(out of series) Il racconti di Canterbury (321 Lindley Hall, Film Authors, Pier Paolo Pasolini)

Pasolini’s adaptation of The Canterbury Tales includes harsh institutional judgments of sexual behavior.  The ecclesiastical punishment of homosexuality in the films modified version of  “The Summoner’s Tale” providing the harshest of these. The cameras and microphones however, never take the side of the judges. The film portrays various pre-capitalist systems of judgment without turning itself into a system of judgment. Normally, in industrial cinema, the narrative apparatus enforces norms by forcing characters and the audience to see in the same way as the judges in the films see. In fact, the camera’s and microphones of industrial cinema most often take up the position of a kind of supreme moral court punishing those they construe as guilty both through the incidents of the plot and by means of stylistic choices in presentation. Such films frame those they would punish in such a way that they can only be perceived as guilty. Il racconti di Canterbury uses distant, crowded framings containing mise-en-scene elements from Bruegel and Bosch both as traces of institutional expression from the pre-capitalist period when the bourgeoisie was just emerging. Those shots also portray pleasures taken from below and in spite of juridical repression. Such schemata allow the film’s portrait of sexuality to differentiate itself from neoliberal permissiveness, in which power enjoins one to enjoy, and at the same time produce period sexualities as potentials connected to the modern world by casting.


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