Pasolini and Truffaut showcase at Cartagena’s FICCI 61

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As part of its cinematic mission to showcase classics of the silver screen, for edition 61 of the International Film Festival of Cartagena (FICCI), two great masters will be profiled, with four features selected for both Pier Paolo Pasolini and Francois Truffaut.

The eight selected films mark the centenary of Pasolini’s birth, and ninety years of Truffaut, celebrating the thematic diversity of these directors, and whose films are indelibly linked to social and political commentary. As intellectuals and auteurs who democratized the visual narrative, FICCI 61 will screen works that are as relevant today, as they were when released a half-century ago.

Included in the slate is Pasolini’s first film, and double feature Accattone, inspired by two of his novels The Ragazzi (1955), and A Violent Life (1959). The novelty is in its non-professional actors. When the film opened in cinemas in 1961 it could only be viewed by spectators over the age of 18, given its label by censors as morally “exceptional.” Pasolini’s tale of an unemployed young man who goes by nickname “Accetone,” (scoundrel or vagabond), and a member of a gang of petty thieves in the slums of Rome, reveals the scope of Pasolini’s love of theatre, poetry, and journalism.

Comizi d’amore (1964) takes on sexuality and constant theme in Pasolini’s work. Created as a documentary, the director traveled extensively through his native Italy investigating issues such as virginity, prostitution or homosexuality, always in confluence with the morality and conservatism of Italian society. Divided in four parts, the documentary film includes interviews with writers such as Alberto Moravia, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Oriana Fallaci.

Porcile (1969) is one of Pasolini’s most controversial and perhaps least understood films. Part of his cycle on classical myths (Medea, Oedipus the King, Theorem), the film is a denouncement of fascism narrated through two unconnected stories: that of Julián and the relationship between his father with Nazis, and that of a young man who turns into a cannibal as he wanders through a volcanic landscape. Titled in English as “Pigsty,” Pasolini’s Porcile reveals the human capacity for destruction.

Pasolini’s allegorical The Decameron (1971) is a free adaptation of eight of the stories from the classic works by Giovanni Boccaccio, and departure for a director known for politically-charged films. Pasolini’s engagement with the Medieval Ages shows how this director could graft the comic genre with erotic, the poetic with scenes of sexual perversions. The Decameron was the first part of a Life Trilogy that continues with adaptations of two other classics of literature: Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights.

The Truffaut cycle opens with The 400 Blows, released in 1959, and the debut of French New Wave cinema. Part autobiography of Truffaut’s childhood, The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) is a sublime masterpiece set in his native France during the late 1950s and played by the 12-year-old actor Jean-Pierre Léaud. This unsentimental opus of an alternative-reality version of the artist confronting aloof parents, oppressive teachers, and life on the crime-ridden streets of Paris marked Truffaut’s passage from film critic to realist storyteller.

Undoubtedly one of Truffaut’s great classics, Jules and Jim (1962), incarnates the romantic dramas of the French New Wave, and love triangle set against a backdrop of war when two inseparable friends – Jules and Jim – fall in love with the same woman, Catherine (Jeanne Moreau).

The Last Metro (1980) is set during World War II when Paris was occupied by the Nazis. Lucas Steiner, a Jewish playwright, must hide in the basement of his theater company. From there, and through his wife, he gives directions to his actors so that they keep on performing. A moving tribute to the world of art, starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu, Truffaut’s war epic is steeped in humanity and love during cultural resistance.

Truffaut’s 1983 film Vivement Dimanche is also his last and tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. Based on the novel The Long Saturday Night by American author Charles Williams, Confidentially Yours, tells the story of Julien Vercel, an estate agent who is suspected of murdering his wife and her lover. Among the many interesting aspects of this suspense / thriller, is the impeccable cinematography of Néstor Almendros. Truffaut died a year after the film’s release, age 52, from brain cancer.