffe (The Grand Bouffe) 1973 and La Carne (The Flesh) 1991, also about cannibalism - Marco Ferreri as his mate Hans Günther and Ugo Tognazzi as Herdhinze in modern times (or rather 1969 when the movie was made) both storylines are a fascinatingly constructed so that they break off just when the need to, to keep a natural interest and natural dramaturgical suspense in the lines depicted. If the movie where to have been a two-parter with each tale told separately, the movie would not have been as effective. It’s the interruption of natural flow that makes the narrative engaging as our human min. If you pay attention you will also during the climax of both lines spot Marcchione (Ninetto Davoli who starred in the most of Pasolini’s movies) who connects the past and the contemporary storylines… again Pasolini presents a character of importance, but who takes no real action and mainly observes and comments on the events instead of reacting effectively.

I find it very amusing that in the past times sequences the narrative still stays linear within its own timeframe whereas the modern story uses at the time contemporary approaches like jump-cutting, non-diegetic audio and hard edits over the 180 axis. It sublimely contrasts the two stories further from each other just like the absence of dialogue from the 16th century story – ironically the only line of dialogue spoken in this part of the movie is the line that commonly appears as the famous quotes and citations of artwork. But this doesn’t mean that the dialogue is bad in any way, because the dialogue in the modern part of Pigpen is ferocious and rapid, and just like it is broken up within its own narrative context, this is also reflected in dialogue. The two youths of the modern part of the movie: Julian and Ida, talk in a completely different style, tone and flow than the adults in that world do. There’s an almost a quality of poetic recital in the way Ida and Julian talk to each other and taunting passages if dialogue like the recurrent “Tralla la la la” bring a very distinguished tone to their conversations.

The adults talk in metaphors, never quite making a clear picture of what they mean – although still very powerful as evident in the scenes where Tognazzi’s Herdhinze shifts the balance of power from his supposed disadvantage as Lionello’s Mr. Klotz and Ferreri’s Hans Günther know he’s a former Nazi Scientist - with a passion for collecting decapitated heads of Jews - to a strong hold as he tells Mr. Klotz he knows all about his son Julian’s activities in the pigpen… It’s a haunting scene and even tough it’s never said up front you know exactly where Herdhinze is going with his discourse and it’s like watching a knife being twisted in a wound over and over again.

It’s notable that the two generations talk a completely different language in the only scene where the two worlds really meet, as Ida and Julian’s mother [Margarita Lozano] discuss his coma. What Madame Kloze sees as one reality, Ida punctuates being a second. It’s also quite obvious that Julian’s secret is as well kept as his fathers past, or even Herdhinze’s dark history as a Nazi butcher.

Pigpen is a pessimistic observation of humanity like many of Pasolini’s movies tended to be through the “Trilogy of Life”, the “Mythical Cycle” suite and obviously climaxing with Saló. Although a somewhat tedious movie it’s totally spellbinding due to the two different styles of driving the narrative forth.


There are some fantastic religious references, the most obvious being that one can’t get away with crimes against God – the cannibal is punished, so is Julian, but then there’s also the fascinating Pasolini nihilism – that true evil prevails. There is no punishment in sight for the Nazi doctor for his crimes against humanity, and from his actions at the end of the movie we realize that there will not be either. There are also some superb religious references to be found in the visuals. Whilst editing between the two narrative time lines there’s some very obvious images and symbolism on display – again a great example of how Pasolini interweaves religious themes with political themes in his worlds.

Pigpen may not be among Pasolini’s most popular work, but it certainly is a powerful trip that grows on you with time. It’s a cryptic movie because of the with held dialogue that usually tells us exactly what is going on, and that much is told trough metaphors and innuendos. A fascinating show of just why Pasolini is one of the greatest directors of all time.


Image:
Widescreen 1.85:1 (anamorphic)

Audio:
Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Italian dialogue with optional Swedish, Finnish, Danish or Norwegian subtitles.

Extras:
Original Trailer, Pasolini biography and filmography.


It's taken me about two days and four hours to post this fucking thing as the accessibility to the internet is crap here in the woods, so I bloody won't be up for this friggin hassle every-time I want to post something here. Screw that. I'll be back in August...

2 comments:

Ninja Dixon said...

I must confess that the only Pasolini-movie I've seen is Saló, which I like a lot. Beautiful movie. I once wrote exactly that on dvdforum.nu and it didn't take long until someone asked me if I was a scat-lover...

That's the intelligence we're talking about when discussion non-commercial movies with dopeheads.

CiNEZiLLA said...

LOL! Yeah that's the guaranteed question when dealing with dopeheads... although quite understandable when it comes to the mindexpanding Saló. Although It's amazing that some people never quite grasp what the message or commentary is all about but get stuck on one minor detail in the movie, and the shit eating is not the most disturbing scene in that movie. Somehow people tend to forget about the shocking torture and mutilation at the end of the flick...

Fascists in their underpants and dressing gowns can be disturbing images too... :)

You really should take time to check out the Trilogy of Life (Decamerone, Arabian nights and Canterbury Tales) I think you'd really enjoy them.

J: