Pasolini (2014): Abel Ferrara’s Unconventional Biopic of the Late Italian Filmmaker Pasolini, Featuring Willem Dafoe

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini chronicles of the last days in the life of Murdered Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the towering figures of 1960s and 1970s European cinema.

World premiering at the 2014 Venice Film Fest, Pasolini later played in the Special Presentations section of the Toronto Film Fest.

Pasolini was murdered on All Soul’s Day November 2, 1975. He was run over by his own car on the beach of Ostia, near Rome. Giuseppe Pelosi, a 17-year-old delinquent, confessed to his murder, but then he retracted in 2005.

Willem Dafoe: Frequent Collaborator

Starring Willem Dafoe in his fourth film with Ferrara, after “New Rose Hotel, “Go Go Tales” and “4:44 Last Day on Earth,” “Pasolini” is based on a screenplay by Maurizio Braucci.

Ferrara has always been more popular in Europe (especially France and Italy) than in the U.S. His last several pictures have not even been released theatrically stateside.

Ferrara plans to initiate principal photography on All Souls’ Day, November 1, the eve of the 38th anniversary of Pasolini’s still-not-totally-clarified death.

Thierry Lounas at Paris-based Capricci, an independent production- distribution-sales-publishing house, lead produces. “Pasolini” is co-produced by Italy’s Urania Pics and Belgium’s Tarantula, backed by the Wallimage film fund. It will tap Belgian tax-shelter money.

“Pasolini” has tapped funding from Euro co-production fund Eurimages, French broadcaster Arte (a prebuy and co-production coin) and Gallic paybox Canal Plus. Peter Danner’s Paris-based Funny Balloons, which handled sales on “4:44 Last Day on Earth,” has acquired world sales rights to “Pasolini.”

Ferrara admires Pasolini, as he noted: “Seeing ‘Salo’ was a great moment for me. Pasolini was not just a great film director, he was a philosopher, a poet, a journalist who wrote editorials, a communist but a Catholic who opposed birth control, a radical, a free-thinker on every level,” Ferrara said at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival, where he taught a master class for young filmmakers. He added: “There are not a lot of people about whom you could say that their death changed the course of history, but Pasolini was one.”

With the exception of the American actor Dafoe, who lives in Rome, is married to Italian filmmaker Giada Colagrande, and speaks fluent Italian, the rest of the cast is Italian.

“Pasolini” is not a procedural or an examination of Pasolini’s death. Rather, it  focuses on the figure of the director himself and includes never-seen footage from “Salo,” “a funny scene” that Pasolini cut, Ferrara said.

Ferrara also includes a scene from the Detroit-set movie Pasolini was preparing on the life of St. Paul. “It’s a killer script. This guy could write scripts like nobody,“ Ferrara commented. “The event is Roman, very much Roman. Pasolini’s world was Roman.”

“The film is set in 1975, a very rough, rugged, exciting period to shoot,” he said. “Businessmen went to work wearing American baseball catchers’ shin guards for fear of kneecapping. The Red Brigades kidnapped and killed the former prime minister of Italy. … It’s a violent world.”


Directed by Abel Ferrara
Produced by Thierry Lounas
Written by Maurizio Braucci, based on story by Abel Ferrara and Nicola Tranquillino
Narrated by Luca Lionello
Cinematography: Stefano Falivene
Edited by Fabio Nunziata
Running time: 84 minutes