1964, Compass, 137 min, Italy, Dir: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Working from the perspective of “an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief,” director Pier Paolo Pasolini shot this story of the life of Christ in a documentary style that lends his spare imagery a power that few Biblical spectaculars ever attain. Employing non-professional actors (Spanish economics student Enrique Irazoqui portrayed Jesus, a role for which Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were reportedly considered) and dialogue drawn directly from Matthew’s text, the film effectively allies Jesus with the meek and poor in spirit, and his rejection of materialism was a theme Pasolini often championed. In Italian with English subtitles.

1962, Janus Films, 110 min, Italy, Dir: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Middle-aged prostitute Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani) retires from the streets and reunites with her teenage son, who has grown up in the country. Though she does everything in her power to provide a better life for him, the boy is drawn to delinquency. Anchored by Magnani’s towering central performance, this tragic portrait of Rome’s cruel underbelly is one of Pasolini’s most moving. In Italian with English subtitles.

1961, Compass, 120 min, Italy, Dir: Pier Paolo Pasolini

For his debut feature as a writer-director, Pier Paolo Pasolini looked to the world of petty criminals that had served as the setting for his earlier novels. “Accattone” is Italian slang for “beggar,” and this grim and gritty drama focuses on a pimp who falls on hard times when his sole source of income – a prostitute – is arrested. Franco Citti makes an impressive debut in the title role; the actor would appear in several other Pasolini films (ACCATTONE also gave director Bernardo Bertolucci his start, as a production assistant). In Italian with English subtitles.

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