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The Decameron

The first of three “tales of life”—to be followed by his adaptations of The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights—Pasolini’s take on the foundational early Renaissance text by Boccaccio is fully in line with the poet/filmmaker’s preoccupations: the nature of sexual desire, sexual identity, and the structuring forces of societies, especially through religion. Constructed partially through the authoring of a mural by the painter Giotto (played by Pasolini), the ten tales he chooses to adapt are remarkable for their comedy and frankness—stories of marital trouble, capitalistic machinations, fleeting love, and magical transformations—illuminated by his obsession with the faces of his actors as they contort and express emotion. “An artist, if he’s unselfish and passionate, is always a living protest. Just to open his mouth is to protest: against conformism, against what is official, public, or national, what everyone else feels comfortable with, so the moment he opens his mouth, an artist is engaged, because opening his mouth is always scandalous.”—Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Genres: Historical, Drama