Too many closeups for a movie with such horrid dubbing. I listened to the English version for a few minutes, which seems to have a more balanced sound mix, but reluctantly returned to the Italian. I bought the Criterion box set of this trilogy, and in the extras you hear all about the difficulty in making these, the world travel adventures, filming on an active volcano, and the artistic work, recreating Bosch paintings with live actors, designing compositions and colors inspired by Dürer and Paolo Uccello… but while watching them, you can’t shake the feeling that they’re hastily-dubbed, silly-ass sex comedies.

You know the setup: a diverse bunch of weirdos gather around, their guide says that on the way to Canterbury they should each tell a story. Firstly, old rich dude (wicked-eyebrowed Hugh Griffith of the Dr. Phibes movies) seeks a wife, finds hot young Josephine Chaplin (Shadowman), but she falls for hip young Damiano and cucks her blind husband. Buncha stuff happened in the second chapter – a dude is burned to death, the devil (Accattone star Franco Citti) tricks another dude into hell – then ol’ Chaucer, played of course by our Pasolini, gets the idea to start writing these down.

From one Chaplin to another – highlight of the movie is Ninetto Davoli, the messenger from Teorema, doing a Chaplin parody as a cheerful tramp who is easily distracted by gambling and prostitutes. More silliness follows, overlong episodes lacking the sped-up film effect of the Ninetto. Two young dudes fight over Michael Balfour’s wife Jenny Runacre (star of Jubilee and The Final Programme). Laura Betti of (A Bay of Blood) marries a dull anti-feminist and so bites his nose off. More wife-stealing, and multiple fart jokes – I liked the section where some stupid young men go on a quest to kill Death, and almost immediately get distracted and murder each other.

Also featuring Welsh wrestler and Jon Langford subject Adrian Street – I think this is him?

I guess I’m starting to get Pasolini’s style, thanks not to this confusing movie but to the blu-ray extras, which say he combines his knowledge of art and iconography with deliberately naive framing and ignorance of film history and style, influenced by Gramsci (“the revolutionary potential of the arts”) and the neorealists (who insisted on a “high level of political and cultural engagement on the part of directors and writers”). In retrospect I can see how these ideas work, but in my experience of watching the movie, it seemed like a silly bunch of populist, amoral comedic sex stories, lightly enjoyable.

First, someone is murdered in a cave, but it’s dark and I’m not sure what’s happening or if it’s important.

Then Andreuccio (Ninetto Davoli) is scammed by a princess who claims to be his long-lost sister before ejecting him into a toilet and stealing his money. He finds fortune with grave robbers later that night, stealing a gemstone ring from a bishop’s crypt.

Masetto pretends to be stupid and mute in order to gain favor with the nuns and eventually have sex with all of them.

A husband returns home to his cheating wife Peronella where she has stashed her lover in a huge vase, pretending that he’s interesting in buying it. This is when I realized that none of these episodes are related in any way.

Legendary liar/forger Ciappelletto (Franco Citti, title star of Accattone – aha, learned that he’s the murderer in the prologue) is dying, gives a final fake confession to a very impressed priest.

A multi-part episode framed by the story of a painter (Pasolini himself) working on a mural… also featuring young lovers Caterina and Ricardo caught nude on a balcony and forced to marry… Lorenzo is killed by his lover’s brothers and she finds his grave and keeps his head… and a sex fiend returns from the dead to tell his buddy that the afterlife has “nothing against screwing around”

Back to the painter: “Why complete a work, when it’s so beautiful just to dream it?”

Won a prize in Berlin (despite featuring some of the laziest dubbing work I’ve ever seen) where Vittorio De Sica took the Golden Bear. “It also quite infamously started a trend of pornographic films based on Boccaccio’s Decameron, something Pasolini actually found very upsetting,” per Patrick Rumble’s vital video essay.

I’ve avoided Pasolini because I began with Salo and have never been a huge fan of Italian cinema in general. But explorations of Fellini and Rossellini have lately got me looking at the artistry beyond the sound sync problems, so fourteen years after cringing through his nazi shit-eating movie, and in the wake of Ferrara’s new film about him, it seemed time to give ol’ Pasolini another chance.

A factory owner has just transferred ownership to the workers, who are being interviewed by the media. This is a fantasy dear to the hearts of leftist French filmmakers like Godard and Marker, and I was worried it’d get all Tout va bien, but then we flash back a few months to the factory owner’s home with his wife, daughter, son and maid, beginning with a wordless b/w intro section. The magnetic Terence Stamp (same year as Toby Dammit) comes to stay with them, soon sleeps with everyone in the household, then abruptly leaves.

Stamp:

Family portrait:

The first half of the film is a long seduction (sometimes the action stops entirely, the Ennio Morricone music keeping the film alive), then in the second half each person deals with Stamp’s disappearance. Most spectacular is the maid, Laura Betti (the domineering Brunelda in Class Relations, also of 1900 and Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales), who barely speaks a few words in the movie. She leaves the house and returns to her home village, where she sits quietly in the courtyard, eating only boiled weeds and performing miracles. The rest of the family behaves in more normal (or at least movie-normal) ways: mother Silvana Mangano (of a bunch of movies set in ancient times: Oedipus Rex, Barabbas, Ulysses, Dune) starts driving into the city picking up random men and daughter Anne Wiazemsky (Au Hasard Balthazar) loses her mind and becomes catatonic. Son Pietro rents a loft and starts painting, becomes obsessed with creating new abstractions “where previous standards don’t apply… Everything must be presented as perfect, based on unknown, unquestionable rules.”

Am I crazy, or is the maid shown multiple times back at the wealthy house even after she has left for the village? Dad Massimo Girotti (Ossessione and a couple of early Rossellini features) has the last word. He gets naked in the train station on his way to work, presumably gives away his factory (it doesn’t repeat scenes from the beginning) then appears walking across a volcano, shouting in rage. We’ve seen the volcano before, an unworldly mist blowing across it, in frequent cutaways from the main action. I thought it was meant to remind us of Stromboli or Voyage to Italy, but perhaps the Italians film on volcanos all the time – Pasolini shot part of the following year’s Porcile on the same volcano, Mount Etna.

Part of Pasolini’s “Mythical Cycle” with three other films. IMDB claims Miike’s Visitor Q is a remake. Played the Venice Film Festival alongside Partner, Faces, Monterey Pop and Naked Childhood. Italy tried to censor it, of course. The catholics had mixed feelings, first giving it an award then changing their minds. I discovered the word “bourgeoise” is much better in Italian, pronounced bohr-GAZE-ee like the filmmaker.