The Canterbury Tales: Death and Eros

Jettie 2022-09-15 09:54:21

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Colin MacCabe / Text Ambiguity / Translation

The final shot of The Canterbury Tales (1972) shows the audience director Pasolini, who plays the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, writing his commentary on the story the audience has just seen. The cautious manuscript slowly wrote: "The Canterbury Tales come to an end, told for fun". After the success of Decameron (1971), Pasolini turned his attention from Italy to England, photographing the works of writers who were pivotal in the history of the English language, as important as Boccaccio was to Italian literature. Pasolini's attempt to return to modern origins, to capitalist origins, to the origins of national languages, has now reversed course. This period also coincided with the active period of Godard's Zyga Vertov group, as well as a group of filmmakers devoted to politics. Pasolini was once one of those vocal figures in the debates of the 1960s and made a series of politically charged films during the period. And the last few lines of "The Canterbury Tales" prove that the film is purely for narrative pleasure, and it is also a radical self-denial of the political discourse he once vigorously promoted.

(for fun)

The film, however, is not a softcore that has nothing to do with politics, although it is certainly seen as such by many leftist critics and an enthusiastic audience. In Pasolini's ideal world, sex is not eroded by the pursuit of profit. By combining elements of the present and the past into the same picture, he created his own ideal world. But the emphasis in The Canterbury Tales is more on physical pain, especially the ultimate pain before death, than on pure physical pleasure. There is an obvious play on Chaucer's text at the beginning of the film, in which a man is burned to death for sodomy. There's no reference to this scene in the original; it's entirely Pasolini's creation, which has a more obscure relationship to his homosexuality. This terrifyingly realistic scene set a darker tone for the film than "The Decameron", and lingers in "120 Days of Sodom" (1975). The fact that the audience knew that the man with the piercing screams was executed not because of sodomy but because of his poverty added to the audience's horror: unlike his comrades, the man There is not enough money to escape the power of the church.

Pasolini blames the film's gloomy tone on his own sullenness while shooting the film, as well as on Chaucer's text. In Pasolini's view, Chaucer had a pessimistic attitude towards life due to the bleak climate in southern Europe, while the clear skies in Tuscany made Boccaccio more positive. Undoubtedly, England's cloudy and cloudy days are a crucial part of the film. However, this film is also more faithful to the original than the previous adaptation (Pasolini's "Life Trilogy" Part 1); both Boccaccio's Florentine Old World and contemporary Neapolitan shantytowns The fusion is not so powerfully comparable here.

True to Chaucer's narrative framework, the fluidity of the Decameron's narrative is replaced in the Canterbury Tales by a more traditional structure. The pilgrims are introduced at the beginning of the film before the audience enters the narrative in each subsection, and the audience is occasionally brought back to them later in the story. What this film has in common with its predecessors is a narrowing of the social categories of the original, focusing on the stories of millers and students rather than kings and queens. The audience is closest to the aristocracy in the opening "The Merchant's Tale", and even so, the social class system has no substantial role here. This emphasis on "popularity" independent of time and place has become an important stylistic element of burlesque. "The Canterbury Tales" is an attempt to talk to the comedy of the silent era, especially in "The Cook's Tale." In Chaucer's original text, it was just a fragment; however, Pasolini expanded it into the film's entire narrative, with Ninetto Daboli wearing a hat and a cane, appearing on screen as Chaplin.

(Chaplin as Ninetto Daboli)

Pasolini played "Giotto's most outstanding disciple" and presented "The Decameron" to the audience in the form of a mural; while "The Canterbury Tales" was presented in the form of "writing a film", Pasolini presented it in the form of a mural. Solini became Chaucer, penning a book during his travels, and finally finishing it in his study. Through the act of writing, Pasolini articulates his refusal to reproduce the medieval world. In the first story, a young squire sits down and begins to write a letter to his beloved married woman. Chaucer did not tell the reader the exact content of the love letter, but Pasolini slowly wrote on the screen: "Dear May, I am in love with you, and if you do not befriend me, I will die of pain" (Dir May, I luv yoo with all my hart and if yoo dont make luv to me I shall die.). [1] This is of course a parody of Middle English, and yoo, hart, luv are all particularly glaring mistakes. But it also emphasizes that Pasolini's purpose is not to accurately reproduce that era, but to recreate the spirit of that era. Likewise, the use of various outstanding folk songs from different eras in the background soundtrack is also evidence of Pasolini's intentions. In Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, Pasolini highlights the intermingling of past and present by blending film with the ancient arts of painting and writing.

(attendant love letter)

The most contemporary in a series of medieval stories is the treatment of the characters' bodies in the film. Pasolini freely displays male genitalia, female genital hair, etc. in the film, which have not been seen in previous legal films. The move has also led to a string of legal battles; as part of a broader movement, the film industry is getting more and more licenses it never had before. As for Pasolini's ultimate disillusionment, in part because the trilogy of his own life sparked a flood of soft-porn imitators, his pioneering courage paved the way for commercial filmmakers instead. It should be remembered that today there is little industry censorship of explicit eroticism in film, and pornography can thrive; in the 1950s and 1960s, nudity and sexuality were an integral part of European art cinema. In the mid-1970s, lax sexual censorship was one of the main reasons for the decline of independent art film distribution. The Canterbury Tales is one of the last films to weave erotic and aesthetic visions.

(The story of the sinner monk)

Conventional wisdom holds that The Canterbury Tales is the weakest of the trilogy. Critics criticized it for lacking the unrestrained enthusiasm of its predecessor, The Decameron, and its successor, Arabian Night (1974). However, if one can understand that this is the most death-facing part of the trilogy, it should not be surprising that it has a more somber feel. Another important addition to Chaucer's original book by Pasolini is the end of The Summoner's Tale. [2] The movie tours a hell full of demons who expel monks from their genitals like farts. It also points to the gloom of his face-to-face death, as well as the dark humor of the film. The more hopeless the scene presented in the film, the more powerful it is, just as the bright scene in the other two parts of the trilogy is shocking. The genius of the trilogy of life couldn't be more evident, as in The Pardoner's Tale, the encounter between a long-lived poor old man and three young villains who are ill-conceived and dying More powerful in the original.


Notes: [1] Translated into English based on Pasolini's original words. [2] The original title of The Summoner's Tale is The Sompnour's Tale.

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Extended Reading

The Canterbury Tales quotes

  • Molly: [singing] Oh, there was a little beggar man that goes from town to town, and wherever he get a job and work he's willing to sit down. With his bundle on his shoulder, his stick was in his hand and it's down the country I shall go with me roving journeyman. And from the County Carlow the girls all jump for joy. Says one unto the other "now here comes a Dublin boy." And they wanted me to marry her and took me by the hand. She went home and told her mother that she loves the journeyman.

  • Angel: Hey Satan! Lift up your tail and show us where you keep the friars in hell!