Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975) and Andrei Arsenevich Tarkovsky (1932-1986) are two of the central cultural figures of their respective countries (Italy and the Soviet Union) and times. Both were rebels: one who dramatized class conflict and the torments of eros; the other who insisted on the centrality of spirituality in life and the high calling of art. Both helped change the way films are made and watched. Pasolini was murdered at age 53; Tarkovsky was driven into exile in the early 1980s (as we’ll see, he gravitated to Italy and even made a great movie there, co-written with his close friend Tonino Guerra), and died of cancer and melancholy at age 54 in Paris. Not only a film maker, Pasolini was an extremely prolific poet, novelist, social critic and theorist. Tarkovsky was himself a film theorist and teacher, and the son of a great Russian poet. Indeed both film-makers are associated with the “poeticization” of the language of cinema. Both explored the concept in their writings. Both created distinctly different but equally unforgettable and eerily analogous works of filmic art. Our course will look at five films from each of the directors in alternating encounters (one week Pasolini, one week Tarkovsky, etc.). We will also read from their works on cinema, from several other theorists of cinema, and in several cases from the works on which their films are based. At the half-way point of the course we’ll watch (and discuss) a film by a film-maker that both Pasolini and Tarkovsky esteemed and who might be seen as their intermediary: Michelangelo Antonioni, and his film Red Desert.
_Provide a vocabulary and conceptual framework to analyze cinema in general.
_Provide students with an overview of the cinematic art and the achievements of Pasolini and Tarkovsky in particular.
_Explore and reflect upon the relationship between film and other arts, especially literature, theatre, and painting.
_Learn to identify elements of “Italianness” and universality in Pasolins’s vision of cinema, “Russianness” and universality in Tarkovsky.
_Improve student ability to write cogently about films.
_To create a learning environment that encourages student initiative and intellectual risk-taking.
Course format and expectations
The course will combine lecture and class discussion. There will be three five-page prompted essays and an oral final.
Class attendance and participation count for thirty-five per cent of your grade; written work and the oral exam the rest.
General scheme of the course
Week 1: Introduction and Pasolini’s “Mama Roma,” Readings from Dictionary of Film Terms, essays by André Bazin, Gilles Deleuze
Week 2: Tarkovsky’s: “Ivan’s Childhood”, Readings from Dictionary of Film Terms, essays by André Bazin, Gilles Deleuze, an essay on “Ivan’s Childhood”
Week 3: Pasolini’s “The Gospel according to Saint Matthew”, Pasolini’s essay ‘The ‘cinema of poetry’
Week 4: Tarkovsky’s “The Passion according to Andrei Rublev” Readings from the Old and New Testaments, several texts from Old Russian Literature, and an essay by Christopher Metz
Week 5: Tarkovsky’s “The Passion according to Andrei Rublev” Readings from the Old and New Testaments, several texts from Old Russian Literature, and an essay by Christopher Metz
Week 6: Pasolini’s “Teorema,” readings from My Cinema (Pasolini)
Week 7: Tarkovsky’s “Solaris,” readings on Tarkovsky.
Week 8: Pasolini’s “Pigsty,” readings on and by Pasolini.
Week 9: Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” readings from Sculpting in Time (Tarkovsky)
Week 10: Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” and Tarkovsky’s “Nostalghia.” Readings from Sculpting in Time
Week 11: Pasolini’s “Decameron”, readings from “The Decameron” and from My Cinema
Week 12: Tarkovsky’s “Mirror,” readings from Tarkovsky, John Orr.
THIRD PROMPT and oral exam.