Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Arabian Nights Reviews

A lyrical celebration of polymorphous sexuality, ARABIAN NIGHTS is the concluding section of the so-called "Trilogy of Life," Pier Paolo Pasolini's series of erotic retellings of classic medieval tales that also includes THE DECAMERON and THE CANTERBURY TALES. The film opens with Zumurrud (Ines Pellegrini), a slave girl who is sold to handsome young aristocrat Nured-Din (Franco Merli); she falls in love with her master but is kidnapped by a mysterious blue-eyed stranger. Disguised as a man, she escapes, takes a wife, and is declared king of a foreign land. Zumurrud's story serves as a frame for a number of magical realist narratives loosely adapted from the The Thousand and One Nights; in each case, Pasolini's emphasis is on beautiful nude bodies and dreamy exotic locales (including India, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopa and Nepal). The sexiest and most charming section of Pasolini's internationally successful trilogy, ARABIAN NIGHTS is no more explicit than most of the "erotic thrillers" of the 1990s; its special piquancy is due to its (still unusual) use of a multiracial, multicultural cast. Pasolini thought that this film might prove more acceptable to Italian censors than its predecessors because it depicted "those whom the bourgeoisie consider racially inferior. When those [shown] making love are two blacks or two Arabs, the judges shut an eye." He was wrong: the film was briefly impounded before its 1974 Italian release and widely attacked as pornographic in the right-wing press--which, of course, only enhanced its box-office success. Originally released unrated, the film was rated NC-17 in 1991.