Pier Paolo Pasolini considered himself first and foremost a poet. But his poetic vision was of people who lived on the edge of society or outside the law, a vision that carried over into his filmmaking.
The son of a committed Fascist officer, he graduated from the university in his hometown of Bologna and in rebellion against his father's political beliefs turned to communism. Conscripted for the army, he was taken prisoner by German forces following the Italian surrender to the Allies. He escaped and hid out with his family; being on the run and hiding out would become recurrent themes in his life and work.
In 1947 Pasolini became secretary of the communist party cell at Casarsa. Two years later, after he was accused of corrupting minors and fired from the Casarsa school where he taught, he moved to Rome with his beloved mother. Though he was an avowed atheist, communist and homosexual, he had great respect for his mother's simple beliefs, a respect which probably played a role in the making of his most celebrated film, "Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo/The Gospel According to St. Matthew," which won the special jury prize at the 1964 Venice Film Festival.
During the early 1950s, Pasolini was indicted for obscenity for his first novel, "Ragazzi di Vita." Though he continued writing fiction and poetry, he began to turn to film scripts as well, working under Federico Fellini on "Le Notti di Cabiria" (1956). His first film as a director was "Accatone" (1961), based on his own novel of a low-life crook and pimp in the slums of Rome. Two years later, he was back in trouble with the law when he was prosecuted for vilification of the Church for directing the """La Ricotta" segment of the anthology film "RoGoPag." Other Pasolini films of the 1960s included "Teorema" (1968), an allegory with Terence Stamp, and "Medea" (1970), with opera diva Maria Callas.
In the 70s Pasolini embarked on a series of films based on ribald classical literary works such as "The Decameron" (1971) and "The Canterbury Tales" (1972). His last film was the controversial "Salo" (1975): subtitled "The 120 Days of Sodom." This allegory of Fascist Italy was filled with savage violence, sadomasochism and a variety of other sexual depravities.
On November 2, 1975, Pasolini was murdered in a manner bizarre enough to come out of one of his films. He was bludgeoned to death near a soccer field by a 17-year old boy, who was later arrested for speeding in Pasolini's Alfa Romeo. The killer claimed Pasolini had made sexual advances to him.
Regarded abroad as one of the foremost filmmakers of his generation, Pasolini, was also, according to Susan Sontag, "indisputably the most remarkable figure to have emerged in Italian arts and letters since the Second World War." His personal vision was of a world of violence and sexuality, ranging from the shanty towns and city streets of contemporary Rome to the moral fantasies of Boccaccio and the Arabian Nights. His films are portraits of outsiders in violent struggle with their society, much of that concern reflecting his own inner turmoil.
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First film as screenwriter, "La donna del Fiume"
Feature film directing debut, "Accatone"