The Italian "sexual problem" to Pier Paolo Pasolini is that no one can really talk about sex. The screen swarms with street urchins, the auteur enters the frame with mike in hand for his first inquiry ("How are babies born?") and his first sample of the culture's taboo-dodging: the stork brings them, say the tykes, or they simply sprout out of flowers. A "crusade against ignorance and fear" is the documentary's impetus, discussed over tea on the patio table with pals Alberto Moravia and Cesare Musatti; Moravia declares the need for "one of those films the French call cinéma-vérité" and lends his support, though Musatti, given to psychoanalytic pragmatism, warns that interviewees will either evade the questions or lie. Pasolini's itinerary -- Florence to Milan to Naples to Palermo to Sicily -- proves both men correct, of course, each debate exposing the notion of sex at the very basis of intertwined cultural systems. Black-shrouded factory workers and prostitutes decked in white, the concepts of decency and money linking the soundbites ("a woman's honor is wealth," somebody later says); confused machismo is evoked with soldiers interviewed next to the Palazzo della Civiltŕ del Lavoro, the difference between a Don Juan and a good husband. The bourgeois students in the urban North remain all too sure of their allegedly liberated status, while in the rural South ("another planet") a farmer fondly ponders the fairer sex's place in regards to men: "A little inferior, not too big a gap." Peasant Old World and industrialized new landscape are but two facets of a country in ideological flux, with much of the upholding of patriarchal tradition voiced by female minds. (Pasolini: Is divorce a solution? Couple at the Beach: No. Pasolini: For you or for everybody? He: For us. She: For everybody.) Silence may be a sin, but the dozens of voices piecing together Italy-'65 for the searching director reinforce rigid views of sexual "normalcy," disgust and pity the sole emotions tossed toward queer "inverts." Pasolini closes his investigation on a portrait of heterosexual union (a fake marriage between two youngsters, a staged "reality"), though here, and elsewhere, the fragmentation of the snapshot is what's emphasized. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce