REVIEW – Oedipus Rex (1967)

ORFilmJuice have my review of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s wonderful adaptation of Oedipus Rex.

While I am a huge fan of Pasolini’s work, his films always leave me feeling as though I have had to fight Pasolini tooth and nail in order to extract a coherent message from an enormous pile of idiosyncratically juxtaposed signs and portents. Indeed, if you read my review of Pasolini’s contribution to the short film collection RoGoPaG you will have noticed that I genuinely have no idea what it was that he was trying to say with his weird Christ/Cheese metaphor. As a result, it was somewhat refreshing to encounter an example of what Pasolini could achieve when working with a text that is already quite well understood.

Based on the classical play by Sophocles, Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex offers a moving commentary on the fact that even the most concerted rebels and outcasts are doomed to assume the roles vacated by their parents. Re-issued by Master of Cinema alongside a series of other Pasolini titles, Oedipus Rex is a useful point of entry into one of the 20th Century’s most challenging and unusual filmmakers. Indeed, having now seen Oedipus Rex, Pasolini’s Pigsty makes a good deal more sense.

Oedipus Rex is one of the most beautiful films ever made. Its opening sequences of people running around a field are fiercely reminiscent of the whispered awe that flows throughout the films of Terrence Malick. Pasolini captures the North African landscape with the eye of a painter, the deep red of the sand constantly at war with the brilliant blue of the sky while the film’s outlandish costumes seem to shriek defiance at the heavens themselves. We are here! We are human! We exist! Staggeringly beautiful, the film’s production design is reminiscent of what might have happened had the surrealist master Alejandro Jodorowsky been recruited to direct films like 300 and Immortals.

If you are looking for an intelligent and staggeringly beautiful art house film then please look no further than the BD edition of Oedipus Rex.  This is staggeringly good cinema.

REVIEW – RoGoPaG (1963)

FilmJuice have my review of the really rather wonderful 1960s Italian anthology film RoGoPaG. Comprising three short films directed by Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ugo Gregoretti, RoGoPaG is funny, satirical, gnomic and misogynistic in equal parts but the satire and humour of Passolini and Goretti more than make up for the pretentiousness and misogyny of Godard and Rossellini.

The film begins poorly with a well made but ultimately insipid morality tale by Roberto Rossellini in which an innocent and matronly airhostess (Rosanna Schiaffino) reinvents herself as a ‘whore’ in order to escape the attentions of a horny businessman. Schiaffino is undoubtedly charismatic but her charms simply cannot make up for the grinding misogyny of the film’s themes and plot.

Much like Pigsty and Hawks and Sparrows, Pasolini’s short film “La Ricotta” is a joyous avalanche of images and symbols that communicate mood far more effectively than they communicate ideas. The film revolves around an attempt to make a film about the Crucifixion that ends with one of the bit players dying on the cross as a result of eating too much cheese. Pasolini was evidently sent to prison for making the film and, to be honest, I can see why as the anger and hostility to organised religion are clear even though the exact nature of that anger is much harder to discern. The best short film in the collection is also the product of the least well-known director. Ugo Gregoretti’s “Il Polo Ruspante” is a well-observed and viciously delivered critique of Italian post-War consumerism in which a small family travel across the country while being fleeced by everyone they enter into contact with.