Friday, December 22, 2017
2017 Blind Spot Series: The Canterbury Tales
Based on the medieval poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, I racconti di Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales) is a film that collects eight different tales that play into the lives of different characters during the time of medieval England. Written for the screen and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film is the second film in a trilogy of films relating to the idea of life where Pasolini plays the role of Chaucer who would tell different stories that took place in those times. Starring Hugh Griffith, Laura Betti, Ninetto Davoli, Franco Citti, Josephine Chaplin, Jenny Runacre, and John Francis Lane. I racconti di Canterbury is a wild and outrageously-bawdy film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.
The film follows Geoffrey Chaucer who arrives to a land medieval England to write a story as he observes his surroundings leading to him writing eight different stories in a sensationalized manner. Among them involves a nobleman marrying a young woman unaware of her sexual history, a vendor who meets a mysterious summoner over things he saw, a young man making trouble as he finds work, a middle-aged woman trying to find a new husband, a carpenter’s apprentice trying to seduce his master’s wife, two students trying to swindle a grain miller, thieves finding some mysterious treasure while trying to find Death, and a greedy friar gets what he deserves. All of these tales play into some kind of immorality that is looming as well as an exploration of sex in those times where it was free and all about joy rather than people profiting from it.
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s screenplay does take an episodic approach to the narrative where it is straightforward as it begins and ends with Chaucer writing these stories as he would pop up every now and then to come up with what he wants to tell. Notably as Pasolini would provide his own take into Chaucer’s story and provide a context that is quite graphic as it play into some of the things that happened. Even as it showcases some complexities in one of the stories where a vendor would report two things he saw and how one of these crimes is handled as it shows that not much has changed back in medieval times to what is happening in the modern world.
Pasolini’s direction is definitely stylish in the way he portrays medieval England as it is shot on various locations in England including much of its countryside areas. While there are a lot of usage of wide shots for the various locations as well as some gorgeous compositions that play into the scope of the interiors that the characters go into. Much of Pasolini’s compositions rely on intimate moments such as the scenes of Chaucer in his study trying to write something or scenes involving characters in sexual situations. There are close-ups and medium shots for much of the film yet Pasolini is trying to understand what is happening in those times and how he interprets it as it play into those wanting some kind of satisfaction that had been constrained in those times but also moments that are confrontational in a comic manner. Most notably the story about this young man named Perkin (Ninetto Davoli) who is this Charles Chaplin-like figure with a bowler hat and a cane that just causes mischief in his search to find a job and be with women. It’s among these moments that are offbeat as well as the story about the carpenter’s apprentice who would find a way to fool his boss claiming that a Biblical flood is coming. There are also moments that are intense as it relates to a final story with this lavish sequence involving this idea of Hell and it is told with a sense of farcical humor and stark imagery.
The sexual content is definitely racy as it features nudity from both men and women as well as scenes of homosexuality early in the film that play into this idea of sodomy which were quite extreme at the time. Notably in the story about the vendor and summoner who would witness these events that do play into events that are happening in the modern world. The stories do have this exploration of immorality that still had an innocence before the emergence of a more extreme immorality in the form of capitalism where Pasolini doesn’t really say anything about capitalism. Yet, he would show how this emergence would occur and how it would impact certain behaviors that would complicate the world while there are those who would reject this new idea to maintain an idea that was already working. Overall, Pasolini creates a whimsical yet rapturous film about the lives of several people told through the mind of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does amazing work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the grey-like exteriors of some of the locations with its fog and rain as well as the usage of natural lights for some of its interiors. Editors Enzo Cone and Nino Baragli do excellent work with the editing as it play into some offbeat rhythms for much of the film’s humor as well as in some of the dramatic and darker moments in the film. Art director Dante Ferretti and set decorator Ken Muggleston do brilliant work with the art direction from the look of some of the castle interiors as well as some of the homes and a few of the exterior designs of the castles.
Costume designer Danilo Donati does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the dresses as well as the clothes of the men including the tights which pay a lot of attention to detail into how their bulges are presented. Sound mixer Gianni D’Amico does nice work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of some of the gatherings as well as the markets and other places involving a large group of people. The film’s music is directed by Ennio Morricone as it play into various music pieces of the time that include woodwinds, folk songs, and other kind of pieces that was prevalent during that period of medieval times.
The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles such as John Francis Lane as a greedy friar, Jenny Runacre as the carpenter’s wife, Robin Askwith as a young thief who enjoys having sex with prostitutes and urinate on other patrons at a pub, Tom Baker as a man being pursued by an aging yet horny married woman, Dan Thomas as the carpenter’s apprentice, J.P. Van Dyne as a cook who hires Perkin much to his own regret, Judy Stewart-Murray as a lady-in-waiting for the Wife of Bath, Albert King as a grain miller, Eileen King as the miller’s wife, Heather Johnson as the miller’s daughter, Patrick Duffet and Eamann Howell as two students needing grain for an assignment, and Pier Paolo Pasolini as Geoffrey Chaucer. Michael Balfor is terrific as the cuckold carpenter who is unaware of the trick he’s being played by his apprentice while Hugh Griffith is fantastic as the nobleman who marries a young woman unaware of her own desires for another man.
Josephine Chaplin is wonderful as the young woman who marries the nobleman as she is in love with another man while Laura Betti is brilliant as the Wife of Bath as a woman who is trying to find another husband as her current husband is dying in the hope for some sexual satisfaction. Ninetto Davoli is excellent as Perkin as this Chaplin-esque figure who is a man of total mischief as well as go after anything as he’s a joy to watch. Finally, there’s Franco Citti as the Devil as a man who pretends to be a vendor who observes a case of sodomy where he goes after a summoner and gives him a choice as it’s a very low-key yet effective performance.
I racconti di Canterbury is a spectacular film from Pier Paolo Pasolini. Featuring a great cast, outlandish sets and costumes, gorgeous photography, and offbeat moments that are playful to grotesque. It’s a film that explore a period in time where it was free but also intense as it also show some elements that are still happening in the modern world. In the end, I racconti di Canterbury is a riveting and extravagant film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Pier Paolo Pasolini Films: (Accattone) – (La Rabbia) – Mamma Roma – (Location Hunting in Palestine) – (The Gospel According to Matthew) – (Love Meetings) – (The Hawks and the Sparrows) – (Oedipus Rex) – (Teorema) – (Porcile) – (Medea (1969 film)) – (Appunti per un film sull’India) – (Notes Towards an African Orestes) – The Decameron - Arabian Nights – Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom
© thevoid99 2017