Arabian Nights – Pasolini’s concluding instalment in his audacious, expansive and uninhibited ‘Trilogy of Life’ – was an episodic anthology film that revelled in the joys of storytelling like The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, the two preceding films in this celebrated triptych on seminal medieval literature. It was even more ambitious in that he had to choose the stories from around a thousand Persian folk tales; filmed it in locations across Iran, Yemen, Nepal and Ethiopia; and conjured a highly intricate narrative web of nested interconnected stories, despite doing away with the iconic framing device featuring Scheherazade. It was, however, possibly the least political of the trio – the sole focus here being the celebration of sensuality in its myriad forms, devoid of restrictive modern-day prejudices –, and the wicked black humour of the earlier films was toned done while freely retaining the source collection’s fantastical nature. The central strand was on the passionate romance between and incredible parallel journeys of Nur-e-Din (Franco Merli), a naïve young guy, and Zumurrud (Ines Pellegrini), a striking slave girl, while the remaining episodes – featuring dazzling locational backdrops and stories-within-stories – covered a spectacular range from impish and intimate to swashbuckling and violent. The one that deserves a special mention involved the impetuous Aziz (Ninetto Davoli) who abandons his bride-to-be Aziza – who, nevertheless, helps him out of selfless love and dies of heartbreak – upon being smitten by a mysterious, bewitching woman. That Davoli had recently broken off his relationship with Pasolini in order to marry a woman, provided a deep personal allegory for the filmmaker. The ignominious fate that Aziz eventually faced at the hands of his hedonistic pursuit, consequently, served as a sardonic cinematic schadenfreude.
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Genre: Comedy/Romantic Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Anthology Film