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194Philosophy and Literature Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy, by Naomi Greene; xiii & 249 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, $35.00. Pier Paolo Pasolini made a career of having many different, often warring identities. His mystical, lyric longings, his leftist, libertarian combats, his homosexuality and the self-loathing it often forced upon him made him a visible, often strident presence on the Italian intellectual scene. When he turned increasingly to the cinema, it was because, as Naomi Greene remarks early in this masterful study, he felt the medium allowed him, in his own words, "to reach life more completely. To appropriate it, to live it through recreating it" (p. 19). As the avowal intimates, this perennial outsider often felt removed, alienated from life. Film thus became an intensely personal matter for Pasolini, whose most fundamental conflicts were encoded in the difficult, provocative cinema he created over a prolific fourteen-year period. His multi-faceted, difficult work kept both public and critics off guard, for the only constant feature of Pasolini's cinema is its resdess need for change. In seven dense chapters, Greene charts the course of Pasolini's unpredictable evolution, beginning with a brief sketch of his youth. Acknowledging the autobiographical dimension of his cinema, she astutely suggests paradigms for its understanding in the fusion of his Catholicism, his Marxist allegiance to the downtrodden, and his expulsion from the Communist party in the wake of a traumatic homosexual scandal. This key incident had the immediate effect of forcing Pasolini to flee from his provincial Casarsa to Rome where, via scriptwriting for directors like Bolognini and Fellini, he finally came to film direction with Accatone in 1961 and Mamma Roma the following year. Greene demonstrates that these first works instandy set Pasolini apart as a director with a studied, intellectual involvement in the medium. He consciously breaks with the powerful tradition of neorealism, even though both works involve crafty reminiscences of fundamental neorealist themes. Instead, using Gramsci to reject orthodox Marxism, Pasolini takes his first steps towards a poetic and allegorical cinema that will still "call into question . . . political and historical tendencies" (p. 33). In subsequent chapters, and via close readings of films like // Vangelo secondo Matteo, Uccelhcci e Uccellini or Teorema, she emphasizes how Pasolini used cinema as a weapon for the "indictment of daily life" (pp. 84-86). But before studying the films of the late sixties and seventies, Greene pauses in chapter IV for an unusual entr'acte: she delves deeply into Pasolini's cinematic theories, showing that the theorist and the practitioner were never far apart in his work. Using the director's own extensive writings, and playing them off against theoretical tools like Bakhtin's dialogics, or the more recent positions ofGilles Deleuze, she defines Pasolini's originality in terms ofhis preoccupation Reviews195 with filmic discourse, and his often intuitive capacity to comprehend how cinema addresses desire, the unconscious, the body. The chapter makes for arduous reading, but the reward comes in the rigor with which Greene then approaches the myths and eroticism of the eight feature films Pasolini produced during the last ten years of his life. Paradoxically, they include some of his most successful commercial cinema, like The Decameron, as well as the bleak and forbidding Salò. Greene notes that Pasolini's "embrace of the 'danger spots' [Foucault] of sexuality and politics had always rendered him a figure of controversy" (p. 173). They were the fundamental features of an oppositional discourse that led him to the extremism ofSalò, and its repellent cruelties. But in her treatment of the most heretical aspects of Pasolini's cinema (a theme, incidentally, that she does not emphasize enough, despite her subtitle) Naomi Greene forces controversy into the background by listening sharply to the "radical and prophetic " (p. 223) voice that speaks through these films. Hearing that voice sends us back to this challenging cinema with renewed interest and many new questions . Skidmore CollegeJohn Anzalone Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, c. 1100-c. 1375: The Commentary Tradition, edited by A. J. Minnis and A. B. Scott, with the assistance of David Wallace; xvi & 538 pp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988, $145.00. Many literary criticism textbooks either ignore or devalue...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 194-195
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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