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Love Meetings

director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

90 minutes (15) 1964
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Tom Johnstone
Fairly mild coming from the director of The Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights and Salò, Love Meetings (aka: Comizi d'amore) is nevertheless something of an eye-opener in its own way. It is in fact a documentary vox pop, in which Pasolini roams the streets' corners, dance halls and beaches of early 1960s' Italy, and examines the sexual mores of its people. The people he interviews range from young boys to middle aged factory workers, in locations from Palermo to Naples, and prove very revealing, providing a fascinating insight into the anxieties and prejudices of a generation of Italians, during a period of intense political and social ferment. We encounter a middle-aged housewife who has abandoned all hope of a sexual dimension to her a marriage, and a middle class husband and father trumpeting family values.

As we might expect in a Catholic dominated country, we are confronted by numerous examples of conservatism about sexuality and gender roles, and we can only guess what must have been crossing the mind of the gay, atheistic director as he spoke to people expressing almost pathological disgust at the thought of homosexuality. His own commentary and many of his interviewing prompts are full of an impish sense of mischief. In one fascinating scene, a crowd of working class Italian males, and some prostitutes, are shown commenting on the abolition of licensed brothels in Naples. This is particularly relevant in the light of the recent spate of murders of prostitutes in Suffolk, which led to calls for the trade to be removed from the dangers of street-walking, by the semi-legalisation of brothels.

In some ways, it is interesting to compare Love Meetings with Pasolini's masterpiece from this era, The Gospel According To St Matthew. On the face of it, the two films could not be more different. One is a contemporary documentary, the other a fictional account the life of Christ. However, The Gospel used documentary techniques, real Italian settings and unknown actors to tell this story, while Love Meetings gives its collage of interviews a poetic feel by inserting subject inter-titles. Both films express the tension between Pasolini's Marxist radicalism and the conservative Catholic traditionalism he faced as a director.

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