- Directors: Pier Paolo Pasolini
- Format: PAL
- Language: Italian
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 2
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Bfi
- DVD Release Date: 27 April 2009
- Run Time: 107 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B001TQROA8
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,179 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
The Canterbury Tales [DVD] 
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Director Pier Paolo Pasolini followed his version of 'The Decameron' with this bawdy and scandalous adaptation of Chaucer's tales. Officially declared obscene by the Italian courts, the film is a catalogue of different sexual acts, including flagellation, voyeurism and sleeping with watermelons. It includes elements of eight different Chaucer tales - those of the Merchant, Friar, Cook, Miller, Wife of Bath, Reeve, Pardoner and Summoner - and ends with Pasolini's celebrated vision of hell.
Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's film of The Canterbury Tales was one of a trilogy from the early 1970s that, like its companions The Decameron and the Arabian Nights, was an international box-office hit playing for long runs in mainstream cinemas. All of them adapt a masterpiece of literature where man becomes the moral catalyst for his own destiny. Chaucer's ribald sense of humour was a natural outlet for Pasolini's own desire to throw caution to the wind on screen, causing controversy at the time by displaying all facets of the male and female body unadorned. (Although it all looks pretty tame now, the Italian authorities were a threatening presence to Pasolini at the time.) Produced by Alberto Grimaldi with a large budget, the location scenes were filmed in many historic sites in England, notably Wells Cathedral, its crypt, and the surrounding flatlands leading toward Glastonbury, captured in early spring by Tonino Delli Colli's cinematography. The cast with Italian and English actors dubbed into Italian with English subtitles is a mixed blessing. Hugh Griffith as Sir January is one Anglo-Saxon recognisable from his role as the lecherous squire in Tom Jones, and overacts like the rest of the cast. Pasolini himself appears briefly as Chaucer in a non-speaking role that one regrets he didn't enlarge for himself in this sprawling tableaux of pilgrim's tales (Ken Russell's excesses from the same period come to mind). The musical score, an adaptation by Ennio Morricone of some traditional indigenous melodies, prefigures the early music revival by a few years and provides a stimulating soundtrack. --Adrian Edwards
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Top Customer Reviews
Having said all that however, I can forgive "The Canterbury Tales" almost anything. I love the bawdy atmosphere that pervades the entire film. Pasolini has concentrated on the raunchier aspects of Chaucer's tales, added a few of his own for good measure, and produced one of the great hedonistic films of all time. This is not one for the prudish, as it frequently shows nudity, sex, and bodily functions. Even so, the film is often quite beautiful visually, with various English locations used to good effect.
The cast is interesting (apart from the previously mentioned non-pro's that is). There are Pasolini regulars Franco Citti, Ninetto Davoli, and Laura Betti, who has a field day as the Wife of Bath. Also, you get some familiar British faces such as Hugh Griffiths, Robin Askwith, and Tom Baker in his pre-Doctor Who days. Pasolini himself does well in the role of Chaucer. The print used here by the BFI is in Italian with English subtitles. It's a definite improvement on the version that was issued in the States by Image Entertainment, which was poorly dubbed in English.
At the end of the film there is a great final flourish that you won't forget in a hurry. Set in a vision of Hell worthy of Dante's Inferno, it reveals the fate of friars who end up there and makes a perfect climax to what's gone before.
If you are familiar with the works of Pier Paolo Pasolini (who plays Chaucer) then the nature and the overall look of the film will come as no surprise. In addition to being a filmmaker and an actor, Pasolini was a poet, a Marxist, a gay rights activist, and a political agitator. It was the last two activities which led to his murder on November 2, 1975. He was 53. His films have a deliberately primitive style that recalls the films of D. W. Griffith and those of Italian Neorealism. Pasolini deliberately used non-professionals in many of his films to achieve the look he wanted and to get "unaffected" performances. The film was made in several of Chaucer's English locations giving the stories a real sense of verisimilitude.Read more ›
Chaucer's central conceit, in writing the "Canterbury Tales", was that here we have a collection of apparently devout individuals, setting out on a pilgrimage, a journey of discovery and faith, yet they find the notion so inherently boring they have to spice it up by telling one another bawdy and decidedly not very spiritually uplifting tales. The moral of the tale is in the moralities of the tellers!
Pasolini turns the tables on poor old Geoffrey Chaucer. In this film, Chaucer is stripped of his artistic integrity and satirical pen, to become a hen-pecked husband who scribbles erotic tales for his own amusement and gratification. But, of course, the director himself plays the part of Chaucer!
And the tales are bawdy. The costumes, settings and action is surreal. A fine actor like Huw Griffiths is reduced to a caricature by the dubbed Italian and the subtitles. Pasolini demands a melodramatic acting style, a throwback to the storytelling times - and there are moments in the film where he pays homage to Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. The bawdy, slapstick nature of comedy is timeless. And silent comedy, mime, is equally a part of a living, storytelling tradition.
Chaucer's characters flow across the screen. The Wife of Bath is insatiable. Tom Baker reveals all, but this was before his Dr.Who days! The action descends into Hell ... a pastiche of Hieronymus Bosch's vision.Read more ›
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