Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 03
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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December 3, 1930
Jean-Luc Godard born

Perhaps not coincidentally, cinema’s premiere critic of bourgeois politics was raised in an affluent and comfortable life. Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris, the second of four children, to a respected physician with his own clinic and a mother whose family had strong banking interests.

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December 3, 1993
Derek Jarman's Blue in New York

On a December Friday in New York City in 1993, cineastes got the chance to get a look at Derek Jarman’s new film, Blue. The British painter, filmmaker and activist had increasingly gained an American reputation with homoerotic art films like Caravaggio and Edward II, placing him along with Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki at the forefront of New Queer Cinema. But those who had not read about Blue beforehand found the screening a confusing and uncomfortable situation. While the soundtrack contained an ongoing discussion between Jarman, Tilda Swinton and others for 79 minutes, the screen stayed a constant, undying blue. By the time he made the film, Jarman, one of Britain’s most profound colorists, was going blind from cytomegalovirus, an AIDS-related infection. Departing from this world and into language, Jarman found comfort in the abstract warmth of a blue metaphor (from sad to open to the far beyond), creating in the process a stunning experimental film about the limits of film, sight and life itself. In a little more than two months after it was screened in New York, Derek Jarman was dead from complications due to AIDS.

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