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Pasolini DVD boxset volume 1
March 2007 SITE MAP   SEARCH

cast: Franco Citti, Franca Pasut, Silvana Corsini, Paola Guidi, and Adriana Asti

director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
111 minutes (15) 1961
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
Accattone (aka: The Scrounger) is Pasolini's first film, but its raw quality perfectly suits the subject matter; the black and white photography crisply capturing the desperate lives of young Italians in the 1960s in a country that hasn't recovered from the Second World War, and where pimping and stealing is commonplace and the future looks just as bleak.

Vittorio 'Accattone' Cataldi (Franco Citti) lives off the immoral earnings of the prostitute Maddalena (Silvana Corsini), until she is beaten badly by a gang in a revenge attack after having turned their leader in to the police. Perhaps in fear of further retribution - her reasoning isn't quite clear - she perjures herself by naming the wrong attackers, which results in her also being sent to jail. Having lived a relatively good life through Maddalena's immoral earnings, Accattone finds that he no longer has anyone to support him. Refusing to find a job because of the low wages, he descends into hunger, tries to scrounge money from his estranged wife to no avail, and eventually seduces the naïve Stella (Franca Pasut) in what first appears to be genuine affection but which latterly leads to him becoming her pimp.

The movie is set in Rome, but not the one familiar from tourist books. The characters wander through the desolate slum-filled outskirts, looking for unbroken bottles to sell amidst the rubbish tips. Accattone stoops to stealing jewellery from his estranged young son, and works scams in order to eat. Stella is a pure girl who at first seems to represent the embodiment of his shame and possible redemption, yet when he discovers her mother's past - and when it becomes necessary - he treats her just as he has done all women. No one, it seems, is safe from being dragged into the gutter.

Whilst the movie is a strong social commentary, it also works as a poetic existentialist piece, with the main thrust and underlying current of the film being the emasculation of the Italian male youth following the end of the war. Accattone and his friends have all the attributes of manhood - rippling muscles, laconic roving eyes, and extreme sexualised behaviour - and yet cannot find proper work and cannot feed themselves. This reliance on their women is paradoxical, as their attempts to show some dominance through beatings and pimping only underlies their insecurities. Accattone cannot attribute his life to his own inertia, instead blaming Maddalena: "You ruined me! I'd have been a good worker now, or a thief!" None of the men take responsibility for their actions; each of them holds the other back.

The ending is as tragic as it is inconsequential, but it doesn't feel inevitable. This is partly due to Pasolini's telling of the story, which alternately feeds us sympathy and then abhorrence for Accattone's actions, but also because it seems that it's only Accattone's apathy that makes his downfall a self-fulfilling prophecy. One character's description of him as "this cardboard man" is tellingly accurate, and Vittorio himself has renounced his 'proper' name in order to embrace his nickname Accattone ('beggar'). Accattone isn't completely weighed down by his circumstances; in many respects he has created them.

The performances are strong throughout. Citti is perfect in the lead role, his acting rolls off the screen as completely natural, compulsive to watch. The many supporting male roles play off each other with easy camaraderie, and whilst some of the female roles are occasionally reduced to caricature (Maddalena's outbursts at times seem quite demonic, although this may have much to do with some less than perfect editing), they are not the focus for this movie. Taking centre stage, Citti gives the role his all.

This review copy was a time-coded DVD and therefore I am unaware of any extras that may appear on the official release. Some online forums suggest the movie is 120 minutes long, so this version may be cut.

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