Thursday, September 3, 2015

#566: Arabian Nights

1974, TSPDT Rank #861

Although it was made as the final film in Pasolini's Trilogy of Life (following The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales), Arabian Nights carries a much different tone, with the overt crudeness and bawdiness of the previous two films replaced by a more contemplative and poetic atmosphere. The film follows a loose framework through which a few selected stories from The One Thousand and One Nights are interspersed at a leisurely, flowing pace. All of the stories that Pasolini selected for the film have a defined erotic bent, but similar to Pasolini's approach in the other two films in the trilogy, sex is not particularly sensationalized or eroticized. Instead, it is treated as a part of life which was once more natural and innocent - although the mood of this particular film is less celebratory than the others (particularly The Decameron), and most of the tales end on a note of tragedy. In a different sense, this film shows Pasolini celebrating Africa and the Middle East as the birthplace of humanity - with the beautiful cinematography often lingering on visuals of characters within hypnotic landscapes, which at times seem to bear the full weight of the trials experienced by the characters. As usual, Pasolini employed non-professional actors for this production, and their performances in the film are suitably simple and naturalistic. The film carries a distinctive air of quiet timelessness not present in the trilogy's previous two installments, and overall it comes off the most meaningful and effective of the three films - even if it veers considerably from the intentions that Pasolini originally had for the trilogy.

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