Pasolini’s tecnica sacrale in Accatone

Kathryin St. Ours
Goucher College

It is not difficult to understand why Pasolini was one of the most maligned intellectuals of modern-day Italy: an unconventional Marxist, a homosexual, a vehement social critic, he offended politicians on the left and on the right, disdained capitalistic economic values and undermined traditional Catholic doctrine. Violently murdered in 1975 under what remain mysterious circumstances, he was suddenly removed at the age of fifty-three from the Italian cultural landscape. In recent years, however, there has been renewed interest in Pasolini’s cinematic, essayistic and poetic work1 and interestingly enough, his homicide investigation was briefly re-opened from May-October 2005. But why study Pasolini in the twenty-first century? How can his hermetic poetry, his mythical, eschatological (and on occasion scatological) films and his scathing critique of capitalism be meaningful in the current intellectual climate?

Near the end of his 1966 interview for the French film series entitled Cinéma de notre temps, Pasolini uses a provençal expression to characterize the source of his production. “Ho scritto practicamente ab joie,” that is to say, out of poetic rapture and love of life. This existential vade mecum seems to suggest that despite his marginalization and overt victimization, Pasolini remained prolific throughout his life, never losing what Luigi Fontanella has called “una volontà irriducibile di vita” (24). One might even say that his creative activities were not so much a matter of choice as they were an impulse. Existence was for him divine: to write ab joie was to manifest and celebrate the sacred within himself.

The sacred that impassions Pasolini corresponds to an anthropological concept of religiosity as studied by such authorities as Mircea Eliade, Rudolf Otto, Georges Bataille, or Roger Caillois.2 The holy is a phenomenon necessarily defined by remotion, that is to say negatively, in opposition to what it is not. If the profane is the world of security, conservation and useful and pragmatic behaviors designed to maintain the status quo, the sacred is the domain of an incomprehensible and vital force that holds the secret of Being itself. For this reason, the deepest human desire is to be empowered by the sacred, through sacrificial behaviors performed to gain favor (the sacred of respect) or through illicit behaviors designed to reach the limits of selfhood and the threshold of the cosmogonic realm (the sacred of transgression).

But while a sense of the sacred commonly implies a firm belief in a form or forms of divinity, Pasolini’s concept is atheistic. His credo is a species of immanentism. For him, all that exists is holy; reality is hierophany. And whereas contemporary market economies are dominated by rationalism, secularism and materialism, an irrational, spiritual and immaterial “sentimento religioso” has always been the most significant aspect of his life and work (Fontanella 42). To return to the expression ab joie already cited, Pasolini explains that “il segno che ha dominato tutta la mia produzione è questa specie di nostalgia della vita, questo senso di exclusione che però, non toglie l’amore per la vita ma lo cresce” (Fieschi 1966). Nostalgia for life, a feeling of exclusion from true reality is nothing other than Pasolini’s experience of the sacred and the expression of his dream of reawakening an awareness of the divine in the twentieth-century western world. Accordingly, his poetic, cinematographic, novelistic, theatrical and essayistic production flows from an intuition that finds expression in his varied and ever-evolving career, from an existential impulse beyond reason, rationality and specific cultural determinants. It is this sense of transcendence reflected in Pasolini’s artistic project that continues to make him a worthwhile object of interest and study today.

For better or worse, Pasolini’s profound religiosity, nurtured among the Friulian peasants, opposes him to the modern, industrialized, consumer society and brings him naturally to the defense of the sub-proletariat, in particular (those living in unindustrialized areas who, in keeping with Marxist terminology, do not belong to the proletariat). His abhorrence of conservative and materialist bourgeois values translates concretely into a deliberately provocateur demeanor. Indeed, the evolution of his work constitutes a personal heterology—a celebration of the sacred within himself–and reflects a constant effort to resist appropriation by what he considers as a desacralized society. Adoption of new techniques, as well as experimentation with a variety of genres, stands out as an attempt on the part of Pasolini to withstand homogeneity.

What’s more, his efforts to remain heterogeneous account for his preoccupation with alterity, that is to say, with the truly wholly otherthat which escapes conceptualizationas opposed to the merely diverse or different. Pasolini’s first poems (at the age of eighteen) are written in the Friulian dialect; his novels (for instance, Ragazzi di vita, 1955 or Una vita violenta, 1959) bring to print the linguistic specificity of the Roman borgate. He conceives of the theater (Manifesto per un nuovo teatro, 1968) as a genre especially resistant to assimilation: “Avevo scelto il teatro per una decisione a fare qualcosa che per sua natura, per sua definizione non potesse mai diventare un medium di massa. E infatti il teatro non è riproducibile” (Fontanella 64). By the late sixties, however, Pasolini fears that literature is in danger of becoming part of the culture industry and if he continues to write poetry (Trasumanar e organizzar, 1971) until his untimely death, it is because he considers it noncommercializable, irreducible to fetichization into a marketable commodity. In like manner, Pasolini’s film career initiated in the early sixties is intended to reinforce his reputation as hermetical heretic:

Farò del cinema sempre più difficile, più aspro, più complicato, e anche più provocatorio magari, per renderlo il meno consumibile possibile, così come appunto con il teatro […] e quindi il testo resta inconsommato. (Fontanella 65)

Such would seem to be the case because at the time at which this statement was made in 1969, Pasolini had already directed not only Accattone (1961), Mamma Rosa (1962) and Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (1964), but also Teorema (1968) andPorcile (1969), although not yet Salò (1974).

Pasolini’s move to cinema is also motivated by the will to communicate by means of a purely visual language. In Il codice dei codici, he extols cinematic language in as a medium that expresses reality by means of reality itself (Ermetismo eretico282-8). Cinema is for him a semiotics of reality, therefore, because it reproduces on the screen real objects in and of themselves.3 This ontological aspiration to reveal ontological reality, coupled with what he perceives as a moral obligation to inveigh against the establishment, makes his films an acutely visceral expression of his personal freedom, the definition of which conforms to that of the sacred. InIl cinema impopolare, “la libertà dell’autore” is nothing less than

un’infrazione alla Conservazione: e quindi è l’esibizione di un atto autolesionistico […] La vocazione alle piaghe del martirio che l’autore fa a se stesso nel moment in cui transgredisce l’istinto di conservarsi, sostituendolo con quello di perdersi. (Ermetismo eretico 273-4)

Such a definition of authorial freedom as sacrifice implicitly acknowledges the dialectic of the sacred as developed by Georges Bataille, according to whom poetry is creation by means of expenditure or loss inasmuch as it is an activity–diametrically opposed to the conservation instinct—which compromises the very life of he who engages in it (La notion de dépense 307).

A detailed study of Pasolini’s first film, Accattone, reveals the director’s irrepressible, intuitive sense of the sacred. Not only does he create a film resistant to generic classification, he also presents a protagonist who, much like himself, displays self-destructive, transgressive behaviors which threaten thestatus quo. The unique shots and editing technique underscore its metaphysical scope.

Set in the Roman borgate, Accattone is the story of a young sub-proletariat male’s struggle to become honest and to renounce a life of thievery and pimping after falling in love. Although this movie offers continuity with respect to neorealist films of the period (e.g., De Sica’s Ladri di biciclette or Rossellini’sRoma città aperta) in its social mooring as well as its use of non-professional actors, location shooting and available light, it clearly breaks with Italian neorealism. In effect, Pasolini intends to get beyond material reality, which in his estimation, neorealism presents in a stale, naturalistic manner (objectively and from a distance) in order to reveal the immaterial, spiritual dimension of existence. In The ontology of the photographic image, well-known film theorist André Bazin states that: “The originality of Italian neorealism lies in never making reality the servant of some a priori point of view” (Braudy & Marshall 174). The author of Accattone, quite to the contrary, uses reality to the service of a spiritual thesis (the conviction that life is sacred) and of an ideological thesis (capitalism has desacralized the western world). His apprehension of the sacred necessarily prevents Pasolini from representing the world objectively and from a distance, inciting him to prefer formalism and stylization instead.

Yet the essentialist vision of this motion picture marginalizes it not only with respect to neorealism but more important, with respect to Marxism. Of course, Marxism and later communism were hybrids in Italy that did not exclude Catholicism. It should not be forgotten that Pasolini, although an atheist, shoots his first film in this cultural context. (4) Consequently, it seems altogether congruous that there be, on one hand, frequent remarks in the movie vilifying the capitalist system responsible for the enslavement of the sub-proletariat through physically demanding manual labor typical of a concentration camp and on the other, constant references in the film to the prominent religion of the country: one of Accattone’s women (and I will henceforth call him Vittorio to distinguish between movie and character) is named Maddalena; Madonna and Dio are frequently invoked; many characters wear crucifixes and bless themselves to allay grief or to gather strength; Stella is portrayed as a believer and Tedesco attends church on at least one occasion. However, Pasolini’s departure from orthodox Marxism’s denial of a superstructure and its will to secularize reality goes well beyond the frequent references in the movie to Catholicism. Vittorio does not find any more comfort in Christianity than Pasolini nor does it ever come close to quenching either’s thirst for the sacred.

How then does Accattone embody Pasolini’s intuition of the divine? How does his cinematic technique make the film itself a manifestation of the holy? More specifically, how does what Pasolini refers to as a “tecnica sacrale” allow him to infuse Marxism with the power of a nonecclesiastical religiosity and to surpass the naturalistic point of view of neorealism by the instantiation of a super-reality? Simply stated, the number of sequence shots in the film is drastically reduced to the benefit of montage:

Ora, la mancanza totale di piani-sequenza in Accattone esclude il momento naturalistico. E invece la presenza di tante inquadrature staccate l’una dall’altra significa che io ho visto la realtà momento per momento, frammento per frammento, oggetto per oggetto, viso per viso. E quindi in ogni oggetto e in ogni viso, visto frontalmente, ieraticamente in tutta la sua intensità, è venuta fuori ciò che dicevamo prima; la sacralità. (Fontanella 54)

A sequence shot is naturalistic in the sense that it lasts as long as the scene filmed; it is a sequence filmed in one take. Typically associated with mise en scène (which derives its meaning from the theater), il piano-sequenza refers to the position and movement of people and objects within the same frame. Montage, on the other hand, signifies careful editing of the footage and the assemblage of a series of juxtaposed shots intended to subjectivize and poeticize reality by intentionally fragmenting it. In other words, suturing allows a director to orient the spectator. In addition, it is a technique that can picture events and objects in different places at different times (or picture the same events and objects more than once) separated by ellipses that blunt the spatiotemporal parameters of the story. As a result, the action acquires a timelessness (and a relentlessness) independent of the participants in it.

In point of fact, the various shots of the Roman borgate presented at different hours of the day seek to imbue the place with epic qualities. The vacant lots, the dilapidated buildings or neglected banks of the Tiber, the territory of the prostitutes, are nothing less than sacrari–mythical and poetic locales–for Pasolini. They appear within the film as the objects of nobody’s gaze, thus standing alone as sacred places. In like manner, the abundance of close-ups and frontals of the characters focuses attention on each individual separately and highlights each as a hierophany in the Pasolinian world-view. Rather than presenting them together in the same frame, the camera pans from one to the next, as in the café scenes, inside a Pio’s car or in the prison line-up sequence. The almost exclusive use of deep-focus in Accattone seems to serve a similar function: reality is presented naturally, as it would be seen by the naked eye. Composition in depth is telling the viewers to pay attention to the rich visual and dramatic content and inviting them to participate in the unfolding action, to actually understand—if not sympathize with– the main character’s dilemma. Furthermore, the music heard throughout the film contributes to the creation of a sense of the sublime. We hear Bach’s Passion of St. Matthew in all its glory as an unusual accompaniment to love scenes, fight scenes, scenes of dishonesty and scenes of repentance. The spectator cannot help feeling that the events taking place are more important than they seem.5

Moreover, the sacredness of montaggio is directly related to what Pasolini calls il cinema di poesia: Such films are dual in nature:

Il film che si vede e si accepisce normalmente à una soggettiva libera indiretta, magari irregolare e approssimativa–molto libera, insomma: dovuto al fatto che l’autore si vale dello stato d’animo psicologico dominante nel film–che è quello di un protagonista malato, non normale–per farne una continua mimesis–che gli consente molta libertà stilistica anomala e provocatoria. Sotto tale film, scorre l’altro film–quello che l’autore avrebbe fatto senza il pretesto della mimesis visivadel suo protagonista: un film totalmente e liberamente di carattere espressivo-espressionistico. (Ermetismo eretico 187)

On this basis, the first Accattone can be considered the world as seen from the point of view of Vittorio (“un protagonista malato, non normale”) by recourse to what Pasolini calls “la soggettiva” (Ermetismo eretico 181) and which is the equivalent of direct discourse in literature. Vittorio’s perspective is indicated in shot/counter-shot montages in which the camera shows in succession the character and what he is looking at. Pasolini uses this technique at important points in the chronologically unfolding story, for example: during Vittorio’s first conversation with Stella, the camera cuts from her back to him; as he waits to be interrogated at the prison, shots of him alternate with those of the guard; when he is surveying his wife’s house until she leaves for work (at which time he will steal his son’s medal in order to hock it), the montage juxtaposes views of him and the door of the house.

By contrast, the second Accattone functions diachronically instead of synchronically and hangs together metaphorically rather than metonymically. We see from start to finish a series of repeated images (only obvious after several viewings) that convert the film into a sort of poem in which the visual language frees itself from the purely narrative function. One example of these “inquadrature ossessive” are the flowers held by a florist friend in the first scene, the flowers eaten in jest while the gang’s pasta is cooking at the same friend’s house and the flowers that Vittorio and his accomplices use to hide a load of stolen hams. Another is the repeated shots of bridges: near the beginning of the movie Vittorio jumps from a bridge on a dare (very specifically from the Sant’Angelo bridge originally built by Hadrian to connect the Campus Martius to his mausoleum); he and his cronies are often seen eating on the bank of the Tiber with many bridges in the background; when Stella dances with a stranger, Vittorio threatens once again to jump from a bridge.

In like manner, the aimless wanderings of the characters in Accattone may be seen as a corollary of the repeated views of bridges. Bridges and walks can take a person from point A to point B; they can be effectual means of action. In the sub-proletariat world of 1961 Italy, however, agency is difficult if not impossible. The existential plight of Vittorio translates cinematographically into tracking shots. Although he is often moving, his movement is detached from any objective or unfolding action. He is going nowhere. The variety and accumulation of dolly shots—forward, reverse, lateral (left to right and vice versa)—contribute to this feeling of walking in place. And just as bridges become associated retrospectively with death, so does the directionless motion: on one occasion, Vittorio’s path is literally crossed by a funeral procession. In addition to the tracking shots of the main character by himself, there are those involving other people and which, in principle, feature purposeful ambulation. Intentions never result in successful outcomes, though, as when Vittorio’s hopes of starting a new life are dashed by his estranged wife as he follows her home from work. Later, two tracking shots of Vittorio and Stella reinforce the pair’s mutual ambivalence towards one another and the audience has reason to wonder whether she is not walking despite herself straight into prostitution.

Interestingly, when near the end of the film Vittorio dreams his own funeral, the repeated images of the so-called “first film” coincide with those of the “second.” The dream sequence is in fact another important manifestation of il cinema di poesia described in the quote cited previously. Since entering the character’s mind through language would be a noncinematic technique, Pasolini proposes a “soggettiva libera indiretta” which allows the narrator (the camera’s eye) to assume the protagonist’s “stato psicologico” through visual images. This point of view is rendered cinematically by the visionary capacities of film, of which the dream sequence constitutes nothing less than a mise en abyme of Accattone and of Pasolini’s cinema di poesia. This is because, by Pasolini’s own admission, the eye of the camera coincides with his own eyes.6 The same oniric images are embedded in the filmmaker’s subjectivity, whose obsessions telescope those of the main character. In his dream, Vittorio sees the flowers borne by his friends attending the funeral and he walks across a kind of bridge on his way to the cemetery. Ultimately, when he is actually killed on a bridge (after walking about town with a cart full of flowers) the fatalism suggested by the repeated images within the story per se becomes clearer.7

But alongside their narrative function–and if director and narrator are one–the bridges in Accattone might also represent Pasolini’s desire to connect the pro-filmic (events and objects) and the filmic (their transference to film). Similarly, flowers are an important ornament in diverse religious ceremonies ranging from births to deaths. They are also suggestive of the baudelarian flowers of evil, that is to say, the notion that beauty can come from decadence.8 So Pasolini’s struggle as director to communicate a pro-filmic sacred reality through a filmic representation may be considered analogous to Vittorio’s quest to provide form for or literally to enact his intuition of the sacred in order to fulfill his quest for a meaningful existence. In the end, if Pasolini is the film’s narrator, it is not only because of his class consciousness, his empathy for the sub-proletariat or his social commitment. First and foremost, Vittorio, like Pasolini, refuses to be assimilated by the dominant culture. Both reject a profane existence.

Clearly, Vittorio’s lifestyle is a threat to the stability of the standard moral order as well as an outright violation of Christian commandments. But while repudiating the values of mainstream society, he fails to fully share those of his associates as well. From the outset, he is presented as a young man who is an outsider compared to his comrades. He is different, seemingly moved by a force that they fail to understand or totally ignore. This is an individual fraught with existential questions, conscious of his limited prospects and discouraged about his ability to improve them: “Ah Stella, Stella, indicami il cammino […] Insegna a Accattone la strada giusta per arrivare a un piatto di faggioli.” Later during the same conversation, surprised by the naiveté evinced in Stella’s work ethic, he expresses a tragic awareness that ignorance is bliss: “Beata te che non capisci niente.” Nor does Vittorio shy away from danger in the interest of self-preservation. Far from it–he throws himself from a bridge on a bet. Once sentimentally involved with Stella, he becomes truly other to himself. No longer does he seek satisfaction in food or in money. On the contrary, he buys her a necklace with his last bit of change and despite being utterly famished, forgets about a much-needed meal to catch up with her on her way to the pawn shop. Subsequently renouncing his former role as pimp (he is Vittorio, a victor), he struggles to hold down a job in order to provide for Stella and to maintain her dignity, before eventually returning to illicit behaviors (he tells Stella to call him Accattone). Vittorio is fully enraptured by a Pasolinian sentimento religioso. His permanent state of ennui is symptomatic of an existential void that nothing can satisfactorily fill. This intuition of the sacred translates concretely into his refusal to be assimilated manifest in the opposing yet complementary behaviors of self-abnegation (sacred of respect) and violation of limits (sacred of transgression).

Here again, Pasolini’s cinema di poesia techniques prevent facile characterization of Vittorio, highlighting cinematographically the ambiguity of Vittorio’s troubled existence. First of all, the alternately dark and light clothing worn by the protagonist suggests a mixture of decency and corruption within him. Is he a martyr or a petty criminal? Secondly, his primary relationships to women in the film are with Maddalena, the dark-haired prostitute, and Stella, the blond, hard-working laborer. Equally important in this regard are the numerous dual-framing shots. Before his dive into the Tiber, one take pairs him with the statue of an angel holding the cross atop the Sant’Angelo Bridge. When traversing with Stella the desert-like wasteland of the borgate, another shot–taken from a low-angle, as the previous one, thereby aggrandizing his status–places him before an unexpected palm-tree. The shot that frames Vittorio alongside Stella with the facade of a church furthers the notion of duality: the double postulation of the sacred (sacrifice / transgression), the struggle between good and evil, and by extension, the disparity between a nonecclesiastical religiosity and traditional Catholicism. One of the most famous dual-framings in the film includes Vittorio, donning a woman’s hat, in front of the photograph of a friend’s mother on the wall behind him. His relationship to women and in particular, his contradictory treatment of Stella, comes to mind. Throughout the film, the main character is at once user and provider, victimizer and victim, dishonest rogue and would-be honest blue-collar laborer.

Pasolini’s use of chiaroscuro also serves to emphasize this oscillation. There are the scenes in which Vittorio literally moves from sunlight into shade or vice versa. For instance, seeing Stella approach one afternoon, he steps back beneath a tree, or when following his wife (all the while attempting to convince her of his decision to turn over a new leaf) he passes from a shaded into a sunny area of the street. Moreover, there are stationary shots which show Vittorio simultaneously partially shaded and partially illuminated: lying in the back of a pick-up truck after the fight with his wife’s brother; during his enraged threat to break Maddalena’s other leg lest she return to the street; or in prison where the illumination from behind by a window surrounds him with a kind of aura. Despite this repeated metaphorization of the protagonist’s duality, however, the dark/light motif in the dream sequence attests to a clear desire for redemption on the part of Vittorio. After climbing the wall of the cemetery (the sacred ground outside the borgate up to now forbidden to him), he asks the gravedigger busily excavating in the shade of a tree to bury him instead in the light. And the worker obliges. The epigraph to the film (which is also part of the final chorus of the Passion of Saint Matthew) comes from Dante’s Purgatorio (Canto V): “l’angel di Dio mi prese e quel inferno / gridava: O tu del Ciel, perchè mi privi? / Tu te ne porti di costui l’eterno / per una lacrimetta che’l mi toglie.” As Vittorio sheds tears—Accattone is deceased–he acquires a human dignity heretofore denied to him. In a similar vein, the protagonist’s Christ-like experience is explicitly repeated and accented elsewhere in the film: one of his friends is a reputed traitor; the gang accompanying him in Pio’s car to pick up Stella is said to be about to enjoy the last supper; Vittorio dies flanked by two thieves.

Previously in the dream sequence, Vittorio had seen himself dead, and the audience is soon to see him die (when trying to escape from the police) in a motorcycle accident on a bridge. Throughout Accattone, seeing has in fact been foregrounded–obsessive images, close-ups, pans, shot/reverse shot–and the characters have been presented as see-ers more than agents. According to Gilles Deleuze, the prevalence of optical situations as opposed to movement situations is what distinguishes the classic European cinema of the thirties and forties from the New Wave and neorealist cinema of the fifties and sixties. In the classic film, well-defined characters have recognizable goals and take action to reach them. Their movements and decisions obey the law of cause and effect and are consequently clearly linked to precipitating events. They have direction. But as Deleuze explains in Cinema 2, the evolution of the cinema puts the action-image into crisis:

The character has become a kind of viewer. He shifts, runs and becomes animated in vain, the situation he is in outstrips his motor capacities on all sides, and makes him see and hear what is no longer subject to the rules of a response or an action […]. He is prey to a vision, pursued by it or pursuing it, rather than engaged in an action. (Braudy & Marshall 251)

This passage aptly describes Vittorio. How often in Accattone is he seen becoming “animated in vain,” ”outstripped of his motor capacities,” ”prey to a vision?” How many shots present this anti-hero with the immensity of the infinite heavens behind and above him while others frame him within the finitude of imposing walls, row-houses and gates?

Near the end of the film there is another series of optically obsessive images that stress the plight of the protagonist: five close-up shots of only the eyes of the spy who has been following him. But soon to be caught, hasn’t Vittorio always been in a sense confined, victim of an inescapable destiny? Yet the importance of the repeated shots of the spy’s eyes goes beyond the interests of psychological verisimilitude—“la mimesis visiva del suo protagonista”–in what was referred to earlier as the “first film.” As an obsessive image, the eyes attest to the “second film” evoking authorial vision:

Spia della presenza di tale film sotteraneo non fatto, sono, appunto […] le inquadrature e i ritmi di montaggio ossessivi […] Insomma, in un quadro generale, la formazione di una tradizione di lingua della poesia del cinema, si pone come spia di una forte e generale ripresa del formalismo, quale produzione media e tipica dello sviluppo culturale del neocapitalismo. (Ermetismo eretico187-90)

In the first creation of his cinematic career, therefore, Pasolini’s bourgeois, intellectual status enables and incites him to challenge and criticize the desacralized neocapitalist society from within by adopting a poetic, formalistic style–una tecnica sacrale–in order to foment an internal revolution. The historical revolt is, however, unseverably linked to the metaphysical revolt. For Pasolini the poet, aesthetics and politics are inextricably entwined and Accattone illustrates that trans-historical and the historical dimensions of cinematic representation are not mutually exclusive. Quite to the contrary, it is his sense of the sacred that simultaneously unifies and disunites the film, owing to an “inserirsi di ideologie razionalistiche, come quella di tipo marxista, su formazioni irrazionalistiche comme la mia cultura decadentistica.” (Fontanella 56). In 1961, Pasolini can still mythologize the sub-proletariat, before having to recognize by the end of the sixties that it too has succumbed to the capitalist Juggernaut.


1. In addition to works cited in this article, some recent publications devoted to Pasolini include: Pasolini Old and New. ed. Zygmunt Baranski. Dublin: Four Court Press, 1999; Ward, David. A Poetics of Resistance: Narrative and the Writings of Pier Paolo Pasolini. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995; Rumble, Allen. Pier Paolo Pasolini:Contemporary perspectives, New Haven: Yale UP, 1994; Rohdie, Sam. ThePassion of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996.

2. See Otto, Rudolf. The Idea of the Holy, London: Breslau, 1947; Bataille, Georges. “La valeur d’usage de D.A.F. de Sade”, Oeuvres Complètes Vol. 1. Paris: Gallimard, 1970; Caillois, Roger. L’homme et le sacré, Paris: Gallimard, 1956; Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane, NY: Harcourt Brace, 1959.

3. Pasolini explains this process as follows: “Se invece io voglio esprimere quell’albero attraverso il cinema, reproduce quell’albero stesso…. Quindi l’albero diventa segno iconico di se stesso, che io ho chiamato in-segno”  (Fontanella 50).

4. The ambivalent reception of Ignazio Silone’s Emergency Exit in 1965, for example, illustrates this unique syncretism. The left condemned the book as anti-communist, while the conservative Catholics branded it as sacreligious.

5. Commenting on the significance of the fight scene, Alessandro Cadoni writes: “è proprio la musica che innalza Accattone, povero Cristo, pappone di borgata, dalla miseria in cui lui e la sua gente si trovano confinati; e la musica anche lo mostra al mondo, col suo corraggio e la sua viltà, innalzando al cielo in punto di morte, dalla polvere in cui ha sempre vissuto.” In his interview for Cinéma, de notre temps, Pasolini declares: “Je suis moi-même celui qui raconte. L’auteur et le narrateur ont la même façon de voir la réalité” (Fieschi).

6. In his interview for Cinéma, de notre temps, Pasolini declares: “Je suis moi-même celui qui raconte. L’auteur et le narrateur ont la même façon de voir la réalité” (Fieschi).

7. Of course, fatalism is also suggested in the dialog. In the first scene of the film, death is evoked when one of the gang says that there is plenty of room for everyone in the cemetery. Right before Vittorio’s dive from the bridge, a friend asks what he wants to have inscribed on his tomb. Another buddy makes two predictions concerning the imminent downfall of Accattone.

8. Pasolini was an enthusiastic reader of the French symbolists and of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, in particular. In reference to the coalescence of his ideological and aesthetic concerns in his own works, he attributes the sometimes extremely refined novelistic language, for instance, to the influence of Baudelaire (Fontanella 46).

Works cited

Bataille, Georges. “La notion de dépense,” Œuvres Complètes, 11, Paris: Gallimard, 1970.
____. “La valeur d’usage de D.A.F. de Sade”. Œuvres Complètes Vol. 1. Paris, Gallimard, 1970.
Braudy, Leo & Cohen, Marshall. Film Theory and Criticism, NY: Oxford UP, 2004.
Cadoni, Alessandro. “Cinema e musica classica: il caso di Pier Paolo Pasolini,”Pagine Corsare.
Fieschi, Jean-André. “Pasolini l’enragé”, Cinéma, de notre temps. Videodisc. Dir. Janine Bazin and André Labarthe. Carlotta, 1966.
Fontanella, Luigi. Pasolini rilegge Pasolini. Milano: Archinto, 2005.
Pasolini, Pier Paolo. Empirismo eretico, Roma: Garzanti Libri, 1972.
____. Accattone. Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Perf. Franco Citti and Franca Pasut. Arco Film, 1961.


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