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Stupendous, Miserable City

Stupendous, Miserable City: Pasolini’s Rome

John David Rhodes
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Stupendous, Miserable City
    Book Description:

    John David Rhodes places the city of Rome at the center of this in-depth examination of the work of Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini—but it’s not the classical Rome you imagine. Discussing films such as Accattone, Mamma Roma, and The Hawks and the Sparrows, Rhodes shows how Pasolini used the public housing on the periphery of the city to draw attention to the contemptuous treatment of Rome’s poor.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5439-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction This Cinema, This City
    (pp. ix-xxiv)

    Rome is at the heart of Pasolini’s cinema. That is, very simply, this book’s central premise. Pasolini’s first two films,Accattone(1961) andMamma Roma(1962), are as much “about” Rome as they are about anything else, and the power of their specific historical, political, and aesthetic interventions remains inaccessible without some knowledge of the Roman urban and architectural context out of which they emerged and to which they respond. Similarly, the full significance of later films likeLa ricotta(1963),Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini,1966),La terra vista della luna(The earth as seen from the moon,...

  4. Chapter 1 A Short History of the Roman Periphery
    (pp. 1-16)

    Rome’s conversion into newly united Italy’s capital in 1870 was the event that dragged into modernity a city that for years had been a backwater administered by the papacy.¹ Prior to 1870 Rome’s population consisted mainly of a clerico-bureaucratic class, an ancient landowning aristocracy, a small white-collar professional middle class, a sizeable merchant and artisan class, and a large subproletariat. Missing, of course, was a proper working class, whose nonexistence was owed to Rome’s almost total lack of industrial economy.² Becoming the nation’s capital required Rome to accommodate a substantial influx of state bureaucrats and to commence a number of...

  5. Chapter 2 “Rome, Ringed by Its Hell of Suburbs”
    (pp. 17-39)

    Shortly after the close of World War II, Pasolini was living in Friuli, the northern Italian region of his maternal ancestry, where he had waited out the war’s devastation with his family, managing to avoid active duty on a student’s dispensation. He had taken up residence in the village of Casarsa, his mother Susanna’s hometown, when at last—after the war’s interruption—he received hislaurea,his degree, from the University of Bologna, where he completed a thesis on the nineteenthcentury Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli. In Casarsa Pasolini threw himself into the idylls of rural village life. He rode his...

  6. Chapter 3 “Scandalous Desecration”: Accattone against the Neorealist City
    (pp. 40-74)

    Pasolini’s first film opens with a close-up of a man’s vulgar laughing face, its mouth missing teeth, a bouquet of flowers bunched next to it, crowding the frame. The shot is simple, crude, abrupt; its function is difficult to interpret. Rather than express anything discursive or psychological, this opening close-up, in Geoffrey Nowell-Smith’s words, expresses only “the enigma that is the human face”;¹ in other words, the face just “is”—and furthermore, it first appears to us dislocated from both its body and its immediate surroundings. As the film cuts to this face’s interlocutors, we see the character in his...

  7. Chapter 4 Pasolini, the Peripheral Sublime, and Public Housing
    (pp. 75-109)

    In the opening lines of an untitled poem written just three years after the production of the poems collected inRome 1950, A Diary,and only published after his death, Pasolini affords us a fragmentary, fleeting, but sensually compelling account of the new construction that was changing the material world of the Roman periphery:

    I would hurry in the dusk’s mud

    behind disorderly stairs, around silent scaffolds,

    through the neighborhood drenched

    in the odor of iron and of laundry

    drying, in the fetid dust,

    among shacks made of tin

    and drain pipes, new walls going up,

    with their paint already...

  8. Chapter 5 Mamma Roma and Pasolini’s Oedipal (Housing) Complex
    (pp. 110-135)

    Mamma Romamuch more self-consciously declares itself as an urbanist text than does its predecessor,Accattone.An actual publichousing project is used as both allegorical matrix and physicalhistorical setting for the events of the narrative. The eponymous central character, played with self-conscious abandonment by Anna Magnani, reclaims her son after leaving her life as a prostitute and brings him to live in her apartment in a dilapidated Liberty-style¹ building in the periphery. Things seem to brighten later when they move into a new development, where, according to Mamma Roma, “i signori” (the gentlefolk) live. Mamma Roma sells produce in the...

  9. Conclusion The Allegorical Autostrada
    (pp. 136-154)

    The end ofMamma Romawould seem to leave us and Pasolini without anywhere to go, really. If image-making, representation, indeed vision itself and our ability to empathize with others have all been radically thrown into question, what cinematic enterprise, what act of poeisis could follow these fi erce refusals?

    Rome as location and as subject exceeds the grasp of fi lm. But a rhetoric of the sublime can only suffice for so long as a means of framing or legitimizing a representation of that which cannot be represented. As rigorous and challenging asMamma Romais, both aesthetically and...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 155-156)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 157-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-194)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-195)