Microphone in hand, Pier Paolo Pasolini asks Italians to talk about sex: he asks children where babies come from, young and old women if they are men's equals, men and women if a woman's ...
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Microphone in hand, Pier Paolo Pasolini asks Italians to talk about sex: he asks children where babies come from, young and old women if they are men's equals, men and women if a woman's virginity matters, how they view homosexuals, how sex and honor connect, if divorce should be legal, and if they support closing the brothels (the Merlina Act). He periodically checks in with Alberto Moravia and Cesare Musatti. Bersani is intrusive and judgemental, prodding those who answer. The film's thesis: despite the booming post-war economy, Italians' attitudes toward sex are either rigidly Medieval (the poor and the South) or muddled and self-censoring (the bourgeoisie and the North).Written by
Pasolini's informal interviews with Italians about sexual matters doesn't make for a perfect study or a perfect documentary, but it does provide an interesting window into the time period, and it was pretty unique as well. The people he talks to seem to provide a pretty good sample, including those from many regions in Italy and across various categories - men/women, old/young, city/rural, college educated/blue collar, and conservative/liberal. As most of his interviews are conducted in big groups and what appear to be impromptu meetings I don't think it was all that scientific, and wondered how many things were left unsaid out of social pressure. However, in the end I felt like people hadn't been shy with expressing their opinions, and a picture was painted of a changing country - the deeply conservative aspects gradually facing inevitable progress.
The questions that Pasolini seemed most concerned with were:
Is sex important?
Are young girls as free as young boys?
Should a woman be a virgin when she gets married?
Does marriage solve the "sexual issue"?
What do you think of sexual "abnormality"? (by this he means, argh, homosexuality)
Should divorce be legalized in Italy? (it wasn't possible in the country until 1970)
It's a little tough to hear some of the answers, e.g. about how women are inferior and shouldn't be allowed to work or even go out to a café alone, how a woman should be killed if she commits adultery instead of divorced (to lots of jokes and smiles!), or how homosexuals are disgusting and should be "cured." It was also a little tough to hear Pasolini push so much for prostitution, asking young women workers why they don't make a lot more money by selling themselves, not thinking to interview a prostitute about the significant dangers of her profession or the emotions involved with selling one's body. Similarly, he doesn't interview someone who is gay, even with their identity concealed. His questions often reflect the patriarchy and conformity, making it a window into Pasolini in addition to the window into Italy, and I say that knowing his orientation.
I don't fault the film too much for these things because it's reflecting the society in 1964, and I'm happy times have changed. If a documentary was made about values today, I'm certain that when viewed over half a century later we, too, would collectively appear backward (hell, we appear pretty backward even today :). It was also a pleasure to hear answers which were real gems, a lot of times from young women, professing a desire for equality between the sexes, an end to the outmoded double standard, and practicality in allowing divorce. In a couple of places a clear link is formed between poverty and some of the archaic attitudes, which I found fantastic. That included one guy explaining that sexual harassment at work is a problem thusly:
Man on street: "Freedom is conquered through work. In Germany, they work from when they're 12 to old age. ... In Palermo, if a woman goes to work, her brother grabs her and says, 'Where are you off to?' 'To work.' 'You can't go. The boss will harass you.' Do you understand?"
Pasolini: "And so you agree that if economic conditions changed in Palermo..."
Man on street: "When employers learn how to behave with girls! Only then! When employers are polite towards women."
Pasolini then idiotically says "but the boss can't have sex with one hundred workers," which even if he's playing devil's advocate is a flawed argument in several respects and which leads to a response that goes down the rathole, that yes indeed, here in Sicily one or two women a day could be easily done. These are the kinds of things you put up with in Love Meetings.
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