Heavily symbolic, deeply academic, cinematically cathartic, socially judgemental with an underlying religious commentary – if it’s Italian, made in the 1950s or ’60s and shot in black and white, chances are it’s a film of Pier Paolo Pasolini (Salo or 120 Days of Sodom, Oedipus Rex).

A young man (Terence Stamp – Modesty Blaise, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) arrives at the Milan home of a wealthy family. Leaving just a few days later, he has seduced mother, father, daughter, son as well as the maid. Their lives will never be the same. But who was he?

Pasolini’s religio-political allegory, with its backdrop of Italian industrialisation and unionisation, with its sparse dialogue and surprisingly little action, is indulgent, unengaging and oddly sterile. Imagery of bleak, windswept desert is interspersed with the mother (Silvana Mangano – Death in Venice, Ludwig) sleeping in full makeup, thick mascara and false eyelashes or the maid (Laura Betti – 1900, La dolce vita) returning to her home village and becoming a worshipped saint-like figure. It’s all a little too intangible, a little too allegorical in its uncertainty.

Rating: 42%


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