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Film Spotlight: Pier Paolo Pasolini- Poet and Provocateur

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A poet, novelist and essayist, Italian writer-director Pier Paolo Pasolini started making movies in the early '60s. An open homosexual and avowed Marxist, he addressed social and political issues in his films. Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poet and Provocateur, a 15-program series that kicks off this week at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, will provide an excellent overview of his work.

"The series was coming to the U.S. and I was lucky enough to get into it," says Cinematheque director John Ewing. "It's organized by Luce Cinecittà, a government-funded film promotion company in Italy that puts together comprehensive retrospectives and sends them all over the world. What's nice about these series is that they use brand new prints. They spend a lot of money on them."

Ewing got wind of the series early on when he heard the Wexner Center in Columbus was going to put it on. He offered to present it at the same time.

"He's a major Italian director and we've never done a full retrospective. I just never pursued it. He came to film as an essayist and poet. He was a celebrated intellectual."

The series begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday with a screening of 1961's Accattone, a film that's notable because it marked the film debut of The Godfather's Franco Citti. "It's a neo-realist drama," Ewing says of the movie. "He was drawn to people who live on the seamy side of town. He was always fascinated with these lowlifes and that aspect of Italian society. He's like a Freudian Marxist Christian so it's a weird combination."

The Cinematheque will also screen new 35mm prints of Mamma Roma (Jan. 12), The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Jan. 18), The Hawks and the Sparrows (Jan. 19), Teorema (Jan. 25), Oedipus Rex (Jan. 26), Pigsty (Feb. 1), Notes for an African Orestes (Feb. 8), The Decameron (Feb. 9), La Ricotta (Feb. 15), The Wtiches (Feb. 15 and 16), The Canterbury Tales (Feb. 16) and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Feb. 22).

The series concludes on Sunday, Feb. 23, with a screening of his second-to-last film, 1974's Arabian Nights, a film about a man searching for his slave girl who's been kidnapped.

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