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Abel Ferrara's long-gestated biopic of Pier Paolo Pasolini has its congenital defect, by cast Willem Dafoe (albeit his striking physical resemblance) as the maestro, hence, the prominent anglophone dialog is rightly incongruous with its milieu and becomes more problematic because the rest Italian cast must follow suit, even for the venerable actress Adriana Asti, who plays Pasolini's senior mother, during a family and friend home-gathering, has to awkwardly keep the conversation going in her heavily accented English, that is a misstep to cut right through a naturally intimate occasion where could have spoken volumes of the internal discord. This language hitch is too big to ignore also because it is erratic, Dafoe manages to converse small talks in Italian (although the credit on IMBb listing that the voice is dubbed), but when he needs to express Pasolini's ideology, he switches to English, as he confesses during the interview with journalist Furio Colombo (Siciliano), paraphrasing here "it is better for me to write than speak about my thoughts", so Ferrara's indecision to stick to one solution chips away the film's potency.
The film begins just days before Pasolini's shocking demise, but Ferrara judiciously doesn't tap into the juicier conspiracy theories spawned from it henceforth, and Dafoe's performance is restrained most of the time, pensively buries his self-consciousness of the impending quietus, his Pasolini is benevolent, intelligent and impermeable. The film only fitfully weaves flashback into its slender narrative (an 84-minute length), the sexual experience in his youth and rambling, indeterminate thoughts, but one of the merits is that Ferrara pays his reverence to piece together Pasolini's unfinished film, envisioning an idiosyncratic "messiah-seeking" journey starring Pasolini's "great love of his life" Ninetto Davoli as Epifanio and Riccardo Scamarcio as Davoli himself answering their calling and witnessing an annual heterosexual copulation ceremony (in the name of procreation) between gays and lesbians (celebrated with pyrotechnics) en route until a cosmic ending commensurate with Pasolini's own fate.
The film is chromatically enveloped with a blue-tinted pall of a grubby Rome in the 70s, and when the brutal crunch finally descends on the night of November 2nd, 1975, Ferrara chooses a more pedestrian cause for the attack but injects his condemnation with one glimpse-or-you-will-miss-it shot where the homophobic perpetrators run over a badly beaten Pasolini when hurrying off the place in his vehicle, it could be the final blow extinguishing his last breath, whether it is intentional or accidental, either way, Ferrara hits home with the happening's incomprehensible cruelty.
Poignancy reaches its apex in Asti's heart-rending breakdown through Maria de Medeiros' Laura Betti, attendant with Callas' stentorian threnody. Ferrara's PASOLINI is a disciple's deferential and cerebral homage to a mentor, whom he has never met and whose myth has been perpetuating around us ever since the horrific tragedy.
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