on 12 June 2013
This is the latest Pasolini package from the BFI - containing a new Blu-ray transfer and a DVD disc. The decision not to include the Terence Stamp interview on the Blu-ray disc is irritating, but par for the course for the BFI. Eureka manage to duplicate the entire content on both discs and I would have thought that having the content on both discs was the purpose of a dual format set. Nevertheless, a very worth while release.
Although there are still signs of source material damage the restoration has reduced it to the extent that it does not impinge upon the viewing experience too much - unless you are very pernickety. What is very apparent is the film's rich visual texture, from monochrome through grainy sepia to sumptuous colour. The overall impression is one of a very dense almost over saturated world, a world that is superficially recognisable but which is in fact deeply disturbing. The film is composed of a series of moments with little regard to conventional narrative development or continuity.
I understand that Italy's roman catholic authorities prosecuted Pasolini for obscenity in respect of Theorem, I wonder if they would have preferred to get him for blasphemy but realised that they would have fallen into the trap of acknowledging that the film was an allusion to Jesus.
The varied visual textures are echoed by Pasolini's use of a number of pictorial techniques particularly during the film's unusual [even by Pasolini standards] opening sequences. A much loved motif, the volcanic ashes of Mt Etna, features here and did so in many films from Matthew to Medea. There's some quasi news footage in monochrome and another visual device, much favoured by Pasolini, the direct referencing, perhaps parodying of silent film. After this the major part of film settles down to some stunning colour cinematography which results in some truly beautiful images.
The sound track, which is almost absent in places, is subtle and haunting and is enhanced sometimes with jangly guitar rifts by Ennio Morricone and at other times with a very melancholy jazz motif. I think the sound track along with the pacing, the narrative settings and the cinematography are all powerful examples of Pasolini at work during his most productive film-making period. During this period, 1966 to 1969, he made five films, Uccellacci e uccellini, Edipo re, Teorema, Porcile and Medea.
A mesmerising and absorbing experience.
Theorem is an amazing visual experience, and seeing it on the big screen - or on a high quality screen at home, no doubt - brings out just how avant-garde it still seems. The main thing about it for me is its extraordinary tone, both serious and comical, often at the same time. It is highly original in this respect, constantly surprising the viewer with its breathtaking sense of the human face and how to use the camera, when to cut away and how to get the specificity of place and incident. It opens a bit like a Godard film, with a satirical interview of factory employees whose boss has just handed over the factory to their ownership, in which the interviewer answers his own questions, in effect. We then see the events that lead up to this extraordinary action. At this point it becomes something else - always about cinema and its power, but shot through a gay lens that places it quite far from Godard. The Terence Stamp character is a kind of Christ figure but without the prohibition on sexuality that Christianity usually entails. Here it is quite the opposite: he releases the desires of all the members of the family, plus the maid. His openness towards their desires is so in conflict with their assumed identities that they all go to pieces, although the exact tone of all this is highly ambiguous. There are so many sequences you remember from this film: Silvana Mangano in the summer house staring lasciviously at his discarded clothes, with her perfect make-up; the son urinating on his art, the maid becoming a saint, the speeches everyone makes before the stranger's departure, both slightly absurd and moving, Ninetto Davoli flapping into the forecourt with the mail like a human pelican ... Then there is the repeated landscape of taupe-coloured dust which blows into the air in wisps, and Mozart's profound Requiem, performed in a slow-paced version, set against some jazz by Ennio Morricone and Tears for Dolphy by jazz trumpeter Ted Curson. Not forgetting a period pop song coming out of a sixties portable SP record player on the floor of the bedroom Stamp shares with the son - or so it seems, although actually it is just on the soundtrack as they get into bed and lie there in the dark, the son overwhelmed with temptation ... an inspired juxtaposition! It is a unique film, with the house element being a bit like Ozon, but working on a bigger canvas - in fact, it doesn't get any bigger than this.
on 29 June 2013
THEOREM  [Blu-ray + DVD] ‘TEOREMA’ Is An Overwhelming Shattering Experience! A Mysterious Powerful Film!
A film by Pier Paolo Pasolini. A handsome, enigmatic stranger [Terence Stamp] arrives at a bourgeois household in Milan and successively seduces each family member, not forgetting the maid. Then, as abruptly and mysteriously as he arrived, he departs, leaving the members of the household to make what sense they can of their lives in the void of his absence.
In this cool, richly complex and provocative political allegory, Pier Paolo Pasolini uses his schematic plot to explore family dynamics, the intersection of class and sex, and the nature of different sexualities. After winning a prize at the Venice Film Festival, ‘THEOREM’ was subsequently banned on an obscenity charge, but Pier Paolo Pasolini later won an acquittal on the grounds of the films 'high artistic value.'
‘THEOREM’ is visually ravishing, with superb performances from its international cast and a brilliantly eclectic soundtrack featuring music by composers ranging from Ennio Morricone, Ted Curson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and various other composers.
FILM FACTS: Awards and Nominations: Venice Film Festival: Nominated: Golden Lion. Win: Volpi Cup: Best Actress for Laura Betti. Pier Paolo Pasolini later expanded this film into a novel with the same name. Giorgio Battistelli composed an opera based on the film. In 2009, the Dutch theatre company 'Toneelgroep Amsterdam' created and performed a play version of this film.
Cast: Silvana Mangano, Massimo Girotti, Anne Wiazemsky, Laura Betti, Andrés José Cruz Soublette, Ninetto Davoli, Carlo De Mejo, Adele Cambria, Luigi Barbini, Giovanni Ivan Scratuglia, Alfonso Gatto, Cesare Garboli (Interviewer) (uncredited) and Susanna Pasolini (Old Peasant) (uncredited)
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Producers: Franco Rossellini and Manolo Bolognini
Screenplay: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Composer: Ennio Morricone (Score) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Various composers)
Cinematography: Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Italian: 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital
Running Time: 98 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Euro International Film / BFI [British Film Institute]
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: There's something simultaneously infuriating and delightful about the situation explored in Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1968 film ‘THEOREM’ [Italian Title ‘TEOREMA’]. The director teases the viewer with a proposition during the opening minutes of the film, shot documentary-interview style, in which he considers what would be the impact should a bourgeois owner of a factory give his business over into the hands of the workers. Would this now make the workers the new bourgeoisie? On the one hand, the apparent simplicity of the theorem's proposition and Pier Paolo Pasolini's testing of it seems either obscure or ludicrously reductive, the film detailing a stranger's interaction with a bourgeois family on one half of the equation with the result that their lives undergo a radical transformation in the second half. The film offers no explanation or justification for what occurs, but the manner in which it expresses its ideas is daring and intriguing, opening up many other possible interpretations.
Social change, personal development, freedom of artistic expression, sexual liberation and shattering of bourgeois values are all Pier Paolo Pasolini's targets, and like Jean-Luc Godard, particularly during this period, that revolution extends to the screen, breaking the format, defying expectations, playing the part of revolutionary, prophet and artist. The ultimate purpose of ‘THEOREM’ or its relative success may therefore be difficult to define, but its intent is at least to is to challenge the viewer and force them to re-evaluate what they think they know and perhaps discover something new.
‘THEOREM’ was given a special award by the International Catholic Film Office when it was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1968. But the award was then withdrawn, and the film renounced by the Pope because it apparently did not respect the sensibility of the Christian people. These contradictory reactions sum up a film which seems by its very nature to embody opposites: the possibility of a supernatural transcendence is contemplated, yet all those who encounter it are left destroyed. Is the Visitor an angel or a devil? Do the reactions of the visited family, which seem to echo the forms of escape sought by many in late-sixties Europe, excoriate 20th century capitalism or are they merely the historically inevitable results of humanity's estrangement from its primal past? Such questions are raised by the film almost without our being fully aware of their presence in the mind, and many more half-formed disquietudes of the soul are seeded by its lyrical, visually intoxicating poetry. It also has worth as a late-sixties cultural time capsule, capturing urban and pastoral shades of a transforming Italy during a period of great cultural upheaval and uncertainty.
‘THEOREM’ was previously released by the BFI on a PAL DVD disc only. ‘THEOREM’ has been upgraded to a Dual-Format Blu-ray and DVD edition. The film is presented both on Blu-ray on a single-layer disc, and on a dual-layer DVD-9 disc. The Blu-ray is an encoded 1080p at 24fps, the DVD is in the B/2 PAL format.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The quality of ‘THEOREM’ with the transfer was already high on the existing DVD release, so there might not be any major improvement evident here in its upgrade to High Definition. The Blu-ray has the same look and feel of the DVD (as well as a commonality of tone with the Pier Paolo Pasolini films ‘THEOREM’ most closely resembles ‘Oedipus Rex’ and ‘Pigsty.’ Contrast is strong and there is not an exceptional amount of extra detail in the 1080p image. The deep blacks are certainly more accurately rendered, but there is still not a great amount of shadow detail. Colours have a cool, neutral, natural tone. A significant amount of exteriors however are shot during early mornings or evenings and the golden glow of the sunrises and sunsets come over well in the transfer. Some minor print wavering or flicker is evident and grain is visible, but nothing more than you would expect from a film of this age. Overall however, the image is remarkably clean and sharp, with only a few stray dust spots visible. Some compression blocking or noise reduction artefacts are evident, but there are only really detectable in freeze-frame. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The Italian and English LPCM Mono Audio Track on the Blu-ray disc, as well as the 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio track on the DVD disc, does not exhibit a great dynamic range, but it is clear and has few problems with analogue noise. Surprisingly, while small sound effects are relatively clear, it is the music score that is most lacking, but this is probably down to the original mixing and source materials. In an addition over the original DVD release, the film's English dub is also included on the Blu-ray and the DVD. The dub obviously dates from the film's release and uses mainly American voice-actors for most of the cast, but presumably Terence Stamp speaks his own dialogue and he doesn't really have enough lines to be certain of this. Not surprisingly, considering the international casting and the way films were made in Italy at this time, the lip-sync in English is much better than the Italian version. It's clear that almost everyone, even the Italian actors, were actually delivering their lines in English here, and it was only dubbed afterwards into Italian. The quality of the English dub has some low-level background noise, but is generally fine and clear. I thought it worked perfectly well with the film. Subtitles: English subtitles are included, in a white font and they are clear throughout. Some minor interjections and phrases where the meaning is quite apparent are left un-translated. In a film where there is not a great deal of dialogue, there is a certain balance to maintain and it strikes me that it has been achieved here. All extra features are subtitled in English except for Robert Gordon's commentary, which is curious, as it was subtitled on the previous DVD only release of ‘THEOREM’ very strange.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition.
Optional alternative English language soundtrack.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Italian film expert Robert Gordon: Italian film expert Robert Gordon presents a full and informative commentary for the film ‘THEOREM.’ It's often descriptive of what is happening on the screen, but at the same time interpretative and makes many interesting observations. Gordon also takes the time to place the film in the context of Pier Paolo Pasolini's other films, as well as his writing, his life and his themes. It doesn't perhaps offer any major illumination on the film's treatment than can be grasped by any viewer themselves, but Robert Gordon is a decent commentator and it's never dull or overly academic.
Special Feature: An Interview with Terence Stamp  [34:00] [DVD only] In a simply delightful and fascinating interview from Terence Stamp, reflects on what was an important period for him, liberating himself as an actor first for Fellini and then for Pier Paolo Pasolini before abandoning it all and going to live on an Ashram in India. The interview is edited down quite a bit and Terrence Stamp, as we've seen in some recent appearances, could talk for hours, but he is given plenty of time to develop his thoughts and stories about getting involved on this film specifically, working (or not, as it were) with Pier Paolo Pasolini, trying to figure out the man and his contradictions, as well as how he sees his own character in the film. Very frank and often very funny, Terence Stamp is mesmerising here and you could listen to him all day.
Theatrical Trailer  This is the Original Theatrical Trailer release for ‘THEOREM.’
BONUS: The extras are rounded out nicely by the stunning and brilliant BFI [British Film Institute] fully illustrated 18 page booklet. First of all we get an essay entitled “Theorem” by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. Next up we have “Theorem reviewed” by Philip Strick. Then there are two a fascinating Biographies entitled “Terence Stamp (1939-)” by Roma Gibson and “Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975)” by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. Then we have the complete credit listings of the film ‘Theorem.’ Then we have ‘Extras,’ which is a short introduction to the “An Interview with Terence Stamp”  [34:00] [DVD only]. Then finally we have information “About the transfer” and “Acknowledments.”
Finally, Provocative, controversial, experimental, ‘THEOREM’ is definitely a product of its time, but such is Pier Paolo Pasolini's brilliance, his method of keeping the subject elusive and vague while at the same time simple and meaningful, that the film stands up very well today. The BFI [British Film Institute] High Definition dual-format upgrade doesn't really significantly improve on the previous DVD release, but this is still an impressive release with some good extra features that contribute to a fine appreciation of the film. This BFI [British Film Institute] package is a definite must for the student of 20th century cinema, providing the best possible reproduction of the movie and a host of enlightening, educational commentaries on it with the extras and booklet pieces. I totally recommended this beautiful BFI [British Film Institute] package, as they have done a stunning job and if you want to view a film that makes you think, then this will definitely be for you and I am so proud to have this in my Blu-ray Collection and if you feel this is not for you, well then you are really missing out on a truly stunning Pier Paolo Pasolini classic film of its time and now I am proud to have the ultimate version of this very provocative, controversial, experimental film. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
A lot of ink has already flown over the apparently enigmatic movie `Teorema' shot by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Hereafter my own interpretation in the light of his whole work.
Pier Paolo Pasolini's curse
As he explained in his book `Amado Mio - Atti Impuri', P.P. Pasolini's lifelong curse was the sexual attraction of ephebes.
This curse was a Christian one.
Homosexual relations between an older man and an adolescent were considered to be totally natural in ancient times (Sparta, Marcus Aurelius, Theocritus) before Christianity became the dominant, totalitarian religion, with its morality holding on that procreation was the only goal of sexual intercourse. The Christian Churches considered also that the family nucleus was the best means to propagate its own religious faith from the parents to the children.
This curse was also a bourgeois one.
Promiscuity was rampant among the majority of the population (the lower classes which possessed nothing) and the nobility (except for the legal spouses, because within the ruling classes the fatherhood had to be assured). The bourgeois class crept out of the mud of the lower classes and adopted the family policy of the Christian Churches. The wealth gathered by lifelong hard toiling had to be preserved within the family. For those whose sexual (promiscuous) drive was too strong, there were the brothels exploited by the Churches (E.J. Burford).
Pasolini's gospel: free sexuality
`Teorema' is a plea for free sexuality, personified in the main character of the movie played by Terence Stamp. He has sexual intercourse with everybody: young and old, male and female, the lower and the middle classes. This free sexuality shatters the family nucleus and shakes fundamentally the behavior of its members. It fully undermines the Christian bourgeois morality, which stands in the way of people wanting to live fully their own sexuality. But, before it can be implemented, a community has to go through the desert.
P. P. Pasolini didn't foresee that between the 1960s and now, the Christian and the bourgeois mentality and morality would nearly totally disappear. People now can change partners as easy as they can change their shirts. Only children are legally protected.
In `Comizi d'amore' (1964) Pier Paolo Pasolini was openly insulted to be a disgusting individual (by people who didn't know his sexual preference).
And what about Pasolini's communism?
In the beginning of the movie, an entrepreneur gives his plant freely away to his workforce. But, one of the workers says that this is not enough: one should also get rid of bourgeois morals. One should not forget that after the Bolshevik revolution in the USSR `free love associations' became a norm (not for long) under the advocacy of Alexandra Kollontai.
Although sexual morals have substantially changed since the shooting of this movie, its bold treatment of human sexuality is still unsettling.
Not to be missed.
on 10 October 2015
Theorem is sometimes described a an allegory. If this is correct it should be possible to work out its meaning. The crucial questions to be answered are:- Who is the mysterious guest ? and What is it that he brings to the bourgeois household that wrecks the lives of members of the family, but turns the maidservant into a saint ?. Having watched the film several times I can see no natural answer. However, when I remember that Pasolini, as well as being a communist, was a Catholic, I can see a supernatural or religious answer. The guest is either God or God's representative, and what he brings is the love of God, which Pasolini shockingly chooses ro represent by sexual love. Pasolini hates the bourgeoisie and he thinks their selfish materialistic way of life alienates them from God and from love, and leaves their lives empty and meaningless. When after contact with the holy stranger the members of the family see themseles as they really are (as, in the film, they all do)
their lives crumble into ashes. At the appropriate moments this is symbolised in the film by shots of the arid slopes of a volcano. The servant, on the other hand, who in simple and humble, is inspired by her contact with the stranger. She abandons the bourgeois household and returns to he rural origins and becomes a saint. (It is typical of Pasolini's intemporate views that he tends to picture the working class as saintly, and the bourgeois class as wholly devoid of moral values.)
It remains to expain some of the scenes that end the film. The paterfamilias gives his factory to the workers, but certainly not out of any concern for them. He is merely trying to disburden himself of his former life and his belongings (even his clothes) which he now sees as worthless, but since he has nothing to replace them with we last see him stumbling naked across a wilderness, and howling. The servant, now a saint, goes to a building site and has herself nearly buried in earth and rubble. She tells the old woman who helps her that she is not there to die, but to weep.
Covering oneself with dust and ashes is the traditional accompaniment of weeping, especially if it is weeping for the state of one's nation, or for the state of the world.