- The Time-Image from Pasolini to Ciprì and Maresco
Pasolini and Ciprì and Maresco are fierce critics of post-modern society. All bear witness to the colonization of the imagination attributable in part to the omnipresence of mass communications and the globalization of neo-capitalist values. Their works, scatological in the literal but especially in the metaphorical and etiological sense, denounce social institutions and practices thought to be at the root of injustice, inequality and criminality. Pasolini strives throughout his career to empower and ennoble the sub-proletariat, as in Accattone (1961) and Mamma Rosa (1962), and sees Marxism as the best political alternative to this end. He also condemns the prevalent bourgeois profane existence and the loss of the sacred; his mythical films such as Edipo re (1967) or Medea (1969) seek to bring awe back to modern life by means of foundational myths; the Friulian's call for the abolition of television and mandatory education (Pasolini 59) remain (in)famous.
Ciprì and Maresco, on the other hand, although equally disturbed by the omnipresence of television, decide to use the piccolo schermo's powers to depict, through the lens of scatology, the irredeemability of Western culture in general and Sicilian society in particular. The duo's TV programs (Cinico TV, Blob, Intervalli, or Schegge, for example) and subsequently their movies, strive to be everything that television is not: instead of filling each and every second with sound and movement, their cameras film silence and inactivity; instead of velline, they offer a freak show; rather than telling a story, they string together sequences that defy our sensori-motor expectations. Their films are populated by low-lifes in a world where nothing really happens. So, whereas Pasolini's ideological engagement often seems contradictory, any historicized impegno [End Page 199] has become obsolete for Ciprì and Maresco. In fact, the Sicilians' meta-cinematic tendency often signifies that their films refer to little more than themselves.
The main point of comparison between Pasolini and Ciprì and Maresco to be discussed here is their use of the time image to reflect the difficulty or the impossibility of human agency in contemporary society. According to Gilles Deleuze, prevalence of the time-image is an important aspect of Western cinema starting in the post WWII years (Cinema I 206). In the classical cinema prior to this period, the movement-image prevails (as in action movies or westerns), constructing a (chrono)logical narrative in which characters act and react to events and circumstances within specific spatiotemporal parameters. What happens on screen provides an indirect image of consecutive intervals.
In a time-image, on the other hand, time becomes more important than action and movement; time is fore-grounded and its sheer duration is felt. The characters inhabit "any-space-whatevers"1 because they are wanderers in a universe in which meaningful connections as the precursors to action are difficult if not impossible to construct. Although not a call to action, the time-image is nonetheless an appeal to thought.2 Since our pragmatic sensori-motor expectations are stymied, we seek to create links with dimensions other than movement, with the non-chronological, non-teleological dimension of time. Scenes of prolonged duration, unusual framings and/or juxtapositions, and apparently aimless movement or illogical sequences of events constitute time-images.
How then is time experienced, presented and not simply represented in Pasolini's cinema? How do his time-images bypass representation and the intellect, making something unseen more important than the seen?
In his first film as a director, Accattone (1961), Pasolini recounts the story of a young man's failed efforts to renounce petty thievery and [End Page 200] procuring in favor of an honest livelihood. In one particularly significant sequence, the hapless Vittorio attempts to reconcile with his wife. A wrestling match ensues when her protective brother attacks him and the result of the indecisive fight augurs poorly for the anti-hero's chances to escape vagrancy. The scene remains important, however, as a vindication of the suffering sub-proletariat. First of all, the camera pans the surroundings, focusing all eyes on the incident: everyone in the neighborhood takes a "ring-side seat." More...