Who Killed Pasolini?

on July 03, 1996 by Kim Williamson
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   Inspired by the book "Vita Di Pasolini" by Enzo Siciliano, "Who Killed Pasolini?" ("Pasolini: Un Delitto Italiano") in cinematic terms looks inspired by Costa-Gavras' inestimable "Z." Although just estimable by comparison, this reexamination of the "unsolved" 1975 death of the controversial Italian director has a righteous passion that could rouse the artistic and political ardor of arthouse audiences, even those who--unlike director/co-writer Marco Tullio Giordana (whose 1980 "Maledetti Vi Amero" also dealt with Pasolini's passing)--can't specify where they were when news of Pasolini's murder reached them.
   In this sinuous re-creation--a bit too sinuous at times for audiences to identify the many characters onscreen--Carlo De Filippi ("Once Upon a Time in America") ably stars as Pino Pelosi, the 17-year-old Roman layabout who claims he was only defending himself from the libertine Pasolini's lecherous attack and who is eventually ruled (however improbably) Pasolini's sole killer. Nicoletta Braschi (comic Roberto Benigni's frequent film partner) is warm but perhaps too principled as Graziella Chiarcossi, who as Pasolini's loving cousin and heir to his estate asks Nino Marazzita ("Il Giudice Ragazzino's" Guilio Scarpati), the family's stringently virtuous lawyer, to bring civil suit after the police and government seemed strangely willing to let evidence, and the case itself, slide into oblivion. In a reserved yet overpowering turn, Massimo de Francovich plays Faustino Durante, an expert in forensics whose independent autopsy and careful reconstruction of the murder indicate that not only did Pelosi not act alone, he may have been only peripherally involved.
   If Pelosi's confession was invention, then who did kill Pasolini? Less like the tightly focused "Z" and more like the scattershot "JFK," the film seems to incriminate everyone among the ruling classes except the Pope, at least not by name, and Mussolini, who of course was dead.
   Giordana effectively integrates era footage but does not feel it necessary to show who Pasolini was or, more significantly, what he created. Contemporary moviegoers unfamiliar with "The Canterbury Tales" or "Salo--The 120 Days of Sodom," both declared obscene by the courts, might not be clear why Pasolini was so important to Italian intellectuals of the '70s, but there's no missing that he remains important to Giordana to this day. It's that fervency--and Ennio Morricone's vividly melancholic score--that carry the day when the film's leftist purity becomes too cloying.    Starring Carlo De Filippi, Nicoletta Brashi, Toni Bertolli and Giulio Scarpati. Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana. Written by Marco Tullio Giordana, Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia. Produced by Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Claudio Bonivento and Rita Cecchi Gori. A Roxie release. Drama. Italian-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 100 min.
Tags: Carlo De Filippi, Nicoletta Brashi, Toni Bertolli, Giulio Scarpati, Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, Written by Marco Tullio Giordana, Stefano Rulli, Sandro Petraglia, Produced by Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Claudio Bonivento, Rita Cecchi Gori, A Roxie release, Drama, kill, murder, '70s, inspired
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