The Decameron DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Produced in 1970
Main Language - Italian with English subtitles
The first film in Pasolini's 'Trilogy of Life' (followed by The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights) is an adaptation of ten bawdy stories by 14th century Italian writer Boccaccio, featuring betrayed husbands and dead lovers, immoral nuns and unlikely saints.
Sickened by empty left-wing sloganizing and by the way that hard-won sexual freedom was being commercially exploited, Pasolini’s Decameron was an act of artistic rebellion. Pasolini himself takes the role of Giotto and his construction of the frescoes of the church of Santa Chiara provides a symbolic framing to eight of Boccaccio’s stories. The beauty of the naked, youthful human body, of the sexual act in all its diversity, and of the Italian landscape, is undercut by the ugliness of social relations in which the rich, the church, artisans, exploit each other and the poor.
Length: 107 mins
Cat No: BFIB1115
Format: DVD+Blu-ray Colour
- 2 discs
- Remastered from original negatives and restored
- Alternative English-language version
- Original Italian trailer
- Notes for an African Oresetia (1970) – Pasolini’s visual notes for a never-realised feature film.
by David Parkinson on 31st March 2009
Known collectively as the ‘Trilogy of Life’, Pasolini’s interpretations of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974) are his attempt ... Read on
Known collectively as the ‘Trilogy of Life’, Pasolini’s interpretations of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974) are his attempt to forge an artistic unity between modern cinema, medieval art and the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer and the anonymous author behind the fables of Scheherazade.
The director himself played Giotto and Chaucer in the first two films, and he drew variously on pre-Renaissance religious painting, the dystopias of Bosch and Brueghel and Islamic art to enhance their authenticity. Yet there’s no denying that Pasolini romanticised the Middle Ages in his films. However, this approach wasn’t inspired by any naive optimism that humanity could recapture a pre-industrial innocence. Instead, it reflected his long-held Marxist view (already expressed in his 1964 masterpiece The Gospel According to Matthew) that the supposed freedoms and ideologies of capitalist society were not all that different from the strictures and superstitions of more unenlightened and oppressive eras. Consequently, it’s easy to see the maker of the savagely cynical Pigsty (1969) in what many have mistaken for bawdy romps that marked a hiatus in Pasolini’s one-man assault on the bourgeoisie.
Nevertheless, what strikes many coming to the Trilogy for the first time are the graphic depictions of the human body. Pasolini was not jumping on the permissive bandwagon however. He wanted to celebrate the primitive functions and carnal desires of the flesh that had been deemed pornographic by the prudish, hypocritical forces of the ruling elite and the Catholic Church. He wanted to reclaim sex from those who had sanitised it for film and television while shamelessly exploiting it for consumerist advertising. It was this failure – made manifest by the slew of copycat softcore comedies that sought to cash in on the series’ commercial success – that prompted Pasolini to disown it, lamenting that ‘even if I wished to continue to make films like the Trilogy of Life, I would be unable to do so because I now hate the body and the sexual organs’. Indeed, it was this anger, disillusion and disgust that led him to make his most scurrilous denunciation of the Italian psyche, Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975).
by Paul Kent on 1st May 2009
The publicity notes on the DVD cover state that the film is 'colourful, entertaining and highly erotic'. Colourful? With a backdrop of Italian countryside and Renaiss... Read on
The publicity notes on the DVD cover state that the film is 'colourful, entertaining and highly erotic'. Colourful? With a backdrop of Italian countryside and Renaissance architecture - yes. Entertaining and highly erotic? - not for this viewer. I have always believed that unless a director can add something to a book, he or she should leave it alone. It is difficult to see what extra point Pasolini, as a director working for a contemporary audience, is trying to make here, since he appears intentionally to avoid even simple conventions of theatrical comedy and pathos. The male characters are all either toothless half-wits, or corrupt and bestial in habits. Their complete lack of normal spiritual and emotional depth robs the film of any realism, rendering them wooden and superficial. The females fare little better: the director undermining the publicity by confusing what is naked with what is erotic. The ultimate deception is the use of the beautiful Silvana Mangano on the DVD box. If you blink during the film you will miss her ten second iconic appearance. I shall not watch this film again; moreover, it dissuades me from exporing the other two works in Pasolini's 'Trilogy of Life'. Hide
Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1974
Following 'The Decameron' and 'The Canterbury Tales', Pasolini completed his 'Trilogy of Life' se...