Arabian Nights

Behind Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ribald trifecta—through April 23—of ripe teenage backsides, golden-skinned ephebes, and naughty nuns lies a melancholy philosophy, in which the ephemeral joys of sex and love are inextricable from social power-brokering and street-level flimflam. This three-week retrospective begins with 1974’s Arabian Nights, which presents an Orientalist epic shot in locales of exotic architecture in Yemen, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Iran. The late Italian director (1922-1975) retains the nested matryoshka-doll narrative of the original tales, each sub-story becoming increasingly fantastic. Though the film remains wary of beauty’s lure, its framing romance allows for an ideal of true love (albeit between a man and his female slave), set within a sandy porntopia worthy of Bowles and Burroughs. It’s followed by Salo (12 Days of Sodom) and The Canterbury Tales, two more works of literature adapted to the newfound erotic freedoms of early-’70s cinema (also X-rated at the time). (NR) ED HALTER

April 3-9, 6 & 8:30 p.m., 2009

 
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