About Grant

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New York, NY, United States
Film director and screenwriter. Cinephile since birth. Director of DREAMS OF THE WAYWARD (2013). Film Studies MA student at Columbia University.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pasolini, or The 12 Days of Cinema - Day 7: "Porcile" (1969)

     It has now been one week since I started my twelve-day exploration of Pasolini's work, and though his seventh feature film is not among his best, it is still a well-crafted and challenging film.  His 1969 film Porcile ("Pigsty") works as a solid companion piece to his previous film, Teorema (1968).  Like Teorema, Porcile boasts an international cast with Godard-regulars, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Anne Wiazemsky; Buñuel-regular, Pierre Clémenti; Italian director, Marco Ferreri; and Pasolini's frequent leading man, Franco Citti.  Where Porcile doesn't excel is in its structure as two stories are told at once.  Admittedly, neither story is particularly strong alone, but the visual direction of the first portion is superb, and the casting of the second is brilliant.
     Porcile begins with two tablets being read aloud by Herr Klotz (Alberto Lionello) – the first (concerning cannibalism) seemingly pertains to one thread of Porcile's narrative, and the second (concerning the state of Germany after the defeat of the Third Reich) to the other.  Though there are two stories taking place at once, either story has enough parallels with the other for this bleak film to remain cohesive.  In Pierre Clémenti's half of the film, Clémenti and Franco Citti are cannibals in the 1500s who are hunting for people and other signs of life to be consumed.  When a potential victim of Clémenti and Citti's cannibalistic ways escapes, the hunters become the hunted when the man informs the authorities in the nearby kingdom.  In Jean-Pierre Léaud's portion of the film, Léaud is at odds with his identity as a member of the bourgeoisie.  His father, Herr Klotz, is an industrialist who misses the glory days of Germany – contributing to this is his appearance, as he sports a Hitler mustache and is crippled (certainly a metaphor for the state of post-war Germany).  When Léaud's fiancé (Anne Wiazemsky) asks him what he'll be doing while she's away in Berlin "to piss on the Berlin Wall", he refuses to answer.  Their romantic relationship is severed in this moment, and when Wiazemsky returns from her trip, Léaud is bedridden, In the same way that Wiazemsky's character in Teorema becomes bedridden when her family's guest leaves.  By electing not to accept the truth about himself and give in to his own carnal desires, he has made himself sick. 
     Essentially a plot-driven unofficial sequel to Teorema, Pasolini expands on his thoughts of the bourgeoisie, but he also begins to plant the seeds for what would become his final film, Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975).  Clémenti's section of the film takes place near an active volcano (the same Volcano from the end of Teorema), and the costume and period detail is excellent as always.  The violence set against the natural violence of the volcano is not only dramatically interesting, but it's a reflection of the theme of the film.  A volcano is inhospitable to life, in the same way that the behaviors exhibited by all of Porcile's central characters are in opposition to sympathy and humanity.  
     When Léaud's character becomes ill, his father, Herr Kotz, becomes the central figure of that narrative arc.  iI a disturbing, yet highly humorous story, Hans Günther (Marco Ferreri) relays a story to his boss, Herr Kotz, about the shortage of Jewish skulls prior to the Holocaust.  Laughing and celebrating in the conquests of the Nazis, Herr Kotz plays the harp to joyfully accent Günther's detailed description of how they gassed the Jews in the concentration camps.  This style of comedy, deranged and fully aware of its own vulgarity, is at the heart of Pasolini's Salò.  Herr Kotz and Hans Günther are caricatures of evil, and yet they're also a depiction of an actual mindset that may still exist.  Similarly, in 1978, Rainer Werner Fassbinder has a similar scene in his film In A Year With 13 Moons in which a group of former Nazis engage in a musical number to determine if someone was actually involved with Bergen-Belsen or not.  
     Where Teorema feels like a synthesis of previous ideas coming together to form a piece of innovative cinema, Porcile feels like an in-between point.  It stands best as a mean-spirited alter-ego to Teorema than it does on its own.  Even then, it's still an effective film that should be seen with Teorema to achieve its full effect.

My rating: 3.5/5

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