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By Culturekiosque Staff

NEW YORK, 13 DECEMBER 2012 — During his lifetime Pier Paolo Pasolini's challenging films were condemned and frequently banned for their raw sexuality, casual violence and rejection of middle-class values. But their impact and influence has only grown with time, and are now celebrated for their pivotal place in independent world cinema. Starting today through 5 January 2013, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Luce Cinecittà, and Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna present Pier Paolo Pasolini, a full retrospective celebrating the filmmaker's cinematic output.

Pasolini's film legacy is distinguished by an unerring eye for cinematic composition and tone, and a stylistic ease within a variety of genres — many of which he reworked to his own purposes, and all of which he invested with his distinctive touch. Yet, it is Pasolini's unique genius for creating images that evoke the inner truths of his own brief life that truly distinguish his films. This comprehensive retrospective presents Pasolini's celebrated films with newly struck prints by Luce Cinecittà after a careful work of two years, many shown in recently restored versions. The exhibition is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero, Luce Cinecittà; with Roberto Chiesi, Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna; and Graziella Chiarcossi.

Retrospective of Pier Paolo Pasolini at MoMA New York
Mamma Roma, 1962
 Image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

A prolific filmmaker, screenwriter, essayist, poet, critic and novelist, Pasolini (1922 – 1975) was drawn to people on the fringes of society. A self-described Catholic-Marxist, his personal life and politics were inseparable from his impassioned poetic vision. Pasolini's cinematic works roughly correspond to four periods in the socially and politically committed artist's life. 'The National Popular Cinema' commenced with his debut, Accattone (1961), which immediately made a name for him as a filmmaker of prodigious talent. This was followed by Mamma Roma (1962) and a number of episodic comic films — including Hawks and Sparrows (1966); The Earth as Seen from the Moon (1966) — containing warm, honest portraits of people living on the fringes of society, and culminated in the masterful The Gospel According to Matthew (1964). Marking him as a provocative thinker and audacious artist with an uncompromising vision, Pasolini's middle period is frequently termed 'The Unpopular Cinema', in which his excoriating depictions of the bourgeoisie lent passionate immediacy to films like Teorema (1968), Porcile (1969), and a modern interpretation of Medea (1969).

Retrospective of Pier Paolo Pasolini at MoMA New York
La terra vista dalla luna, 1966
 Image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1922, to a military father, Pier Paolo Pasolini grew up in various small towns throughout Northern Italy. After his  parents separated, he spent long periods of time in his mother's  native region of Casarsa, where he cultivated a respect for the area's peasant culture and wrote poetry in Friulian, its distinctive dialect. He  studied literature and art history under the renowned historian Roberto Longhi at the University of Bologna and was drafted into the army during World War II, during which Communist partisans executed his younger  brother Guido. Following the war, he settled in Casarsa and worked as a  teacher and, despite the nature of his brother's death, became a leading  member of the area's Communist party.

Allegations of homosexual activity with students resulted in his expulsion from the party and his move to the Roman borgate in 1949. Almost  immediately, Pasolini became entranced by the seedy lifestyle of the borgate, resulting in several volumes of poetry and two novels, The Ragazzi  (1955) and A Violent Life (1959). While he continued to write-including the fictional novel Teorema (1968), the unfinished epic Petrolio, and  nine collections of poetry, most notably The Ashes of Gramsci (1957)-his richly detailed, highly graphic depiction of the Roman underworld soon brought writing offers from some of Italy's leading filmmakers, including Mauro Bolognini, Luciano Emmer and Federico Fellini, and eventually moved Pasolini into the director's chair himself.

The artist's scandalous murder at the age of 53 transformed an already controversial and extraordinary Italian artist into an iconic figure of the Twentieth Century was seen by many as a reflection of a life  in the fringes of Italian society and at the front of the nation's  cultural debate.

Retrospective of Pier Paolo Pasolini at MoMA New York
Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, 1975
 Image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

A series of supplemental events pay tribute to Pasolini’s multifaceted career. An evening of recitals by well-known Italian and American actors highlights Pasolini’s accomplishments as an acclaimed essayist and beloved poet; MoMA PS1 hosts two programs: a day of performances inspired by Pasolini and an installation comprising three of Pasolini’s films screening continuously throughout the run of the retrospective; a roundtable discussion about his artistic legacy takes place at New York University; a selection of Pasolini’s paintings and drawings is exhibited at Location One; and a seminar hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute launches a new publication featuring materials drawn from Pasolini’s archives.

Pier Paolo Pasolini
13 December 2012 – 5 January 2013
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street,
between Fifth and Sixth avenues
New York, NY 10019-5497
Tel: (1) 212 708 94 00

Headline image: Enrique Irazoqui as Christ in
The Gospel According to St. Matthew / Il Vangelo secondo Matteo
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy/France, 1964

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