Monday, November 5, 2012

#632: The Decameron

(Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1971)

The Decameron veers tantalizingly close to the steamy series and old features that dominated Cinemax and Showtime late at night in the 1990s. The combination of bad dubbing, almost old-man levels of sexuality, and a tie in to classic literature that walks the line between homage and excuse for "high brow" soft-core skin is all familiar to the insomniac of the pre-internet era. There was often a great deal of humor in these films to go with the nudity, making The Decameron even closer to the genre.

So what sets this film apart from those unmemorable dirty hours of content? For one, The Decameron is rather well shot - unsurprising coming from Pasolini, but strange to watch when this type of content would so typically be the realm of mediocre directors who don't know how to use their low budgets. More importantly, The Decameron is genuinely funny, with some of the stories making me laugh out loud (most notably the one in which a father feigns surprise that he has discovered his daughter in bed with a boy so that he can force the boy - who he feels comes from a good family and is a good match for his daughter - to marry her). Having lived my whole life in an era when this kind of nudity and explicit sexuality was accepted in film, I have a hard time getting behind this movie as a significant commentary on anything - though I'm sure Pasolini's decision to make a film like this seemed quite controversial at the time. But it is a fun watch for people who aren't going to be offended by things like penises, poop jokes, and nuns getting down and dirty.

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