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Pier Paolo Pasolini

Each fall, the MFAH hosts a celebration of Italian cinema. These retrospectives feature restored 35mm prints from the archive of Rome’s legendary Cinecittà, presented in partnership with the Italian Consul General of Houston, the Institute of Italian Culture in Los Angeles, and generous local sponsors and community partners.

For the eighth annual event in 2013, the MFAH joins a national U.S. tour to reconsider the singular vision of Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–1975). The Houston screenings are presented in partnership with Rice Cinema, where Pasolini’s "Trilogy of Life" films run October 4–6. All films are directed by Pasolini and presented in Italian with English subtitles.

“The meaning of Pasolini remains undecipherable, ambiguous, suspended. A lapsed Catholic who never lost his religious worldview and a lifelong Marxist who was expelled from the Communist Party for being gay, Pasolini was an artist and thinker who tried not to resolve his contradictions but rather to embody them fully. With his gift for polemics and taste for scandal, he was routinely hauled up on blasphemy and obscenity charges and attacked by those on the left and the right.” —New York Times

Past Films in This Series


The Gospel According to Matthew

Il Vangelo secondo Matteo

1964, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Introduced by Alessandro Carrera, director of Italian Studies at the University of Houston The Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective opens with one of Pasolini's most acclaimed early films, a religious tale that finds the spiritual and the epic in the everyday, chronicling the life of Christ in a style influenced by neorealism. Casting nonprofessional actors and opting not to use a script or special effects, Pasolini’s retelling is measured and soulful, enhanced by a rich musical score ranging from Bach and ... more info

Hawks and Sparrows

Uccellacci e Uccellini

1965–66, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Working with celebrated Italian comic Totò, Pier Paolo Pasolini constructs an episodic fable that is whimsical and political. A strolling father and son are confronted by a talking raven who, using parables, attempts to make the pair understand how their behavior has been shaped by capitalism. They travel back in time to meet St. Francis and return to the present full of knowledge and inspiration, only to become disillusioned by life’s realities. Pasolini said, “I chose Totò because of his ... more info


1961 (Italian with subtitles)
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Hailed as a classic of Italian Neorealism, Accattone is Pier Paolo Pasolini’s first film. Vittorio "Accattone" Cataldi (Franco Citti) is a young man in the Italian suburbs, eager to live without responsibilities or a regular job. He prostitutes his wife, until she is thrown in jail. Accattone then falls in love with a woman who represents an innocent, bourgeois life he cannot attain. He dies while symbolically trying to escape the life of scrounging and slumming for which he was ... more info

Love Meetings

Comizi d'Amore

1963–64, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini interviews hundreds of Italians diverse in occupation and social class about their opinions on concepts such as eroticism, love, homosexuality, divorce, and prostitution. Author Michel Foucault wrote of the film: “This is an invaluable document . . . Those who are questioned stubbornly insist on couching their answers in legalistic language . . . What runs through the film is . . . an uncertainty vis-à-vis a new regime, which was just emerging in Italy at the time, ... more info

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma

1975, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Introduced by professor Alessandro Carrera, director of Italian Studies, University of Houston The screening is followed by a panel discussion about the seizure of the print of "Salò" from Houston's River Oaks Theatre in 1982. Participants include former theater manager Maureen McNamara, activist Ray Hill, lawyer Glen Gabbard, scholar Garth Jowett, and professor Alessandro Carrera. Moderator: Jay Heuman, public programs coordinator. Banned in Italy just a week after director Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered, Salò gives viewers a sadistic portrait of power ... more info

Oedipus Rex


1967, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Oedipus Rex, adapted from the Greek tragedy, is bookended by autobiographical elements: The prologue takes place in the 1920s, the epilogue in modern Bologna. Of the central portion, set in ancient Greece, filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini said: “I merely told the story of my own life, mystified of course, and given an epic style through the Oedipus legend. But since it is the most autobiographical of my films, it is also the one I rightly look upon with the most detachment ... more info


1969, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Opera legend Maria Callas stars in Pier Paolo Pasolini's straightforward adaptation of the classic Euripides tragedy about a sorceress whose escapades range from assisting in the theft of the Golden Fleece to murdering her own children. more info

Short Films 1

1966-1968, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
THE EARTH AS SEEN FROM THE MOON / LA TERRA VISTA DALLA LUNA (1966, 30 min.)  Follow a father and son duo who must find a replacement for their wife/mother figure. Pasolini continues to stretch as a filmmaker both comic and poetic, a role established with Hawks and Sparrows. WHAT ARE THE CLOUDS? / CHE COSA SONO LE NUVOLIE? (1967, 22 min.) A clumsy, amateur puppet version of Shakespeare’s Othello. Both the public and the puppeteer play a great role ... more info

Mamma Roma

1962, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Mamma Roma tells the story of a middle-aged Roman prostitute (Anna Magnani), eager to leave her lifestyle behind after her pimp marries a country girl. As Mamma Roma is released from prostitution, she reunites with her son, Ettore, who was raised in the country during her absence. Despite her best efforts to create a respectable lifestyle for her son, Ettore joins a gang and falls in love with a tramp. Mamma Roma’s pimp reemerges onto the scene, causing a final ... more info

Short Films 2

1970-1974, in Italian with English subtitles
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA / APPUNTI PER UN’ORESTIADE AFRICANA (1970, 73 min., in Italian with English subtitles) Although the African Oresteia film itself was never created, this footage was gleaned from searches for locations and visual motifs on site in Africa, which Pasolini felt had reached a similar turning point to Argos at the time of Orestes. The film features a soundtrack by jazz legend Gato Barbieri. Pasolini said, “In my Appunti, one passes from a barbarous world, still ... more info

Coproduced by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Luce Cinecittà, Rome; and Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini/Cineteca di Bologna.

Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy. Special thanks to the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles.

This event is part of the celebrations of the Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

Luce Cinecitta     Associazione Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bologna   Cineteca Bologna     2013 Year of Italian Culture   Ferrari of Houston