Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Terence Stamp's Crotch Will Turn You Loco

Don't get me wrong, there's much more to Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1968 film Teorema (also known as Theorem) than "Terence Stamp's crotch will turn you loco", but that really does appear to the overriding theme of the picture. Terence Stamp's groin is framed so often by Pasolini's camera that it should have its own on-screen credit! Pasolini's film not only has the mysterious Stamp (mysterious in character, mysterious in why-does-this-movie-have-Terence-Stamp?) appear like a cat amongst the pigeons of this bourgeois, well-to-do Italian family and disappear just as quickly, but he leaves a trail of destruction (so to speak) that alters everybody for the rest of their lives. Even if Terence Stamp's crotch doesn't make you loco, it will apparently lead you to your destiny. Terence Stamp's dick is magic, apparently.

The internet informs me that Teorema has a lot of meanings, but the two I took away from it are this:

1) Pasolini is telling an almost cautionary tale to the Italian - global? - bourgeois (they do use that word a lot) that they, too, are susceptible to beings or entities that could bring about their downfall, just as they so frequently cluck about their poorer fellows a class category or two beneath them. Terence Stamp's character could represent all manner of things, but the way they respond to this man (each and every family member PLUS the maid! See, Stamp's crotch is like a magicians' hypnosis) is so beneath their class and the film examines the way these type of people respond once they realise they're actually more alike to these subordinate humans than they care to admit.

2) Pasolini's grappling with the double-edged sword that is his homosexuality. Notice the two men in the family both have very polar opposite reactions. The son uses the pain of this mystery man's brief encounter to dive headfirst into the world of art and to find his voice, whereas the father discovers the perhaps long dormant feelings lead to a lot of doubting, second guessing, and loneliness. It is as if Pasolini is admitting that his homosexuality lead to him being the talented filmmaker that he is, whilst also leading him down a path of torment that goes against his (I presume) religious upbringing and godly beliefs. It was probably ironic to the Italian director that he would be murdered by a gay hustler.

Of course, if you believe the Silvana Mangano way then Terrence Stamp's dick just makes you become a bed-hopping lover of gigolo street walkers. That's certainly one way of coping with the loss.

I also watched Pasolini's more famous (infamous?) Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom for the very first time. It was something I had to psych myself into given its reputation, and yet it may have been that reputation that lead to me being somewhat underwhelmed by it. The film is horrific, of course, but the acts of depravity in the final two acts - "circle of shit" and "circle of blood" pretty much sum that up - didn't strike me quite as gag-inducing as I'd expected. It's curious: was I watching the reputation or the film? Hard to tell. I certainly think the film's dated production values during the final act made it easier to watch nowadays than it would have in 1975 (all those fake tongues and scalps aren't a slight on the film, just a bi-product of a film that is nearly 40 years old), and I do think the third act's extravagant nature made its Babette's Feast-meets-Pink Flamingos antics less of a stomach churning experience. If anything, the film's message has, by that stage, well and truly been made, and that Pasolini's reveling in the horrific actions just dilutes them. Or maybe my brain just wanted them to stop and is creating a critical excuse for it. I'm not sure, but I'll definitely think twice about eating anything brown for a few days!

If the film has an MVP then it is the production design of Dante Ferretti, who would go on to win three Oscars for his work with Martin Scorsese (The Aviator and Hugo) and Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). They seem so far away from the haunting prison-like den rooms of the Salò mansion, but the work speaks of a designer with a keen eye for how to balance subject matter with visual design.

I'm certainly glad I finally got around to watching this film, and I definitely think it's an important one in many regards. I don't suspect it's a film I care to dwell on too often, but it's the sort of film that will prove beneficial to have seen in rather unsuspecting ways in the future.

1 comment:

VisitorQ said...

Personally, I found Pink Flamingos far more sickening because of the fact that in Salo the "villains" did evil things because they were corrupted by power and driven mad by war and inflicted their perversions on innocent youths not because they enjoyed it but because they could but in Pink Flamingos it was just a bunch of perverted deviants putting on this willful display and showcasing the depths of depravity humans who have no soul will sink to with a smile on their face and a glint their eye.

Pink Flamingos made me depressed while Salo made me look at the world in a different way.