By Rose MINUTAGLIO
Often violent and buzzing with sexual energy, the films of Abel Ferrara reflect the bad boy style their author exudes: rogue, provocative, yet alluring.
Perhaps it is this exact combination that makes him the ideal auteur for Pasolini, the biopic about the legendary and controversial film director from Rome, Pier Paolo Pasolini. Shooting for the film began on January 28th, 2014, with Willem Dafoe in the title role.
Since the age of 16, Ferrara has dedicated his life to making movies. With over a dozen cult classics under his belt, the director has made a definitive cinematic mark on the world. From vengeful, blood spurting flicks like The Driller Killer (1979) and Ms. 45 (1981) to intense psychological thrillers such as Bad Lieutenant (1992) and King of New York (1990), Ferrara’s film repertoire is fascinating, disturbing and anything but sane.
A native New Yorker, Ferrara has both Italian and Irish blood, and was raised Catholic (a complex spiritual stamp that would affect much of his work). He attended the film conservatory at State University of New York at Purchase, where he quickly showed a predilection for exploring the ambiguity of life. Characters in a Ferrara film are hard to label. Good and evil are never easily identified—everything is intricate. Much like life. For Ferrara, there are no easy answers.
“Me, personally, I don’t need to push myself. I don’t need to sharpen my own knife and slit my throat. I’m trying to chill it and find an equilibrium and a balance to my work. The pain and suffering—it’s all there. It’s there in the world, so it’s in the world of the movie. Even if you’re a poet sitting in your room writing a poem, you’re still in the world,” said Ferrara in Interview magazine.
Many critics agree he has a unique ability to project raw emotion onto the screen, and so some film buffs will be anxious to see how that transfers to Pasolini. Considered one of the most important Italian intellectual minds of the 20th century, Pasolini shocked audiences with scenes of intense violence and unorthodox depictions of sexuality. His films were highly controversial at the time of their release, an intriguing parallel to Ferrara that has not gone unnoticed by fans. Some of Pasolini’s noted works include Accattone (1961), Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) and Theorem (1968).
“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 freethinker on every level,” said Ferrara of his subject.
Pasolini’s aura moved to another level when he was murdered at the age of 53, just weeks before the premiere of Salò. His killer repeatedly ran him over with his own car — and Ferrara’s biopic will explore this violent, mysterious end.
“There are not a lot of people about whom you could say that their death changed the course of history, but Pasolini was one,” he said. Ferrara’s penchant for unearthing the mystery – the provocative questioning inherent in his works – keeps his fans and audiences in suspense.