Monday, January 16, 2017

Rome Journal: Pigneto, The Writing on the Wall

        photograph of Maupal mural by Hallie Cohen
The Via Fanfulla da Lodi lies in Pigneto, a once impoverished neighborhood on the Southeast outskirts of Rome which has now become gentrified. Street art and graffiti don’t just adorn the walls. They cry out, representing less a form of desecration than a need to speak. There's an urgency to these inscriptions which can include the face of a transvestite or that of the famed Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini whose portrait with it’s “mo sto bene” tee shirt adorns the terrace of the Café Necci, an institution in the neighborhood. Pasolini himself was attracted to the underlife of Rome and it was here that he both caroused and gave birth to his classic Accattone (1961) whose milieu is the world of petty criminals and thieves (there’s a wall of photos of Pasolini shooting Accattone on the Café Necci’s walls). If you walk down to number 43 you will come to a modest B&B. When you gaze up at the side of the building, you are caught up short by a portrait of Pasolini’s right eye replete with crow’s feet. In Wanted in Rome, 2/3/16Martin Bennett quotes the director thusly, “The eye alone is aware of beauty.” The streets of the neighborhood are narrow and not conducive to looking up  say the way you would at a billboard in Times Square.  And what's distinctive about the mural, by the artist Maupal, is that it gives the impression of having captured you before you see it. Pasolini’s eye is that of the voyeur looking at his subjects before they’ve even had a chance to react. Here is a Pasolini quote found on a wall on the Via del Pigneto accompanying yet another mural: “non illuderti; la passion non ottiene mai perdono Non ti perdano neanch’io, che vivo di passion,” “Don’t fool yourself the passion never gets lost for those who live the passion.”

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