Mar 25, 2013


While cinematic cannibalism in Italy is almost solely associated with the so-called “cannibal boom” that lasted roughly from 1977 to 1981 and sired exquisitely exploitative films like Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (1981) aka Make Them Die Slowly, Guido poet/polymath Pier Paolo Pasolini (The Gospel According to Matthew, Teorema) preceded his less cultivated countrymen by almost a decade with his highly ambitious and somewhat impenetrable flick Porcile (1969) aka Pigsty – an intrinsically anti-capitalist and anti-fascist celluloid work submersed in semiotic scatology that centers on such taboo topics as man-on-pig bestiality, patricide, and cannibalism, among various other decidedly deplorable things that are not typically featured in arthouse films. Considered by many to be his most complex and arcane cinematic effort, Pigsty was naturally met with disapproval by discombobulated audiences during its ill-fated screening in Venice and Pasolini responded to the hopelessly confused with the following description, “To understand the film you have to have more heart than head (better yet, if there is head used so much the better): because there is to understand the desperate story of a sinner who makes of his sin his sanctity…there is to understand the ambiguous and dramatic relationship between the old capitalism and the new which concludes, even if in the tones of an almost contemplative poem, with a condemnation of them both.” Essentially two films in one (in fact, both segments originally had separate names: “Orgia” and “Porcile”), Pigsty features a dichotomous depiction of two strikingly different but thematically connected times – the first segment portraying a medieval Italian vagabond man who discovers war, battle, cannibalism, and anarchy, and the second segment portraying a fiendishly fetishistic ex-Nazi family who are now wealthy industrialists – the film manages to be part excess-ridden epic poem and part sardonic satire where shit and swine become subversive symbols of the Fatherland during the post-Nazi era of the Wirtschaftswunder (“economic mirace”). A virtual father film to his exceedingly subversive and excess and excrement-ridden, scatological cinematic swansong Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), minus the grotesque imagery, Pigsty was Pasolini’s first attempt to “crystallize horror. To make a Petrarchan sonnet on a theme from Lautréamont” and “making the cinema aristocratic: unconsumable,” which is quite ironic for a self-proclaimed Marxist who vied for a classless collectivist society and wanted to appeal to the mindless masses (which he inevitably did with his mass culture “Trilogy of Life”). With an incriminating (Pasolini has admitted his identification with the medieval cannibal that spouts the words) tagline like, “I killed my father, I ate human flesh and I quiver with joy,” Pigsty makes for quite a potent and pessimistic work that portrays a new sort of era (as well as the "new beginning" of the old one that preceded it) following the destruction of Italy in Europa during the Second World War where ex-Nazis have now taken on the irredeemable role of their former enemy, the capitalistic Jew, as rampant materialists who cannibalize and defecate their own history and national kultur, thus committing fratricide against the Fatherland and the old perennial kultur that originally held it together. 

 In the first segment of Pigsty, the viewer is introduced to a destitute barbarian man (French actor Pierre Clémenti, who worked with Visconti, Buñuel, Bertolucci, Makavejev, and Cavani, among other countless great auteurs) who desperately tries to survive on infertile land around a volcano (the actor would later reprise the role of an unclad character who hangs around volcanoes in Philippe Garrel's The Inner Scar (1972) aka La cicatrice intérieure). After coming upon a battlefield featuring corpses and archaic weaponry, the unnamed man picks up a rifle and helmet and eventually comes across a soldier he stoically slays during a moment of potential mercy, thus beginning his personal war of anarchy against the state. Clearly a hungry fellow who is tired of dining on grass and snakes, the bloodlusting warrior decapitates and devours his enemy and, not long after, a goofy cannibal (Pasolini’s protégé Franco Citti) comes by and joins in. Naturally, the two anarchistic anthropophagites become comrades in arms and slaughter another group of men and take a woman as a slave, thus forming a cannibalistic tribe that continues to slaughter any group of people that has the misfortune of crossing their pernicious path. After a man escapes from the bloodthirsty brutality of the cannibal crew, he notifies the local Christian law enforcement, thereupon inevitably resulting in their capture and a judicial trial where the two hedonistic head-hunters are condemned to death. While the cannibal played by baked Citti meekly begs for forgiveness before the Christian cross in a most groveling manner, the ferocious flesh-eater played by Clémenti continuously repeats, “I killed my father, I ate human flesh and I quiver with joy,” while in a trance-like state as he bravely accepts death. Of course, both beasts of prey become prey of beasts as a result of their ravenous escapades, thus concluding the first segment of Pigsty. As director Pasolini wrote himself regarding the anthropophaginian anti-hero, "I identify in part with the character of Pierre Clémenti (apocalyptic anarchy, and—let us say—total contestation in the existential plane)."

The second segment of Pigsty, as written by Pasolini, “takes place in the industrialized part of Germnany, at Godesberg, near Cologne, which is where Adenauer used to live, in the villa of a big German industrialist like Krupp, say—one of the old industrial families.” Pathologically perverse protagonist Julian (French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, who is best known for playing François Truffaut’s filmic alter-ego “Antoine Doinel”) is the son of a flagrantly evil ex-Nazi industrialist with an anachronistic Uncle Adolf mustache named Signor Klotz (Alberto Lionello). Julian is a passive nihilist and cowardly cuckold of sorts who has next to nil interest in politics, business, or women, but he likes flying kites as an intrinsically immature 'mensch' who engages in infantile escapism, yet most of all, he loves riding dirty in his father's pigpen as a pathological pig porker, but no one knows about his swinish secret. Although he has no interest in touching her, Julian has a leftist girlfriend named Ida (played by Anne Wiazemsky, who also starred in Pasolini's Teorema) who futilely attempts to get her beau involved in revolutionary politics as a member of the 1968 German student movement. After finally confessing his subversive vice for swine, Julian falls into a catatonic state and Ida and the boy’s mother (Margherita Lozano) try to figure out the source of his sickness and seemingly split-personality. Meanwhile, Julian's father explains to his wife while in bed that, "The days of Grosz and Brecht aren't over...I could have been drawn by Grosz in the form of a sad pig," but the industrialist's fears are in vain as he essentially has nothing to worry about because, aside from kraut commie artists George Grosz and Bertolt Brecht being dead, the wealthy degenerate can sleep safely knowing, as he says himself, "Germany!...What a capacity to digest!...And what a capacity to defecate!...Nobody more than us Germans!...Over the heart of our Puritan sons!"

 Indeed, while Mr. Klotz devours Teutonic kultur (filling his majestic mansion with antique furniture and renaissance paintings) and industry, his son stands by passively and sexually services swine.  When not playing an angelic rendition of Horst-Wessel-Lied (the co-national anthem of the Third Reich) on his antique harp, Signor Klotz confides in his slavish servant Hans Günther (played by Italian auteur Marco Ferreri), a name most likely in reference to real-life National Socialist eugenicist Hans F. K. Günther, and verbally battles his arch-enemy Herdhitze – the pseudonym of a man whose real surname is Hirt and who gassed tons of Jews and collected the skulls of “Bolshevik Jew commissars” during the Second World and received “plastic surgery, Italian style” to hide his true identity. After making a toast to “Jews and Pigs,” Klotz and Hirt-Herdhitze decide that their mutual blackmail schemes against each other cancel each other out, thus they agree to merge their industrial empires (a scene Pasolini stated was a reference to the merger of Montecatini chemical works and Edison electric company, which resulted in the first big Italian industrial conglomerate). After awakening like a somnambulist, Julian enters the pigsty for the final time and not long after, Signor Klotz and his compatriots get the news from a group of refined proletarians that the sole male heir to the Klotz empire has been slopped up by swine, but are told to speak, “not a word to a soul” about the young man’s death-by-sow as passive and silent spectators of history.  As Pasolini wrote, "I identify also with Jean-Pierre Léaud (eaten by the pigs, cannibalized rather than a cannibal)—ambiguity, fleeting identity, and everything which the boy says in that long monologue to his girl friend who then leaves."

Although seemingly anti-Teutonic in persuasion, Pigsty was described by Pasolini as follows: “The explicit political content of the film has its subject, as its historical situation, Germany. But the film is not about Germany, but about the ambiguous relationship of old and new capitalism. Germany was chosen as a way to illustrate a case. The implicit political content of the film, instead, is a desperate mistrust of all historical societies: Thus it is a film of apocalyptic anarchism.” In a sense, Pigsty is Pasolini’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in that, aside from being rather arcane and exceedingly enigmatic like Kubrick’s epic sci-fi masterpiece, it chronicles the (de)evolution of humanity from a cannibalistic anarchic savage to a meticulous and materialistic murderer of the authoritarian kind who has assembled an industrial line form of death and cultural destruction. Of course, where Kubrick arguably hints at a “great new beginning” for mankind with the star-child featured at the conclusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Pasolini foresees a deleterious post-cultural dystopia where man eats man via technological industry and quite figuratively shits him out. In fact, the poet wrote the following regarding the meaning of the film: “The simplified message of the film is this: society, every society, devours both its disobedient sons and the sons who are neither obedient nor disobedient. The sons must be obedient, and that’s that…” Of course, as someone whose father, Carlo Alberto Pasolini, saved the life of Benito Mussolini in 1926 when 15-year-old anarchist Anteo Zamboni's attempted to assassinate the Duce and thus incidentally securing the fascist reign for nearly two more decades, gay Marxist Pasolini was most certainly a disobedient son, yet, quite ironically, it would be his Republican partisan brother Guido who was killed by a bunch of cannibalistic Communists. Before he was executed, Guido Pasolini apparently shouted to his commie captors, “the only justice Communists knew was a bullet in the back of the head.” It seems that Pier Paolo Pasolini was in denial about the fact that the political persuasion he actively promoted for what would be most of his life was responsible for more death and destruction during the the 20th Century than both fascism and capitalism combined, as well as the “horrible universe” he wrote of, but, of course, while communism has essentially collapsed in Europe, the sort of culture-distorting cannibalistic capitalism the director esoterically depicted in Pigsty has only gotten all the more piggish.

In short, where is Pasolini we need him?!

-Ty E

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