Those who think of Pier Paolo Pasolini primarily as a filmmaker--or as a lurid murder victim--will have their eyes very much...


PASOLINI: A Biography

Those who think of Pier Paolo Pasolini primarily as a filmmaker--or as a lurid murder victim--will have their eyes very much opened by this challenging critical biography: an ambitious, eclectic study (psychoanalytic, literary, political) that never tries to simplify the knotty interplay between Pasolini's achievements and his severely neurotic personality. Siciliano argues, fairly persuasively, that Pasolini's homosexuality and his artistic/political creativity are inter-related, both traceable to his relationship with his parents: incestuously close to his mother, he was hostile to his ""petit-bourgeois"" fascist father; the struggle against paternal authority was translated into politics; and poetry became a vehicle to express being ""different""--to shock with ""scandal"" of one sort or another. So young Pier Paolo moved from an esthetic ""personal nonfascism' to populism (centered on the people and dialect of Italy's Friuli region) to Communism by 1946. But there would always remain ""the gap between politicization and his feeling of guilt"" about sex: expelled from the Party after being convicted of ""lewd acts in public"" (with a minor), the poet/teacher--an ""obscure Rimbaud""--left Friuli for Rome in 1950. There, a ""premature beatnik,"" he found new literary influences, firmed up his peculiar ethic (""human meekness and intellectual violence""), pursued a ""postmodern style,"" feuded with pure Marxists and pure modernists, became notorious for the supposedly pornographic novel Ragazzi di vita. And then, in the Sixties, driven to find the technique that would ""best allow him. . . to pour out the aggressiveness of his own. . . self-destructive impulses,"" he moved into films: abandoning ideology for more nakedly autobiographical, existential material; inviting persecution (for obscenity); becoming obsessed with ""his provocatory relationship with the public""; lashing out at the ""fascism of the left"" and trying to legitimize deviance. Siciliano makes all this psychologically understandable. (He leaves the murder, however, an open question: was it suicide by proxy?) At the same time, while never sentimentalizing the pathology, he manages to project this life as one of ""existential"" courage. And, throughout, the work--the poetry especially--is treated to intense, sometimes eloquent, close-textual analysis. So, though this dense book is frequently daunting in a particularly European manner--rhetorical, jargony, disjointed--it addresses all aspects of a problematic figure (and the complex Italian politico-literary scene) in industrious, searching, genuinely thoughtful detail.

Pub Date: April 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1982