Pier Paulo Pasolini continues his
homoerotic explorations on the screen by taking his sexual slant into the Arabian
Nights. Hungry lovers lurk behind every palm tree and the parched desert thirsts are
satisfied only between the silken sheets of lustful tales of the night.
While it seems like all the tales will be interconnected at the
beginning, the script seems to wander in the desert, losing its way. One tale involves a
slave girl who slips a young man the money to buy her at auction so they can enjoy carnal
bliss. After a pointed warning from her, he sells a shawl in the market to a blue-eyed
man, which results in her abduction and sends him on a lackluster search to recover his
lost love. In another tale a bridegroom abandons his wife to be on the eve of their
wedding for another mysterious woman. His betrayal can only come back to haunt him.
Several other stories weave together the fabric of Pasolinis vision. With a running
time of 131 minutes, the film unfolds rather slowly despite the multiple stories.
Pasolini envisions the Arab bazaar
sense of crudeness to the way Pasolini chooses to shoot. Simple panning shots set the
landscape, tight close-ups are used extensively on the actors. The camera becomes very
intimate with actors, almost invigorating the sense of carnality. Thus, the crudeness in
the simplicity gives way to elegance. The production design by Dante Ferretti makes the
most of the locales and Ennio Morricones score carries the characters along on
Pasolini is not for all tastes. His depictions of sex are
casually graphic and his actors do not always seem to be top professionals. Perhaps
its his naturalistic way of directing. Perhaps he is searching for something closer
to the period by a certain awkwardness in his actors. For my part, I found it somewhat
There is a commendable disclaimer on the back of the DVD package
indicating that the film elements are the best available but are not up to modern
standards. For the most part the images are pretty clean. The color is either badly faded
or Pasolini has chosen to film in distinctly earth tones, which is certainly possible.
Pasolini has a rough, cinema-verite shooting style, despite the ancient settings of his
movies. Its reflected in the grainy look of the film, but I did not find it
distracting or even unattractive. There are a number of scenes that are somewhat soft,
perhaps owing to some digital cleaning. The sound is thin but oriental flavor of the Ennio
Morricone score is still enjoyable. The film is presented with serviceable white,
non-removable English subtitles over the print.
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