71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine package for a fine film
This is the second in a series of uncut versions of Pasolini's final films the BFI is releasing on DVD uncut. After the shocking impact of his last film, the formerly banned 'Salo', this playful (if sexually graphic) comedy seems almost insignificant. Subsequent viewings, however, reveal great depth beneath its bawdy exterior - and his extended cameo as a fresco painter...
Published on 12 Oct 2001 by Charles Read
38 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please stop, BFI.
Another very poor Pasolini Blu Ray from the BFI that features a transfer that is severly undermined by clueless, agressive bad quality noise/grain filtering that eats away at fine detail and covers everything with ugly noise. Bye bye film look. In addition edge enhancement halos grace high contrast edges. BFI has got quite a nerve to release in 2009 such transfers that...
Published on 15 May 2009 by M. Hafner
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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine package for a fine film,
This review is from: The Decameron [DVD]  (DVD)This is the second in a series of uncut versions of Pasolini's final films the BFI is releasing on DVD uncut. After the shocking impact of his last film, the formerly banned 'Salo', this playful (if sexually graphic) comedy seems almost insignificant. Subsequent viewings, however, reveal great depth beneath its bawdy exterior - and his extended cameo as a fresco painter reveals a lot about his view of himself as an artist (the final phrase being particularly memorable).
BFI's disc of Decameron is as good as can be expected. The print (slightly more severely letterboxed than the 1.66 indicated, but looks accurate) suffers from the problems one would expect from the type of film - cheaply made using mostly hand-helds and cheap filmstock, and natural lighting rendering many scenes overtly dark. The post-dubbed sound is harsh and/or distorted, but ok. Of more concern perhaps is the fact that the subtitles are burnt-in (not digital like on Salo - although even these were not removable for some reason) - and in some of the more troublesome dark scenes the picture becomes so smudgy that it is difficult to know what is going on. This is clearly a fault of the budget, but anamorphic enhancement would have helped.
extras - biography, a link to BFIs site - nothing remarkable (although the liner notes are better than usual, and the packaging is more sturdy than that used for Salo).
But most importantly perhaps - this release marks the first occasion Decameron is availible uncut for home viewing in this country - and so comes highly recommended for fans of Pasolini and off-beat Italian film.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie,
This review is from: The Decameron [DVD]  (DVD)Great adaptation of this timeless comedy written by Boccaccio. Of the 100 stories in the book Pasolini seems to have chosen chosen the sauciers ones.
Actors seem to all be amateurs yet adds to the mood of the movie, and captures the spirit of the book quite well - very risqué satire. Gave me a good few laughs over and over again.
Not to watch with the children (some sex scenes and full frontal nudity), but will certainly lift the spirits in a dark wintery night.
If you expect a holywood style production stay clear, if you want something that will make you think a bit while giving a laugh then go for it!
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passolini explores the narrative tradition,
This review is from: Decameron [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)'The Decameron' is one Pasolini's trilogy of films ('Arabian Nights' and 'Canterbury Tales' are the others) exploring the role of the storyteller and the translation of this timeless vocal tradition into a cinematic one. The cinema has typically taken on board the format of the novel - it presents one central story, with maybe a couple of subplots, seen from the point of view of one of the protagonists or of a neutral onlooker. The storytelling tradition, however, while it might include epics like the 'Iliad', generally follows shorter stories, and often relates these to a specific moral.
Pasolini provides a cavalcade of tales exploring life and death, lust and sex, the materialism of the peasant world, the carnality of life. If there is a moral it is that sex and lust are blessings. Here, sex is presented as a political act - we all have ultimate political control over our own bodies; and here Pasolini explores the nature of belief, contrasting the real, physical, material world of sex and abandonment with the censorship and authoritarianism of religion. Pasolini was fascinated by the interaction of the Marxist and Catholic traditions within Italy ... and with the world of the traditional peasant before they became anachronisms with the growth of cities and the development of an industrialised economy.
'The Decameron' is set in a medieval world which embodies the traditional values of rough peasant sex, duplicity, and conflict with the moral certainties of the Church. We have nuns forsaking their vows of chastity, cuckolded husbands, a celebration of bodily functions. We have comedy, drama, music. It's lewd, it's bawdy, and there are bodies aplenty.
Here we have life, bounded by rules, but rules which are often pure hypocrisy. Pasolini prefers the vulgarity of peasant life and its flexible violation of rules - rules of law, rules of religion, rules of social structure and hierarchy. Guilt is created by the Church ... but can be exorcised by the simple expedient of confession. Surely the peasants are more honest in their human breaking of rules ... particularly sexual ones? He rejoices in their superstition, their ignorance, their selfishness and materialism.
It's a slow paced but exuberant celebration of life in the raw. The visual style is sumptuous in places, aping the colours of medieval art. Pasolini offers characters in his photography - the beautiful and the ugly people, using amateur actors to emphasise the lack of sophistication of the peasant world. His exploration of the nature of storytelling produces overlapping tableau after tableau, short tales which cut straight into the next and challenge the conventional structure of cinema.
It's engaging, it's entertaining, and it will make you laugh.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clean and Crisp,
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 of the Trilogy of Life.,
This review is from: The Decameron [VHS]  (VHS Tape)Nice to see The Decameron reissued, as well as parts two and three of the 'Trilogy of Life'- The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Knights. Though be warned, not everything that Pasolini made was genius- his novels a dilution of Camus and Genet and films like Hawks & Sparrows do nothing for me.
The Decameron is far from his best works- Mamma Roma, Accatone, La Ricotta, The Gospel According to St Matthew, Theorum and Salo- but is worth seeing for a myriad of reasons (not just for those studying Boccaccio). Pasolini was moving towards this kind of film with St Matthew and Medea, the meticulous recreation of the past being a prime factor which will leave you hurtling towards The Golden Bough or The Uses of Enchantment.
In this trilogy Pasolini fused his ever-mutating philosophy with three classic works- here we get excerpts from the vast text- in a similar way that Kieslowki's final work, Heaven, uses aspects of The Divine Comedy. Pasolini is making things more obvious with the 'storyteller' aspect prevalent in this work- this would be continued to the deranged courtesan of Salo; while Pasolini himself makes an appearance as Giotto- as he would appear as Chaucer in The Canterbury Tale. This further confounds the associations made between Pasolini's life and art (JG Ballard defined Pasolini as "sociopath disguised as Saint" in The User's Guide to the Millennium).
The Decameron is an impressive film, though some knowledge of the original text (which I didn't have) would be helpful- to see where Boccaccio ends and Pasolini begins. As ever the composition and design is wonderful- as the costumes- this is partly down to Dante Ferretti (now a Scorsese regular like Michael Ballhaus) and the late Danilo Donati (costume designer and sometime writer/director). Ennio Morricone also contributes some music, as Tonino del Colli offers up fantastic photography.
The Trilogy of Life is well worth watching, not as gruelling or Gramscian as films like Pigsty, Salo & Theorum; though ultimately Pasolini would reject this direction- as he had the early works (Mamma Roma, Accatone) and move to his last broadcast, Salo (another story...).
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Why bother finishing a work of art, when it's better just to dream about it?",
This review is from: The Decameron [DVD]  (DVD)Pasolini's movie presents ten stories from Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron. It's filmed in the old town of Amalfi, all crumbling buildings and lush green fields, which stands in for medieval Naples.
Boccaccio's Decameron consists of a hundred stories - ten stories a day, told by ten young Florentines over the course of ten days. Pasolini, with one or two exceptions, concentrates on their Neapolitan stories, and when the stories aren't set in Naples (most notably with the tale of Ciappelletto) he just uproots them and plants them there.
The movie itself begins with a murder - a young man is beating someone to death. The victim is screaming for his life from inside a sealed sack. The killer finishes him off with a big rock, carries the sack to the edge of a cliff, throws it off, and spits with contempt. Life can be short and death can be brutal. We later learn that the killer is Ciappelletto, from the opening story of Boccaccio's Decameron. (And there's an awful premonition of Pasolini's own death here, since he was murdered at the age of 53, probably in a contract killing, which seems to be pretty much what the soon-to-be-saintly Ciappelletto is carrying out here.)
The film then covers the following tales: II v; IX ii; III i; VII ii, I i, and then there's an interval. In the second half, Pasolini creates his own story, casting himself as a pupil of Don Giotto (who appears in Boccaccio's VI v), and Pasolini's invented story weaves together the remaining five tales: VI v; V iv; IV v; IX x and III x.
The Boccaccio story has Don Giotto as the greatest living artist, but Pasolini rewrites the character that he himself plays, so that he's playing not Don Giotto but the Giotto's unnamed student. But the point of Boccaccio's story remains: supposedly great artists can be caught in the rain and splattered with mud just like the rest of us. Pasolini gives the movie's final line to himself as "Don Giotto's student": "Why bother finishing a work of art when it's more fun just to dream about it?" And Pasolini's fictional addition to Boccaccio - in one of the most striking images in the film - presents a story in which the artist's dream of a painting turns out to be much more beautiful and dynamic than the painting itself, even though the public might be quite satisfied simply with the painting.
Aside from that, Pasolini tinkers about with Boccaccio's stories in ways that don't always come off. Ciappelletto, for example, in the original, is definitely short, malevolent and quite elderly - he falls sick in Burgundy and makes a false deathbed confession which results in his being venerated as a saint. Pasolini's Ciappelletto is not a Florentine in France, but a Neapolitan in Germany. Maybe there are good 1970s reasons for replacing 14th century Florence with 20th century Naples (Camorra instead of Guelphs and Ghibellines) and France's medieval military alliances with more recent Italian ones with Germany, but these allusions aren't really chased up. Also, Franco Citta's character is normal height, mid-thirties and nice-looking. It's hard to make out why he dies (it's after a long illness in the original, but he just inexplicably collapses after a cheerful meal here). Also, because his episode is so far removed from the movie's introductory murder, it's hard to associate him with the evil killer we saw at the start.
Pasolini shies away from some of the gorier bits of Boccaccio, whether for reasons of good taste or low budget I'm not sure. In the opening scene (based on II v), for example, Andreuccio exclaims, "How ugly you are!" to the corpse of the bishop (although the poor man doesn't look ugly at all) whereas in the original, the corpse is crawling with maggots, which spill onto Andreuccio when he faints and collapses alongside the dead man. Similarly, the famously severed head in the honour killing (adapted from IV v) is suggested rather than shown explicitly, while in the original, the stages of decomposition of the dead man's head form part of the narrative.
There are other slight changes of emphasis. For example, when the old storyteller tells the tale of IX ii in Neapolitan dialect towards the beginning of the film, the punchline is that all the nuns in the convent end up with lovers, which leads nicely into III i (because that's what happens in that story) but it's quite different from the original of IX ii. In that convent, although the Abbess and Sister Isabetta end up with regular visits from their lovers, Boccaccio tells us that the other nuns "consoled themselves in secret as best they could." Conversely, in Pasolini's version of III x, which closes the movie, the "sin which is not regarded as a sin in heaven" is frequent love-making - whereas in Boccaccio, frequent love-making is pretty much taken for granted, and the sin that heaven takes no interest in is that of making love to the mother of your own godchild.
Pasolini's movie is good fun, beautifully shot, and even the dentistry looks medieval. But there's a lot more fun to be had from going back to the original. For anyone who'd like to find earthier and gutsier versions of these tales, G H McWilliam's excellent translation, published as a Penguin Classic, is well worth getting hold of.
4.0 out of 5 stars good piece of historic film making in neo-realistic style.,
This review is from: The Decameron / Notes for an African Oresteia (DVD + Blu-ray) (DVD)I first saw this in the early 70"s in the Cine Citta, a small cinema off Leicester Square, on a handkerchief sized screen. At the time it was racy and unlike anything else being made, except by the likes of Ken Russell. I went to see it, primarily, because I had just finished Boccaccio's Decameron and was not disappointed by the film although it represents a mere 10th of the stories in the book. At the time, the film quality and the film treatment was definitely in the mode of art cinema and the neo-realism of Pasolini was just one of several "out there" for art students like myself. Coming back to the film more than 40 years later, it looks like an historic piece of film making, not because it lacks CGI, but because the film quality is much less than expected even by guerilla film makers on youtube. Despite this, the film still has charm, in no small part due to the beguiling personalities of the amateurs who make up most of the cast and are believably medieval in looks and no doubt behaviour, looking much like the characters of a Brueghel painting. The stories more or less hang together as the camera presents a seemingly panoramic view of the town and countryside, panning from one tableaux to another, introducing each new aspect as it goes. There is plenty of nudity, male and female, that fits with the storyline, but no airbrushed, artificially enhanced characteristics: the actors, just as they are, neither particularly beautiful, nor especially ugly, but earthily human and free of artifice. This is a great film, in many ways, exploring how people of all eras negotiate the strictures of life and moral framework of church and state to live and find simple pleasures that are, at least in Pasolini's vision, free of the sin or guilt of sexual pleasure, or other peccadilloes, less savoury, like robbery, murder and heresy, but just as much a part of life. The version I watched is DVD as I do not have a Blue-Ray player: this set has both in it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Decameron,
This review is from: The Decameron [DVD]  (DVD)A Pasolini classic which should be in every film-lover's library. The bawdy tales are fun but there is also much humour in the situations which arise out simple comedy of errors.
38 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please stop, BFI.,
BFI, please remember your own name: The British FILM institute. Blu Ray is such a wonderful medium when it is used to show us the look of film which it can do quite accurately. On this Blu Ray we see no film, only an overprocessed nasty video image.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a blu-ray very brilliant,
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The Decameron [DVD]  by Pier Paolo Pasolini (DVD - 2009)