Pasolini (2014) | Willem Dafoe shines in Abel Ferrara's artful bipoic

'To scandalise is a right; to be scandalised a pleasure'

So said Pier Paolo Pasolini, the outspoken Italian filmmaker, writer and Marxist, whose final days in 1975 are relived by fellow provocateur Abel Ferrara. Willem Dafoe gives an illuminating, introspective performance as the maverick artist who goes about his daily affairs, reading scripts, attending interviews, entertaining guests at the house he shares with his beloved mother, before he is brutally murdered one evening on a beach on the outskirts of Rome in circumstances which still arouse suspicions today.

A film that neither accuses nor investigates, this engaging biopic celebrates Pasolini’s fearlessness and creativity, and can be read as Pasolini’s own Passion. It may have got mixed reception at recent film festivals, but Dafoe’s magnetic performance as well as the presence of Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini’s long-time confidant, lifts Ferrara’s portrait from mere navel gazing.

With November 2015 marking the 40th anniversary of his death, at just 53, Pasolini is a timely and meticulously researched portrayal of a visionary creative.

Pasolini screens in selected UK cinemas from today and can be streamed on BFI Player now (opens in new tab)