Aug 5, 2013

Pasolini's Canterbury Tales: Gay Characters and Nudity

The Canterbury Tales (I Racconti di Canterbury, 1972) is my favorite of Piers Paulo Pasolini's Trilogy of Life (others include The Decameron and The Arabian Nights), maybe because the set-up and many of the stories are familiar from my college class in the summer of 1981, so I don't get lost in the abrupt sedgeways.

And because I saw it last of the three, so some of the cast was familiar: Pasolini's lover Ninetto Davoli as a comic-relief buffoon, Franco Citti as someone morose and frightening,  Although I'm still annoyed by the closeups of random people with bad teeth grinning at the camera for no apparent reason, and the groups of people sitting around singing for no reason.

There is less full-frontal nudity than in the others, but for some reason the penises on display are much more impressive. The biggest of the lot -- probably the biggest portrayed in any film anywhere -- belongs to John McLaren, whom the Internet Movie Database identifies as a 61-year old American actor.  Must be someebody else -- that guy is around 30.

Pasolini includes adaptions of 8 stories:

1. The Merchant's Tale: An old man gets a young wife, who is unfaithful, so two naked teenage gods (left) decide to have a little fun with them. While a naked boy plays the flute.

2. A new tale: A professional blackmailer, who has just turned a man over to the authorities for a same-sex relationship, meets the devil.  The execution of the sodomite is uncomfortable to watch, especially when one considers that similar atrocities are still happening in the world today, but at least the blackmailer gets his comeuppance.

3. The Cook's Tale: The foolish Perkin (top), channeling Charlie Chaplin, invades a wedding, hangs out with the guys, and has a three-way relationship with a man and his wife.

4.The Miller's Tale: A woman finds a way to meet her boyfriend without her husband finding out.  Meanwhile another suitor hangs around with his shirtless, buffed boyfriend (left).

5. A new tale, based on the Wife of Bath: A woman marries her fifth husband, but gets mad when he won't have sex with her.

6. The Reeve's Tale : Two students, who appear to be lovers, visit a miller, and have sex with his wife and daughter without him finding out.



7.The Pardoner's Tale: Three friends (including Robin Askwith, left, the star of many British sex comedies) visit a brothel, and then kill each other over a treasure.

8. The Summoner's Tale: A greedy friar goes to hell.

Notice that there's a lot more same-sex romance than in The Arabian Nights, and for that matter the original Canterbury Tales, although most men have sex with women too.   The result is more gay-positive and not nearly as morose as the rest of the Trilogy of Life