Arabian Nights/C+,C+

Image/1974/131m/WS 1.75

 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 Pasolini’s vision. With a running time of 131 minutes, the film unfolds rather slowly despite the multiple stories.

arabiannights.JPG (10254 bytes)

Pasolini envisions the Arab bazaar ŠImage

     There’s a 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 Morricone’s score carries the characters along on Arabian chords.
     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 it’s 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 disconcerting.
     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. It’s 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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