Pier Paolo Pasolini achieved fame and notoriety long before he entered the film industry. A published poet at 19, he had already written numerous novels and essays before his first screenplay in 1954. His first film Accattone (1961) was based on his own novel and its violent depiction of the life of a pimp in the slums of Rome caused a sensation. He was arrested in 1962 when his contribution to the portmanteau film Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963) was considered blasphemous and given a suspended sentence. It might have been expected that his next film, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) (The Gospel According to St. Matthew), which presented the Biblical story in a totally realistic, stripped-down style, would cause a similar fuss but, in fact, it was rapturously acclaimed as one of the few honest portrayals of Christ on screen. Its original Italian title pointedly omitted the Saint in St. Matthew). Pasolini’s film career would then alternate distinctly personal and often scandalously erotic adaptations of classic literary texts: Oedipus Rex (1967) (Oedipus Rex); The Decameron (1971); The Canterbury Tales (1972) (The Canterbury Tales); Arabian Nights (1974) (Arabian Nights), with his own more personal projects, expressing his controversial views on Marxism, atheism, fascism and homosexuality, notably Teorema (1968) (Theorem), Pigsty and the notorious Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), a relentlessly grim fusion of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy with the ‘Marquis de Sade’ which was banned in Italy and many other countries for several years. Pasolini was murdered in still-mysterious circumstances shortly after completing the film.
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