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The Decameron Reviews

With this earthy adaptation of Giovanni Boccaccio's famous 14th-century story cycle, director Pier Paolo Pasolini departed further from the spare Neorealism of his early career and hit upon a formula that won him unanticipated commercial success. His visually attractive interpretations of classic medieval literature (THE CANTERBURY TALES, ARABIAN NIGHTS)--spiced with plenty of nudity, violence, and bumptious good humor--made millions internationally, infuriated Italian bluenoses, and inspired scores of low-budget knockoffs. THE DECAMERON dispenses with Boccaccio's framing narrative of aristocrats fleeing the plague and substitutes scenes of Giotto (a directorial figure, appropriately played by Pasolini) painting a fresco of the Madonna and Child; in counterpoint, Pasolini renders several of Boccaccio's most famous tales of lubricious clerics, scheming merchants, and errant lovers. Pasolini's freewheeling characters inhabit a world unencumbered by the sexual repression and moral hypocrisy that were, in his view, symptomatic of the disease of industrial capitalism. Even the ubiquitous nudity that made the "Trilogy of Life" so lucrative had a political raison d'etre: according to the director, "the protagonist of my films is the corporeality of ordinary people; the symbol of this corporeal reality is the naked body and sex."