Wednesday 19 April 2023

The Decameron [1971]

 Unapologetically ribald, wickedly subversive, gleefully scandalous and vivaciously realized, The Decameron – Pasolini’s extraordinary adaptation of Boccaccio’s mammoth 14th century volume, and the first chapter in his ‘Trilogy of Life’, followed by The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights – was also a profoundly political work. The towering Italian giant – whose avowed Marxism, staggering intellect, homosexuality and insouciant non-conformism made him a trailblazer for many but an anathema to reactionary conservatives – crafted a radical interpretation of the landmark Italian text. He did away with the framing device, chose 10 (out of the 100) stories that appealed to him the most; and gave them a stunning class spin by stripping them of royalty, transplanting them from Florence to Naples which served as a microcosm for the global south within Italy, and scripted it in the Neapolitan dialect. And he furthered these facets by packing it with bawdy humour, provocative sexuality, delirious subversion of organized religion, and deromanticized depiction of the Renaissance-era, laced with gold-digging, backstabbing, promiscuity, hypocrisy and violence. The fabulist, interweaving, vividly composed and thoroughly amoral tales included a swindled guy who joins hands with gravediggers; a deaf-mute simpleton who entices an entire convent of lascivious nuns; a wife’s adultery under the nose of her cuckolded husband; a merchant who lies his way to sainthood despite a life devoted to grotesquerie; the great Giotto’s pupil (played by Pasolini himself) who’s come to paint frescoes in a small church; a young couple whose first libidinous tryst gets spectacularly outed; a coy girl’s unsettling preservation of her murdered boyfriend; a respectable man who takes lewd advantage of a poor gullible couple; and a heavenly pact made between a pious man and his philanderer buddy.

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Genre: Black Comedy/Social Satire/Religious Satire/Anthology Film

Language: Italian

Country: Italy

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