Christmas might as well be in November this year, because for the first time ever in the United States, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” will be coming to DVD and Blu-Ray, on the 13th of the month. And who is carrying out the release? Well, you probably guessed it: the Criterion Collection, a film company that if I gushed over them any more than I already do, people would think I was a paid employee. Just the other day, I found myself adding four more of their films to my ever-growing “C.C”, as I call it, by way of their 24-hour, 50% off Flash Sale, which brought many of these pricy films down to below $20. I allowed myself to splurge a little bit, and bought The Night of the Hunter, The Last Temptation of Christ, 8 1/2, and Paths of Glory. It was only last night, when I decided to look through their list of upcoming releases did I find my heart jumping for joy.
Pasolini’s trilogy includes three of the most famous medieval and ancient tales ever written, put to film in the artistic, raunchy, bawdy way that only he could present: The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974). The only one of these films to be released in America on DVD in the past was the first one, through the “MGM World Films” collection. It is also the only part of the trilogy I have seen in its entirety, which really bothered me, as a big admirer of Pasolini’s fearless work. The other two I have only seen parts of, on the internet, but had to stop watching because the quality was simply too poor to be bearable. For many years, they have had a European release, as the British Film Institute touched them up, but as for appearing on Region 1 discs, this will be a first.
Pasolini was known to be a man who never backed down in regards to what he would put on film. He never shied away from showing the naked human body, and his films are often filled with sex (though always for a reason and never gratuitous), satire, puns, and morals, which led to much of his work being banned and protested against. But as for his cinematography, many are hard-pressed to find any fault with it. He was famous for traveling to the very locations he was trying to represent, which always led to his films having a very realistic feel, and never having a studio look. Pasolini also enjoyed casting locals who had no acting experience, to play the parts of extras (and in some cases the lead role; see Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew), which only further enhanced the atmosphere. Following this “Trilogy of Life”, he was set to embark on a “Trilogy of Death”, but was murdered after finishing the first installment in 1975, Salo: or the 120 Days of Sodom, a work that has been called the most shocking and depraved movie ever made by some, and a masterpiece by others. Then there are those like me, who consider it to be both.
This release is sure to excite any fan of cinema, and I know there are many who are marking this on their calendars right now. Over the years, I have been able to see every film Pasolini made that was actually available to me. Somehow, I began to lose hope that this entire trilogy would ever be released here, because there never seemed to be any urgency, but I am very glad to be wrong. As soon as these films arrive, I am going to make sure all my schoolwork is done, and have myself a film festival all day long. These are movies that deserve to be celebrated, and seen by the widest audience possible, and now, that is finally going to happen! Will be posting more thoughts on the trilogy as well as Criterion as we get closer to the release date! For more information, click here.