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La ricotta ("Curd Cheese") is a short film written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1962 and is part of the omnibus film RoGoPaG (AKA Ro.Go.Pa.G.). It is often considered the most memorable portion of RoGoPaG and the height of Pasolini's creative powers and social criticism.
Plot and Issues
In summary, the film deals with the film production of the Passion of Jesus with a director acting like Pasolini yet played by Orson Welles. The most biting social critique is shown through the main character of Stracci (meaning "rags"). Stracci is a poor and starving man who works as an extra (ironically, the "good thief") who is not given pity or mercy. Stracci tries everything to get something to eat and he finally does. Unfortunately the ricotta cheese he avidly gorges on, combined with the awkward position he's forced to assume while being "crucified" in front of the camera prove a fatal combination and he dies from indigestion. Stracci represents the poor and the marginalized people, "the ones who hunger for bread" who, according to Pasolini, are neglected by a society, which prides itself on being Christian. Thus, in this view, the Roman Catholicism of Italy is more concerned with status and prominence than helping the poor, a teaching of Christ that Pasolini admired greatly.
The production of the Passion, done outside of Rome, represents a corrupted society who is interested in superficial beauty and yet possesses a corrupted core. This is demonstrated with the extras' lack of interest with the film itself, preferring instead to dance to ya-ya twist music, lying around during break time and tormenting Stracci. This is also demonstrated in the elaborate poses the director has set up, evoking the great Italian Renaissance, particularly of Pontormo and Fiorentino and yet are far from respected.
The Film's Controversy
Pasolini, in a disclaimer tacked in the beginning of "La ricotta," affirms that he does not hold the Passion itself in contempt. In fact, he made it at the same time he was making The Gospel According to St. Matthew, which would be held in high respect by both director and audience. However, Pasolini was accused of holding contempt for the state religion and was convicted. His imprisonment was four months and the conviction was later declared void by an appeals court.
- "Pasolini, Mamma Roma and 'La ricotta'" by Gary Indiana
- Pasolini by Enzo Siciliano
- Pasolini on Pasolini, interviews by Oswald Stacks
- "Pasolini, La ricotta. Il sacro trasgredito, by Erminia Passannanti (2009, 20011
All essays and excerpts can be found in the booklet accompanying the Mamma Roma DVD.