More than two decades after its 1990 retrospective of Pier Paolo Pasolini, MoMA once again joins with Luce Cinecittà and Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna to present a full retrospective of Pasolini’s cinematic output. Many of these celebrated films will be shown in recently restored versions, and all are presented in newly struck prints. Much of this painstaking restoration work was performed by Cineteca di Bologna, alongside several of Pasolini’s former collaborators. Pasolini’s cinematic legacy is distinguished by an unerring eye for cinematic composition and tone, and a stylistic ease within a variety of genres—many of which he reworked to his own purposes, and all of which he invested with his distinctive touch. Yet it is Pasolini’s unique genius for creating images that evoke the inner truths of his own brief life that truly sets his films apart—and entices new generations of cinephiles to explore his work.
Pasolini’s cinematic works roughly correspond to four periods in the socially and politically committed artist’s life. The National Popular Cinema commenced with his debut, Accattone (1961), which immediately made a name for him as a filmmaker of prodigious talent and fury. This was followed by Mamma Roma and a number of episodic comic films containing warm, honest portraits of people living on the fringes of society, culminating in the masterful The Gospel According to Matthew. Marking him as a provocative thinker and audacious artist with an uncompromising vision, Pasolini’s middle period, often termed The Unpopular Cinema, features excoriating depictions of the bourgeoisie that lend a passionate immediacy to films like Teorema, Porcile, and a modern interpretation of Medea.
The Trilogy of Life—The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights—produced between 1971 and 1974, is a triumphant reinterpretation of classic tales and fables that retain their universality despite being interpreted by thoroughly modern means. As Pasolini himself noted, he focused on the past precisely because it reflects the present most profoundly. Sometimes referred to as The Abjuration of the Trilogy of Life, the director’s utterly despairing final film, Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, was held up for years due to censorship issues, and it remains a shockingly raw and profoundly disconcerting experience. Salò was completed in 1975, the year of Pasolini’s mysterious murder.
A series of supplemental events pay tribute to Pasolini’s multifaceted career. An evening of recitals by well-known Italian and American actors highlights Pasolini’s accomplishments as an acclaimed essayist and beloved poet; MoMA PS1 hosts two programs: a day of performances inspired by Pasolini and an
installation comprising three of Pasolini’s films screening continuously throughout the run of the retrospective; a roundtable discussion about his artistic legacy takes place at New York University; a selection of Pasolini’s paintings and drawings is exhibited at Location One; and a seminar hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute launches a new publication featuring materials drawn from Pasolini’s archives.
Co-produced by The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Luce Cinecittà, Rome.
The exhibition is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero, Luce Cinecittà; with Roberto Chiesi, Cineteca di Bologna; Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bologna; and Graziella Chiarcossi. Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy. Special thanks to The Italian Cultural Institute, New York.