cover image Pasolini Requiem

Pasolini Requiem

Barth David Schwartz. Pantheon Books, $35 (785pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57744-9

Grand in scope and rich in detail, this ambitious biography reconstructs the turbulent life and times of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Italian novelist (A Violent Life), poet and filmmaker who continually jousted with society's conventions. Mining Italian sources and incorporating Pasolini's own writings, Scientific American contributor Schwartz sets the stage with an absorbing account of Pasolini's 1975 murder at the hands of a male hustler, a type of character he had long celebrated in his work. Though some may find it daunting, Schwartz's prodigious research lucidly shows how Pasolini's primordial ... preconscious link between politics and sexuality manifested itself as he avoided Fascism, sought an individualistic communism and used the nourishment of scorn to push himself to intellectual clarity. Pasolini wrote stories of the poor as he focused on postwar Rome, but in the 1960s he saw the burgeoning Italian cinema as the most powerful medium in which to represent reality. The subject of 33 legal actions against his writing and films, Pasolini became most famous for being scandalous, but Schwartz shows how explicit films such as Decameron (a surprise 1971 hit in the U.S.) grew out of the auteur's moral and political obsessions. (Nov.)