Thursday, October 2, 2014

NYFF52 Day 7: Abel Ferrara Remakes 'Pasolini' in His Image; Bertrand Bonello Rummages Through a 10-Year Dark Age in 'Saint Laurent'

Willem Dafoe is Pier Paolo Pasolini in "Pasolini." Photos courtesy of the New York Film Festival.

HEADS UP: Picking up where we left off last year, but expanding a tad (OK, quite a bit but still pithy), we will limit comments about New York Film Festival films to 200 or less. And ... Lights. Camera. ACTION! ...

PASOLINI is a somewhat engaging patchwork of the last days of Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The various panels, from the imagination of writer-director Abel Ferrara, represent facets of the provocateur portrayed by Willem Dafoe in a muted performance. He is a devoted son, intellectual, writer, homosexual with a taste for young street boys.

Not surprisingly, AB has been roundly criticized by Pasolini loyalist who believe his treatment is rather vulgar. The film has its U.S. premiere this evening at “The 52nd New York Film Festival.” (See video below).

In particular, this indictment goes to the sex scenes. Despite a warning, I was not put off, as I was with “4:44: Last Day on Earth.” The sex and nude scenes are nothing short of gratuitous. Significantly, they are pedestrian. ( With “Pasolini,” AB could have done a lot worse with the orgy footage.

Criticism aside, AB should be commended for his clever use of the man's own words and writing dispersed throughout.

Bertrand Bonello's exploration of a 10-year blue period in the life of Yves Saint Laurent is beautifully filmed.

Various techniques such as dual and multiple screens add depth to the film, which has the second screening of its North American premiere run this evening.

The YSL atelier and fashion shows are beautiful. The acting is strong, particularly that of Gaspard Ulliel in the title role. His angelic good looks lend the character the fragility that is not explained in the film.

Alas, Saint Laurent has other major problems. It is about 60 minutes too long at 146 minutes. More important, the story itself in this treatment – done without the blessing of YSL life partner and business partner Pierre Bergé – is not particularly interesting.

Gaspard Ulliel as the tortured designer in "Saint Laurent."

This period is well-known, having been examined in varying degrees in the small explosion of documentaries ( and features about the iconic designer (five, three of them after his death in 2008). That includes another biopic out this year, “Yves Saint Laurent,” done with PB's blessing and assistance. Not so for “Saint Laurent,” BB disclosed after a press and industry screening of the film.

Dare one call the voyeuristic scenes of YSL moving through a haze of uppers, downers, booze, Champagne and sex, boring?

Oui. C'est ça.

Visit to learn more about The 52nd New York Film Festival, including tickets and showtimes.

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