PASOLINI? A controversial , leftist journalist, philosopher, linguist, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, newspaper and magazine columnist, actor, painter and political figure.
In his film TEOREMA(Theorem, 1968) , in a final scene, we see the maid, Emilia, suspended in the sky above the casina– a row of farmhouses. The image smacks of Fellini’s imagine of the Virgin Mary at the beginning of the film LA DOLCE VIDA (1968): the Virgin statue hangs in the sky above Roman rooftops as a helicopter transports it over the crowded suburbs. Peasant vs. bourgeoise. Country vs. city. The sound of church bells vs. the noise of a helicopter engine. In both cases elevation of a woman, in both cases funny, in both cases not an intellectual question but rather a visual joke asking for the audience’s gut reaction. Like, “what’s going on?” The image breaks the narrative. In Fellini’s case setting up what is to follow; in Pasolini’s case, closing off what has already occurred.
I don’t know why I missed seeing Pasolini’s Teorama (Italian word that translates ‘spectacle’) earlier in my film viewing life. It’s a moody film requiring the viewer to fill in the blanks, and there are plenty of masterful blanks, both visual and spiritual, in the sexual-coming-apart of a wealthy Milanese family.
The wife (Silvana Mangano) is exquisite; she wears a Sassoon haircut, designer dresses, and never removes her make-up. Her eyes are dark almonds painted on a furrow-free porcelain face.
The soundtrack: silence, morning doves, birds, church bells, sirens.
Hip Brit actor, Terrence Stamp, plays god–some critics say he is the devil. His arrival is in Milan is simply introduced by a letter which arrives while the family is dining: Guest arrives tomorrow.
The next thing you know. The guest has been there. He’s seduced the maid and is now in the bedroom with the son. Stamp is not a predatory character, but a force each family member is absorbed by, as if they are thirsty plants and he is water.
If you love 60s films, Pasolini, or Italy don’t miss this one. Beautiful, fog laden scenes of the family modern country house let you se how the Italian nobility live. The family’s palazzo in the city is surrounded by what starts out as a greedy expanse of grounds that slowly shrinks as the film progresses, moving the palazzo closer to the street– a pedestrian street. The shrinking coincides with the father’s giving away his factory and refers back to the film’s first statement: “The existence of a middle class prevents a worker revolution.” (Things are too cushy and everyone aspires to middle class.)
Each of the Milanese family member’s encounter with the guest, transforms them. After the guest leaves, the once-uptight wife drives around in her high-fashion outfits looking for young men that resemble the guest: she looks for false gods? The daughter becomes catatonic, but assumes the rapture of orgasm on her face: blown away by god’s intensity; no one will be as good? The son becomes an artist: having been touched by the divine, he reached the depths of his sensitive soul? The husband gives away his factory and has sex with everyone and anyone: life is meaningless without god? Emilia, the maid, floats above the countryside and inspires her fellow peasants: god is not dead?
The reason Terrence Stamp character is god and not the devil? He is the male version of the maid: blue eyes, brown hair, same facial expressions, same color clothing. He inspires, transforms, and inspires awe.