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Sunday, May 29, 2016
Pier Paolo Pasolini | Accatone
by Douglas Messerli
Sergio Citti and Pier Paolo Pasolini (screenplay), Pier Paolo Pasolini (director) Accatone / 1961
At moments Accatone and his friends seem almost like less comic versions of the figure of the American TV series of the same period, Maynard G. Krebs in The Loves of Dobie Gillis, who, whenever he encountered someone involved in labor, pitiably screeched out the word “work!”
Moreover, there is clearly something else going on in their daily gatherings. Although they talk endlessly about women, they are a society of men whom Pasolini’s camera endlessly portrays in frontal framing, as if scanning, over and over, their rough-hewn beauty. If Accatone is surely the most attractive, the others all present a kind of earthy handsomeness, chosen by the director from figures he actually encountered on the streets.
The little male society, moreover, despite their heterosexual bragging, is most definitely misogynistic, and when they do fight, Pasolini presents it, much like the artist Robert Longo did soon after, as a slow motion wrestle with one another that more closely resembles the coils of lovemaking. There is not only a completely homoerotic sensibility to their gathering, but a suggestion that they cannot exist without one another, that they have embraced one another for life.
It is for that very reason why, when Accatone even attempts to pull away, they dismiss and taunt him, as he does to himself in robbing a gold chain from his own small child and trying to turn the innocent, yet willing, Stella into a whore.
As critic Peter Bondanella has noted, Accatone can be seen as a kind of inverted Christ, with his local friends serving as his disciples. One might even suggest that when he turns from his Magdalene (Maddalena) to Stella (Franca Pasut), symbolic of his destiny (his star), he raises the ire of his disciples. Indeed Maddalena, in this underground version of an anti-Christ’s life, becomes his Judas, denouncing him to the police, who follow his activities even closer, contributing to his death.
Los Angeles, May 29, 2016