A comedy by Pasolini with Orson Welles

‘Ricotta’ – Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini will be remembered as one of the great intellectuals of 20th century cinema. Although Pasolini is known for his incisive critiques of consumerist culture and contemporary sociopolitical phenomena, he also made a comedy short starring none other than Orson Welles.

For this edition of Short of the Week, we have chosen Pasolini’s 1963 film Ricotta which was the third segment of the anthology series Ro.Go.Pa.G. The film featured contributions from Jean-Luc Godard, Roberto Rossellini, and Ugo Gregoretti, but Pasolini’s segment is definitely the most notable part of the anthology for a variety of reasons.

Most audiences know some of the Pasolini’s most important works, such as Salwherebut Ricotta is certainly one of the lesser-known additions to the Italian filmmaker’s acclaimed oeuvre. It is a metafictional reconstruction of the crucifixion of Jesus, which transcends the narrow confines of the cinematic medium.

Orson Welles delivers a pleasing performance as a director disinterested and disillusioned with the conditions of Italian society, the relentless growth driven by the bourgeoisie, and the cinema of Federico Fellini. However, the undeniable star of Ricotta is Mario Cipriani, who is perfect as a starving actor named Stracci.

Pasolini uses the ephemeral running time of Ricotta very effectively, combining powerful Marxist critiques of capitalist labor exploitation with comedic techniques used by the pioneers of the silent era. The result is a charming yet transgressive work of cinematic art that showcases all of Pasolini’s greatest cinematic strengths.

Due to his subversive interpretations of religious orthodoxy, Ricotta was considered blasphemous at the time of its release. It was subjected to heavy censorship, and Pasolini was even put on trial for “offending the Italian state and religion”. Fortunately, this little gem has survived the test of time and continues to delight moviegoers everywhere.

Watch the short film below.

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