Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
September 18
November 2, 1975
Who Killed Pasolini?

Pier Paolo Pasolini died on November 2, 1975. One of the century’s great artists, the Italian director, poet, writer and political thinker lived a complex and contradictory life, the details of which embody many of the era’s great social, religious and political debates. An atheist, he filmed what many consider to be the best film about Jesus ever made (The Gospel According to St. Matthew). His Mamma Roma, the 1962 story of a middle-age prostitute played by Anna Magnani, was a shocking depiction of street-level poverty in Italy that still, within the framework of a neorealist melodrama, expressed Pasolini’s interest in Christian iconography. A lifelong Communist who abhorred the fascist politics of his youth, Pasolini made his last film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, by setting the Marquis de Sade’s novel of transgression and torture in a Nazi-controlled, Northern Italian town in 1944. It is widely considered the most controversial film ever made. Pasolini would die before its release, murdered when he was repeatedly struck and run over by his own automobile. A 17-year-old hustler confessed to the crime, but Pasolini’s murder has always been shrouded in mystery, with some theorizing that a conspiracy opposed to his political views caused his death. Others claim that he was killed in an extortion attempt related to stolen footage from Salo. And one person, Pasolini’s friend and painter Giuseppe Zigaina, argued that the director staged his own death. In 2005, Pasolini’s killer recanted his confession, claiming that he was forced to admit to the crime under threat to his family. The case was briefly reopened but the judicial inquiry led nowhere.


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