Once a popular cinematic format, the anthology or portmanteau film has now largely died a death.
Once a popular cinematic format, the anthology or portmanteau film has
now largely died a death. Ostensibly concerned with chronicling the “beginning
of the end of the world”, RoGoPaG is
really nothing more than a collection of entirely unconnected short films named
for the directors of its four component parts. As you might expect given the
format, RoGoPaG is something of a curate’s egg but the good more than makes up
for the bad.
The film begins poorly with a well
made but ultimately insipid morality tale by Roberto Rossellini in which an innocent and
matronly airhostess (Rosanna Schiaffino)
reinvents herself as a ‘whore’ in order to escape the attentions of a horny
businessman. Schiaffino is undoubtedly charismatic but her charms simply cannot
make up for the grinding misogyny of the film’s themes and plot.
The second section is not much of
an improvement on the first. Directed by the French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, “Il Nuovo Mondo” chronicles
a relationship in terminal decline. Cold, pretentious and lacking in basic
humanity, the film is most notable for its attempt to shoot a post-apocalyptic
science fiction film, on the streets of Paris, without the use of special
effects. Used far more effectively by Godard in his later film Alphaville, this technique explores the
idea that cities and relationships can look unchanged and yet feel completely
RoGoPaG’s third section is easily
its most famous as it lead to the prosecution of its director Pier Paolo Pasolini on the charge of
insulting the state religion. Set on scrubland outside an Italian city, “La
Ricotta” tells of an attempt to make a film about the Crucifixion of Christ.
Presided over by a director in a perpetual state of bafflement (Orson Welles) and crewed by a bunch of
layabouts who spend all their time dancing, the shoot ends with one of its
minor actors dying on the cross after eating too much ricotta cheese. As is
often the case in films by Pasolini, the exact nature of the film’s message is far
more difficult to pin down than the intent but the intent is clearly a
satirical jab at a Catholic Church that is far more interested in power and
status than it is in actually helping the poor. Filled with wry humour and
boundless energy, this section is not only hugely entertaining but also packed
with real visual panache. Pasolini’s Technicolor Crucifixion is both intensely
beautiful and a wonderfully humanising homage to Renaissance sacred art.
The film’s final section is also
its best. Written and directed by the now mostly forgotten Ugo Gregoretti, “Il Pollo Ruspante” is a wonderfully funny and
viciously satirical attack on the consumerism that underpinned the so-called
Italian ‘economic miracle’. The film opens with a father bringing home a new
television for his family. However, the second he turns on the new television,
a cartoon character appears and begins manipulating the children into demanding
yet another new television. Disgusted with the cynicism that surrounds them,
the family jump in their car and travel in search of a plot of land where they
might be able to build a cottage and live in peace. However, before they even
arrive at their destination, the family come under attack by advertisers and
businessmen who work on the family’s basest impulses in order to deprive them
of as much money as possible. As insightful now as it was when it was first made,
this section also features some wonderful comic moments including the bit where
a child runs into the room dressed in black and waving a gun around, is he the
Nemby Kid? No… “I’m Pasolini!” the child shouts triumphantly. Lovely stuff.
As you might expect from a Masters
of Cinema product, the dual format release of RoGoPaG is technically flawless
and Pasolini’s use of colour is particularly impressive when seen on Blu-ray.
The discs themselves contain no extras other than a slightly peculiar trailer
but the discs come with a collection of essays by some well-respected critics.