Before Madea There Was Medea, and Hell Hath No Fury. Happy Birthday Pier Paolo Pasolini & Hats Off to "The Great Beauty" Oscar Win
It seems fitting somehow that this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film should go to the Italian nominee, The Great Beauty. The film is certainly worthy in its own right. As the voice-over during Sunday's Academy Awards reminded us, it is also part of a long legacy of achievement from the Italian film industry, which includes work by masters like Fellini, Antonioni, Bertolucci, De Sica, Leone, Wertmuller, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, who would have celebrated his 92nd birthday today had he not been murdered in 1975 for reasons that remain mysterious.
Before becoming a film director, Pasolini was already a famously controversial poet, novelist, and essayist. Although the literary critic, Harold Bloom, considers him one of the most important cultural figures of the 20th century, his work continues to stir controversy. His first film, Accatone, was about the life of a pimp. Pasolini's subject matter also included Christ, cannibals, sexual depravity, and great works of classical Greek drama like Oedipus Rex and Medea. A member of the Italian Communist Party, he was not a slave to the party line and often expressed his disagreement with it.
To honor him on his birthday, here is Maria Callas in a nine-minute clip from the English-subtitled version of Pasolini's Medea, which he released in 1969. Yes, it's true. Long before Tyler Perry gave us his Madea, there was another with a similar name. That Medea is probably the single most brilliant example of the old saying: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." And she did not need a frying pan to make her feelings known either.
Also, if you're wondering why The Great Beauty garnered this year's foreign language Oscar, the trailer for that film is offered here as well.
I'm a storyteller whose background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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