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We are all living Pasolini's Theorem

By       Message Pepe Escobar       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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He deftly configured the "cynicism of the new capitalist revolution -- the first real rightist revolution." Such a revolution, he argued, "from an anthropological point of view -- in terms of the foundation of a new 'culture' -- implies men with no link to the past, living in 'imponderability'. So the only existential expectation possible is consumerism and satisfying his hedonistic impulses." This is Guy Debord's scathing 1960s "society of the spectacle" critique expanded to the dark, "dream is over" cultural horizon of the 1970s. 

At the time, this was radioactive stuff. Pasolini took no prisoners; if consumerism had lifted Italy out of poverty "to gratify it with a wellbeing" and a certain non-popular culture, the humiliating result was obtained "through miming the petite bourgeoisie, stupid obligatory school and delinquent television." Pasolini used to deride the Italian bourgeoisie as "the most ignorant in all of Europe" (well, on this he was wrong; the Spanish bourgeoisie really takes the cake). 

Thus arose a new mode of production of culture -- built over the "genocide of precedent cultures" -- as well as a new bourgeois species. If only Pasolini had survived to see it acting in full regalia, as Homo Berlusconis

The Great Beauty is no more

Now, the consumerist heart of darkness -- "the horror, the horror" -- prophesized and detailed by Pasolini already in the mid-1970s has been depicted in all its glitzy tawdriness by an Italian filmmaker from Naples, Paolo Sorrentino, born when Pasolini, not to mention Fellini, were already at the peak of their powers. La Grande Bellezza ("The Great Beauty") -- which has just won the Golden Globes as Best Foreign Film and will probably win an Oscar as well -- would be inconceivable without Fellini's La Dolce Vita (of which it is an unacknowledged coda) and Pasolini's critique of "the new Italy."  

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Pasolini and Fellini, by the way, both hailed from a fabulous intellectual tradition in Emilia-Romagna (Pasolini from Bologna, Fellini from Rimini, as well as Bertolucci from Parma). In the early 1960s, Fellini used to quip with friend and still apprentice Pasolini that he was not equipped for criticism. Fellini was always pure emotion, while Pasolini -- and Bertolucci -- were emotion modulated by the intellect. 

Sorrentino's astonishing film -- a wild ride on the ramifications of Berlusconian Italy -- is La Dolce Vita gone horribly sour. How not to empathize with Marcello (Mastroianni) now reaching 65 (and played by the amazing Toni Servillo), suffering from writer's block in parallel to surfing his reputation of king of Rome's nightlife. As the great Ezra Pound -- who loved Italy deeply -- also prophesized, a tawdry cheapness ended up outlasting our days into a Berlusconian vapidity where -- according to a character -- everyone "forgot about culture and art" and the former apex of civilization ended up being known only for "fashion and pizza."  

This is exactly what Pasolini was telling us almost four decades ago -- before an eerie, gory manifestation of this very tawdriness silenced him. His death, in the end, proved -- avant la lettre -- his theorem; he had always been, unfortunately, dead right. 
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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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