Monday, July 20, 2009
Pier Paolo Pasolini's Porcile is certainly a strange film to start exploring the filmography of one of the most polarizing and controversial filmmakers of all time. I always intended to see Saló first but never had access to a copy. However, once I saw that my beloved Jean-Pierre Léaud had done a film with Pasolini and it was available on DVD, I knew I had to see it immediately. The film itself is...interesting, to say the very least. I'm actually not quite sure what to make of it. Porcile revolves around two unconnected stories: one involves a medieval soldier (I think) wandering around a barren unnamed land eating people while the other is about the bored, disillusioned child (played by JPL) of a rich German industrialist who spends his free time in the local pigsty. To say that nothing happens in this film would be an understatement--the soldier wanders around for a good portion of the time while JPL just kind of stands around talking with his female friend/love interest about disconnected socialistic ideas mixed with thoughts about their relationship--but I still found it all weirdly engaging. If you know me, that's a high compliment indeed since 98% of the time I need some kind of narrative in order to get me interested in a film. Obviously, Pasolini knows what the hell he's doing since even though (1) I had no idea what was going on most of the time, (2) the camerawork and editing were drastically barebones, (3) my beloved JPL was dubbed by this stupid-sounding Italian guy, (4) the cannibal story was vaguely dull and (5) the DVD transfer was a complete joke with momentary pauses between reel changes and the fact that TWO OF THE REELS WERE IN THE WRONG ORDER, and I still never had the urge to turn the movie off like I have with other vaguely similar art house titles like L'Avventura or 2001: A Space Odyssey.
What most struck me about Porcile was how its controversial subjects of cannibalism and bestiality aren't exactly as taboo as they once were. Sure, they're not accepted by 99% of all civilized countries, but we've heard about them so much in the past 40 years that we've become jaded and they don't really shock us in the way that they probably did in 1969. I don't believe any of this affects the film since Pasolini isn't going simply for the shock value; we never see Jean-Pierre with the pigs, only vaguely disguised references throughout the movie, and the medieval soldier only eats his victims in long shots. If Pasolini can inject this much interest into such a thin whisp of a plot, and manage not get caught up in his "taboo" subjects, I can only imagine what his (apparently) greater and more well-known work is capable of doing. B-