There are very few things to say about life. There are a million ways to say it, but we come back to the same few items: living-loving to the fullest matters, with every force available in your body, being one with just this world, sensitive to it, alert. We have come up with a million ways to say it, because it’s easier said than done. It is easier to think than do. And I think that anyone who is passionate about life and the art he makes has hit this limit, that when all is said and done, thought is like the buzz of a small mosquito, persistent but drowned in the swell of universal music.
You have to let go at some point, what the old mystics knew as ecstasy. This is of course near-impossible to accomplish in the grind of life, which is why in the old days, they set apart time for ritual and storytelling - not as distinguishable as they are now, these two. In its purest form, this has been refined into meditation. And I value, above all else, filmmakers who make more than films, who set apart time for ritual dance that disembodies the self, mends consciousness into the air. Antonioni - Parajanov - Iwai - Herzog - they have all done this at least once.
And even though I’m only getting to know Pasolini, I can tell. He was a passionate man, a man of thought who wanted to go beyond thought, who wanted to be true to music as it rises from the earth.
Here is his attempt at a disembodied narrative, characteristically Italian.
The story is that we follow two ordinary rascals on their round through the small world, father and son, both very Italian characters, rowdy, temperamental. In the neorealist mode of some fifteen years ago, there would be a single reality, one of hardship and human ruins, the journey would be one of simple, ‘real’ encounters, that used to be the conceit in those days, the unmediated presentation of life. Indeed, we start here from a 'realist’ world and come back to it full-circle in the end with real footage from the funeral of a prominent member of the Italian Left, signifying the end of the postwar era of new hope. The 70’s would be the years of 'lead’, of fear and terrorism.
Inbetween, however, we have something else. There is a second reality that we slowly shift to, one of naked dreams, of ritual and storytelling, song and dance.
Each individual performance is exhilarating. Each has its own air. The rock'n'roll dance - hip and youthful sashaying, 'tuning out’. The Franciscan story - earthy, good-humored religiosity. The lighting up of fireworks - evocative of spontaneous magic and roads. Being shot at from a barn - the silent comedies of Chaplin and Keaton. The scene of giving birth - Italian theater, circus, carnivals.
Our two lovable dunces are not dramatic characters, they do not change. Rather, they are on screen, so that in moving through the world, they will reveal different facets of contradictory existence, all of them exaggerated in the Italian manner. They are in turn victims and oppressors, fools and sages, beggars and hedonists, defiant and obeisant, shifting in and out of iconography and roles, booted from one stage to the next.
Their companion is a talking raven (Pasolini - disembodied from his narrative and made fun of), always spouting thoughts and opinions on religion and politics, which are promptly ignored; who would listen, when there’s skirt to be chased?
Being characteristically Italian has its downside: the different threads are not layered together, we simply move from one stage to the next. We get beautiful but scattershot imagination, but it is redeemed by a powerful center.
Human nature as the moon that causes the waters to wash out on the shore everything from a deep sea - good or bad. It’s a sublime notion, this gravity of the soul..
And you just have to see this for choreography in the Franciscan story; dissipating human landscape, to human buffoonery on the ground, to swarms of birds rolling in the sky. God as speaking in the language of birds. Wonderful. The whole film is a delight.