Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 08
Pier Paolo Pasolini November 2, 1975
Pier Paolo Pasolini murdered

On November 2, 1975, the body of radical Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was discovered on the desolate beach area of Ostia, just outside Rome. He had been murdered, run over by his own car multiple times. Hours after the discovery of his body, 17-year-old male prostitute Pino “The Frog” Pelosi was arrested after he was caught speeding in Pasolini’s Alfa Romeo; he would later confess to the murder, claiming that Pasolini tried to sodomize him with a wooden stick. Despite Pelosi’s confession and subsequent conviction, the circumstances of Pasolini’s death have continued to be the subject of constant debate. Friends of the gay poet, novelist and writer-director believed that his Communist beliefs may have been the real reason for his murder, while another theory is that Pasolini was killed by extortionists who had stolen footage from his final film, the highly controversial Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. More significantly, Pelosi’s sole culpability has been widely questioned right from the start. There were reports of a car containing four people tailing Pasolini on the way to Ostia, the trial pathologist said that Pasolini was likely killed by more than one individual, and a 1977 court case (overturned in 1979) concluded that he’d been “murdered by Pelosi and persons unknown.” In 2005, Pelosi – who served 10 years in jail for Pasolini’s murder – spoke out, claiming he was innocent, that he had been forced to confess, and that three people with “a Southern accent” had killed the director. The case was subsequently reopened, but then closed again due to insufficient new evidence. In 2010, there were more new developments: in March, former opposition leader Walter Veltroni wrote an open letter in the Corriere della Sera newspaper to Italy’s Justice Minister, Angelino Alfano, asking why the case ("riddled with holes, like many others of the time") had not been reopened, and in June, another newspaper, Oggi, got hold of documents which claimed that brothers Franco and Giuseppe Borsellino (both now deceased from AIDS), had told an undercover cop in 1976 that they and one other person had killed Pasolini.


More Flashbacks
December 8, 1978
The Deer Hunter released

In 1978, two very different Hollywood films for tackled the previously taboo subject of Vietnam: Hal Ashby's Coming Home (released in February '78) and Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, which debuted on December 8, 1978.

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December 8, 1861
Georges Melies Born

Born in the middle of the 19th century, Georges Méliès helped define film as the most important artform of the 20th century. The son of a shoe manufacturer, Méliès was fascinated more in stagecraft and puppetry than heels and soles. And while he eventually took over his father’s factory, he did so only to make enough money to buy the Theatre Robert Houdin in 1888. Soon he became a master showman, creating elaborate stage fantasies with magic and special effects. His life changed completely on December 28 1895, after he attended the Lumière brothers’ exhibition of their Cinématographe. From then on, he strove to marry the magic of theater with the magic of film. In 1896, a production gone wrong showed him the way. After a camera jammed, Méliès saw things wondrously disappear, then pop back in frame, as if by directed by a master magician. He started developing other special effects—a double exposure, a split screen, and a dissolve––to enhance film’s trickery. In 1902, his A Trip to The Moon became an instant classic, turning Méliès into one of film’s foremost artists. His success however could not be maintained. By 1913 his famous film company was sold off, leaving Méliès nearly penniless. Indeed the boy who turned to the arts to avoid making shoes watched as the celluloid from his films was used to patch soldiers shoes during World War I. Nearly lost to obscurity, Méliès was rediscovered in the 20s and awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1931. Now heralded as one the grandfathers of cinema, only 200 of his over 500 films remain.

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