Criterionís box set for Pasoliniís Trilogy of Life presents a number of features over the setís three discs focusing on the individual films, the trilogy as a whole, and the filmmaker. The first disc, which presents The Decameron, starts with a new visual essay by film scholar Patrick Rumble. On The Decameron is a 25-minute piece looking at Pasoliniís early career and how it led to The Decameron and the Trilogy of Life. It looks at his influences, particularly paintings, and his style, which was referred to by Bernardo Bertolucci as ?deliberately naÔve.? Itís a decent essay that I really appreciated in lieu of a commentary, though when going over the narrative structure of the film he more or less just relates the entire film and its stories for a few minutes. But other than that itís a strong inclusion. What many will also find interesting are probably the clips from the film used throughout: it will give you an idea as to how intense the restoration for this films was since the clips here still show the heavy damage Iím guessing was still in the source materials used.
After this we get the 45-minute documentary The Lost Body of Alibech. The documentary looks at a scene deleted from the film, the story of ?Alibech,? a still from which was used in one of the posters for the film. It also looks at another deleted segment called ?Girolamo and Salvestra? if only briefly. The ?Girolamo? segment was cut because Pasolini was unhappy with it, but he ended up cutting out the ?Alibech? segment just before the filmís premiere to shorten the film, though it was apparently hard for him to do so. The documentary gathers together members of the crew, or those who had worked with Pasolini before, and they recall the sceneís shoot. The segment was cut ultimately because it took place in Sanaía, Yemen, and was the only segment that took place outside of Italy.
The segment has unfortunately been lost but the last half of this feature presents a reconstruction of the sequence using the original script and behind-the-scene photographs that still exist. I think this last half is actually not part of the documentary but something Criterion may have put together as it looks more like their work. Altogether itís a rather fascinating inclusion.
Finally, the disc presents Via Pasolini, which is a 27-minute piece made up of various audio and video clips of the director talking about his work, influences, and politics, and even touches on dialects and other topics that fascinate him. I was actually a bit disappointed with this feature, which is too choppy and never has a focus, and itís all material Iíve pretty much come across before.
The disc then closes with a couple of trailers.
The second disc, featuring The Canterbury Tales, starts with a 14-minute interview with film scholar Sam Rohdie. The interview, about The Canterbury Tales, concentrates on Pasoliniís obsession with the past and the comic aspects of the film, particularly a sequence that pays homage to Chaplin and silent comedy, and then the almost absurd final sequence in Hell. He even mentions comic aspects to other films by the director, including Salo. Not an excessively insightful interview but it offers some decent insights into the filmís humour.
Next is a 47-minute documentary from 2005 entitled Pasolini and the Secret Humiliation of Chaucer, which looks a little at the making of the film but eventually focuses on the many edits the film went through and all of the footage deleted (all now lost of course,) which included one entire sequence and then about 20 scenes from the other stories. It looks at the various cuts that were made before it finally premiered for the jury at the Berlin Film Festival, and then offers an edit of sorts for the removed sequence using photos and translations of the script. A little long yet not all that engaging when it looks at some of the production, itís worth watching just for the material on the deleted sequences.
Criterion then includes the filmís English language inserts as a supplement. Pasolini had also made an English language version of the film he had approved of, the alternate English track being included on this release. For this version he had to replace most of the scenes that showed Italian writing with similar shots featuring English writing. Criterion collects 55-seconds of material for this. As to why they didnít just edit it into the main feature utilizing seamless branching when the English version was selected I canít say, but I appreciate the inclusion of the material here, which is in very good condition.
Criterion has then recorded two new interviews. First is a 9-minute one featuring composer Ennio Morricone who recalls working with Pasolini. Interestingly he talks about how he usually hates it when a director tells him what they want, but with Pasolini, who usually gave Morricone free reign, he didnít mind taking directions, as was the case with the trilogy. Production designer Dante Ferretti then talks about the set designs constructed for the film, and the various paintings that were influences on certain sequences. His interview runs 18-minutes
Like the first disc this disc also closes with three theatrical trailers.
The third disc, presenting Arabian Nights, feels the lightest of the three in supplements but is still loaded with some valuable material. First is something labeled as an introduction by Pier Paolo Pasolini. In essence itís actually clips from an interview taken at the 27th Cannes Film Festival in 1974. Here Pasolini talks about his memory of the stories as a boy and how he approached them again with a more critical eye. He also talks about the criticisms heís had thrown at him, specifically how the films donít adhere to a political ideal. The first half of the piece has Pasolini speaking directly but the second half presents what I think are French translators translating the director, though addressing everything in the third person. In total it runs under 3-minutes.
Tony Rayns next provides a visual essay called On Arabian Nights, where the film scholar talks about Pasoliniís early career and films, and then his work on the trilogy and its concluding film, Arabian Nights. He talks about the story structure and how they all tie to one another, and then looks at the imagery (the ďpainterlyĒ look of the films) and the filmís presentation of sex, which is certainly presented in a more joyous manner in this film than in the previous two films, both of which did present a more sinful view of the subject. He also does talk about actor Ninetto Davoli, who appears in all three films, as well as other films by the director. Overall itís a strong scholarly edition and probably the strongest of the various essays and interviews found on the set.
The previous two discs presented documentaries which more-or-less looked at the material deleted from their respective films but this disc actually presents a selection of deleted scenes. We basically get two extended segments, the first of which appears to be an alternate opening. This opening introduces the character of Nur ed Din, who, as we learn, was actually kicked out of his home after he got drunk and offended his father. The second segment is actually an extended bit of one of the closing segments featuring Princess Dunya. Both segments are in surprisingly excellent condition with only a few blemishes. Unfortunately it appears the soundtrack has been lost so we are treated to a score set on repeat mixed in with various sound effects. Subtitles are put in place of spoken dialogue. Altogether the segments run about 21-minutes.
An intriguing extra, made before this film was released, is the short 17-minute documentary Pasolini and the Form of the City, directed by Paolo Brunatto. The piece features Pasolini talking about the cities of Orte and Sabaudia and how their history and structure is being destroyed because of modern consumerism. Early on the director talks to Ninetto Davoli about a particular modern building, made for affordable housing (which he feels is needed he admits,) and how it destroys the skyline. Itís a passionate piece and surprisingly quite entertaining.
The disc also concludes with three theatrical trailers.
The set then comes with a thick 64-page booklet. It opens with an ĒabjurationĒ of his Trilogy of Life, where the director explains why he now rejects the film. Itís noted elsewhere on the set that it was probably written as a form of publicity about his new direction with the upcoming film, Salo. In it the director primarily complains about the commercial aspects that more or less arose from the films, specifically the soft-core pictures that were obviously influenced by it. Colin MacCabe provides an essay for each film in the trilogy, with his essay for The Decameron followed by a brief note (unattributed) about the soft-core porn genre that showed up after the film was released. There is also a reprinting of an interview with Pasolini about The Canterburty Tales and the booklet then ends with a reprinting of a 1974 article by Gideon Bachmann about the production of Arabian Nights.
Despite a few disappointing supplements, specifically a couple of documentaries and the interview montage featuring Pasolini, we get a terrific collection of material, capped off by a fantastic booklet.
Detailed reviews for each title: 8/10
The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights