Dirty Communist, Queer, Swine”: The Death Of Pasolini

In the early hours of 2 Novem­ber 1975, the body of Pier Paolo Pasolini – writer, poet, film direc­tor and one of Italy’s lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als – was found on waste­land in Ostia, just out­side Rome. Sev­eral hours later, Pino “The Frog” Pelosi, a 17-year-old male pros­ti­tute, was arrested speed­ing along the Ostia seafront in Pasolini’s Alfa Romeo. Pelosi was accused of Pasolini’s bru­tal mur­der. It was alleged that Pasolini had picked up Pelosi out­side Ter­mini train sta­tion, taken him to a pizze­ria and then dri­ven to Ostia for sex. Pelosi him­self claimed that he had killed Pasolini in self-defence after the lat­ter had attempted to sodomise him with a wooden stick, but after a lengthy trial he was found guilty in 1976 and sen­tenced to nine years in jail.

On the night of his mur­der, Pasolini had dined with Ninetto Davoli and his fam­ily at the Pom­mi­doro restau­rant in the San Lorenzo dis­trict of Rome. Davoli had come from a poor Cal­abrian fam­ily and been dis­cov­ered by Pasolini in the Rome slums in the early 1960s. He became Pasolini’s main actor, for a time his lover and sub­se­quently one of his clos­est friends. It was Davoli who had to iden­tify Pasolini’s corpse the fol­low­ing day.

Many peo­ple were unhappy with the mur­der ver­dict. The actress Laura Betti, who had appeared in many of Pasolini’s films, organ­ised a cam­paign for an inquiry into his death. She argued that it had a deeper polit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. After all, Pasolini had made many ene­mies. In the weeks lead­ing up to his mur­der he had con­demned Italy’s polit­i­cal class for its cor­rup­tion, for neo-fascist con­spir­acy and for col­lu­sion with the Mafia. In arti­cles for Cor­riere della Sera he had called for Italy’s polit­i­cal class to be put on trial.

Other friends and sup­port­ers of Pasolini, like the film direc­tor Bernardo Bertolucci, used the absence of blood on Pelosi’s clothes and the nature of the marks on Pasolini’s body to cast doubt on the notion that Pelosi alone could have com­mit­ted the mur­der. Bertolucci, who worked as an assis­tant on Pasolini’s first film Accat­tone, spoke of the way Pasolini’s life and pub­lic image had been “sav­aged” in the period lead­ing up to his mur­der. Pasolini’s last film Salo o le 120 Gior­nate di Sodom depicted Mussolini’s fas­cists as sodomites, and he had received death threats from active neo-fascist groups.

A dark coloured car came out of nowhere… and a motor­cy­cle. All in all 5 peo­ple arrived… I saw them drag Pasolini out of the car and they were beat­ing and kick­ing him, they really beat him up. They were shout­ing: “Dirty com­mu­nist, queer, swine”. I was afraid. I went back when it was all over… To kill some­one in this man­ner you must either be insane or be dri­ven by some really strong force: now, given that these killers have man­aged to evade the law for more than thirty years, they cer­tainly can’t be insane. So they must have had a very good rea­son for doing what they did. And no one has ever laid a hand on them. At the end of this incred­i­ble episode, I was the only one that landed up pay­ing the price, and I was only 17 years old at the time. I was used…” Giuseppe Pelosi, in an inter­view on 12 Sep­tem­ber 2008

Video directed by Peter Christo­pher­son in 2008 and included as extra fea­ture in the BFI’s dvd/blu-ray edi­tion of “Salò Or The 120 Days Of Sodom”, a 1975 film by Pier Paolo Pasolini. The song by Coil, mainly Peter Christo­pher­son and John Bal­ance, is taken from the 1986 album “Horse Rotorvator”.

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