(out of series) Il Decameron (321 Lindley, Film Authors: Pier Paolo Pasolini)

Il Trilogia della vita  begins with a scene of a debt collector (Franco Citti) beating someone to death. One might have thought that this should enough of a cue to make Pasolini’s Marxist critics of the 1970s realize that the trilogy doesn’t dream of an authentic undifferentiated world free of class conflict. Il Trilogia doesn’t celebrate life as a humanist value, it depicts life at a time before neoliberalism attempted to insert human bodies directly into chains of valuation. Pasolini analyzed the growing sexual permissiveness of neoliberal Italy as an attempt to turn all bodies into commodities, thereby mutating them into sources of profit for capital. Like the other films in the trilogy, Il Decameron carefully attends to various historical forms of economic circulation and depicts the sexualities that develop around them or beside them. Although in some of the tales center around advantageous marriage, feature prostitution, or narrate other intersections between sex and money, fucking is never promoted as a direct source of revenue for the dominant classes. Analogous to the wife who pretends she is selling her lover an urn to prevent her husband from realizing that he is being cuckolded, the characters often disguise their sexual acts with some bit of business involving the circulation of a good other than their bodies. When prostitution occurs, the prostitute keeps the profit for himself.  The utopian aspect of Il Decameron and the rest of ll trilogia, cannot be found in a supposed depiction of a regressive world of infantile fusion, but from the potentials released by depicting dangerous sex acts which are not subsumed in economic circulation. The fucking that most interests the trilogy runs parallel to circulation. It happens before the era of the assembly line and industrialization that, according to Pasolini, caused an “anthropological mutation” by investing in Italian genitals. As a bonus, Il trilogia favors fucking that avoids procreation and the founding of the bourgeois family.

A Marixist critic might validly take Pasolini to task for not focusing on production, but in the 1970s the semiological fools of early film studies couldn’t do anything but interpret the trilogy as if they were blind and deaf because they were busy  pulling out of their asses a “Marxist aesthetics” without any philological base. Perhaps the relatively sympathetic Geoffrey Noel-Smith most vexingly incarnates this tendency, since as an editor and translator of Gramsci, he should have been able to figure some of this shit out. The bewildering ideology of left academic film critics of the 70s wasn’t grounded in post-structuralism, but in a version of structuralism itself which made them think they had to invent an “aesthetics” with no relation to previous Marxist attempts to do so. One can only blame capitalist universities and publication venues, which disfigured thinkers then just as they do now. Their mission is to foreclose any relevant critique of capitalism.

One response to “(out of series) Il Decameron (321 Lindley, Film Authors: Pier Paolo Pasolini)

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