Sunday, September 15, 2013

Arabian Nights (1974)

WHO:Pier Paolo Pasolini directed this.

WHAT: My favorite Pasolini film, the final film in his joyfully sexual adaptations of medieval story-cycles known as the "Trilogy of Life". One does not need to see them in order of course, but as Tony Rayns points out in a video essay for the Criterion DVD release of the trio, Arabian Nights is not marked by the religious undercurrent of The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales. Pasolini was Catholic and seemingly found it more liberating to work with stories set apart from that framework, which may be related to his decision to eschew a central narrator figure (he himself played Giotto and Chaucer in the first two films). As Dennis Harvey recently wrote, the third is "a gorgeously melancholic, serpentine lineup of seriocomic stories-within-stories."

WHERE/WHEN: Screens today at the Roxie Theatre and Sunday, October 27th at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

WHY: Seeing The Decameron on the Castro screen last night with a healthy audience was a pure delight. It's the kind of film that makes you walk away feeling great affection for cinema as a storytelling medium connected to the tale-telling that has meant so much to our species for centuries and millenia before the camera was invented. As I recall from my last full viewing, Arabian Nights is much the same and even more inspiring because it's an effort to pull away from a Eurocentric viewpoint. (The film was shot in Yemen, Nepal, and Iran as well as Italy, and the cast is multiracial.)

Even if you don't intend to make take advantage of this Fall's Pasolini-immersion possibilities (today three of his films play at the Roxie, and his full ouevre comes to the PFA starting Friday), a chance to see Arabian Nights in 35mm should not be missed. As I noted last month, Arabian Nights fits snugly into a possible Fall exploration of films that were rated 'X' at a time when that letter didn't strictly signify pornography. In that prior post I listed six at-one-time-so-rated titles planned to screen at the Yerba Buena Center For the Arts later this year, and I've been informed they will be joined by two others, also to screen in 35mm prints: John Waters' Pink Flamingos on December 14th and Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer on November 9th. 

HOW: Arabian Nights will screen in a 35mm print, and will screen with a Q&A session between actor Ninetto Davoli and Pasolini biographer Barth David Schwartz.

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