Michel Azama’s The Life and Death of Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of several imports at the Act French Festival in Manhattan, a celebration of French drama. About the career and murder of an Italian cult figure, the mental drama is thought-evoking and chilling.
Giving snapshots of moments from Pasolini’s life, the drama explores a theme the outsider knew all too well: when the immediate population converges with the intent to annihilate one person. Born in 1922, Pasolini was an Italian director who made films about social rebels and outcasts, with inexperienced actors in lead roles. His films and politics, oftentimes the scorn of the Italian government, are what is rumored to have caused his 1975 murder. Did a male prostitute kill him? Did the Italian government? These are questions the drama seeks to answer in 70 minutes. However, since the Pasolini character sometimes narrates events from his life at the proscenium, the theme is sometimes blurred.
Some of the more promising scenes are ones in which Pasolini is indicted in the Italian courtroom. But their potential weight and impact are lessened with the use of a taped recording in the role of the judge. In one scene, an actor erred in his timing with the recording, and then used obvious improvisation—a facial expression, a shrug of the shoulders, and a tilt of the head—to accommodate for a lapse in dialogue. But, all things considered, the drama is strong, showcasing a theme, plot, and ensemble of four actors that hold audience interest.
Arthur Aulisi is an expert actor who, altering his one costume with subtle changes, becomes several characters that cross paths with Pasolini.
Ian Oldaker is Giuseppe Pelosi, the man charged with murdering Pasolini. His acting is ethereal but amazing, and he frightens the audience because his performance is that incredible. What is more, his rapport with Drew Cortese, in the Pasolini role, is raw and believable. Their scenes of sexual unease, frustration, and desire are the best points in the drama.
Using minimal setting and film-like projections, The Life and Death of Pier Paolo Pasolini offers an interesting look at the ups and downs in the life and death of an almost forgotten Italian writer, poet, film director, and creative thinker.