|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 23, 2017 at 8:45 PM|
ARABIAN NIGHTS ***
Pier Paolo Pasolini
IDEA: The ingenuous Nuredin travels the desert in search of his missing slave girl, Zumurrud, while various others along the way expound on their own romantic travails.
BLURB: Even more than the first two films in his Trilogy of Life, The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights feels like Pasolini’s id splashed across the screen, the director’s most unwieldy, quixotic, indulgent, and uninhibited vision of insatiable erotic desire. His loose rendition of a handful of stories from One Thousand and One Nights is less a loyal historical account than an unapologetic idealization of a pre-modern past figured as a phantasmagoria of bountiful carnal pleasures. There is little denying that Pasolini, in exalting a relatively uncorrupted (by capitalism at least) era and people, tips emphatically over into Orientalism and sensual extravagance. His mise-en-scène contains majestic Middle Eastern vistas and supple, young nude bodies in equally abundant measure; unashamed nakedness bespeaks an innocent and liberating comfort with sex he mobilizes in protest of contemporary Western prudishness. The perspective is obviously highly dubious, but also gratifying – Pasolini makes no claims to either realism or good taste in his fantasy of fleshly abandon. Yet to posit Arabian Nights or the other films of the trilogy as purely idyllic retreats into the past would be a mistake. The films are as vivified by the idea of humans stripped of civilizing cultural constraints as they are haunted by the absurdities, cruelties, and hypocrisies of religious dogma and reigning structures of power. Still, in Arabian Nights as in the other films, mankind’s follies are always bound up with its irrepressible primal urges. Pasolini’s fervidly messy tales allow those urges to run (mostly satisfyingly) amok.