Friday, January 9, 2015

Rome Journal V: The Sacred and the Profound

photograph of Stefano Maderno’s St Cecilia by Hallie Cohen
The Marquis de Sade had a thing for Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.  It’s not surprising since it houses the famous sculpture of the writhing Saint which Stefano Maderno claimed to have wrested right from her preserved form when her burying place was examined in1599. Even Sade couldn’t have invented the tortures Cecilia endured. But Sade wasn’t very far off at least as far as a true understanding of Roman life is concerned. Profanity is never far from profundity. It’s something that you discover quickly in exploring the imagination of the great Italian filmmaker Pier Palo Pasolini who was as immersed in both the highest and lowest strivings of the human spirit. Despite the director’s Marxist credentials, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew is a deeply Christian work, and the last movie of his career Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom based on De Sade’s 120 of Sodom, takes place in a palace presided over by fascists, where the famed words over Dante’s entrance to hell, “lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrata,” apply. Salo is brilliant essay in perversion that often has filmgoers searching for the “uscita," which is exit in Italian. On the other side of the Tiber from Trastevere, you will find the old Jewish quarter of Rome. Pasolini occupied an apartment on the Piazza Costaguti right down from the Piazza Mattei, where he often went to see one of Rome’s great hidden treasures, the Fontana Delle Tartarughe, where statues of naked adolescent boys, whose penises were actually hidden by leaves during a period of repression in the 1850’s, are topped with four turtles. The fountain also appears in The Talented Mr. Ripley, (1999) Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel.

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