Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rome Journal XII: Pasolini, Ancora!

she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus
Pasolini’s great masterpiece Mamma Roma was an inadvertent form of mythmaking, that ended up rivaling the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus. The movie begins with Anna Magnani leading three pigs into the wedding feast of her pimp Carmine (Franco Citti). The pigs are laughingly called the "Fratelli d’italia,” the brothers of Italy. But the reception is modeled on da Vinci’s Last Supper and the pigs are a proto-Holy Trinity, comprised of Marxism, Christianity and Antiquity, three elements that the film points to as the driving forces of Roman life. Today Pasolini’s vision holds more true than ever. Up until recently the country was run by a billionaire tycoon whose fortune came from media. He stayed in power longer than any post-war prime minister. The Brigate Rosse are no longer an everyday threat, as they were back in the 70’s when they kidnapped and murdered, Aldo Moro, the Christian Democratic prime minister. But the class divisions in the country are still readily apparent and the disparity between poor and rich underlined in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century are as evident in Italy’s capital as any place in the world. As for Christianity it’s still a huge force with Pope Francis proving to be a charismatic figure who has extended the political influence of the papacy in a way that may be greater than any time since the Risorgimento. As far as antiquity is concerned, the past is to Italy, what oil is to the Saudis. It constitutes the wealth of the country, both economically, in terms of tourism, but also spiritually to the extent that history is written on literally every street corner and to quote Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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