"Obscurity" comes up regularly in reviews of it, but Pier Paolo Pasolini's intent is as clear as spring water, namely transpositions of May '68 tumult and a certain film title, All the Fine Young Cannibals. Pierre Clémenti, covered in pelts, scuttles across a dusty, dark-brown landscape which could be lunar until it starts belching volcanic clouds; he gobbles up a butterfly and a snake, a cut reveals four seconds or so of a chalet in another time and place, Clémenti keels over in agony. The manor is in modern-day Germany, inescapably Italianate on the inside: Jean-Pierre Léaud is the stagnant young bourgeois ("even as a revolutionary I conform") who riffs because he's terrified and just wants to fly kites, Anne Wiazemsky is the girlfriend who leads piss-protests on the Berlin Wall, industrialist father Alberto Lionello yearns for the days of Grosz and Brecht. Clémenti crosses swords with a legionnaire in the primordial past, then munches on his roasted carcass with Franco Citti by his side; Léaud looks like Chaplin to Wiazemsky and like "a mannerist St. Sebastian" to his Ma, he eventually wills himself into a coma in contemporary Berlin, the "Athens of cement." The past is handheld and taciturn, the present is rigidly composed and prolix -- the paralleling narratives suggest conscious and subconscious struggling for wholeness, though the overriding fusion here is a malignant one, a corporate merging between Lionello and war profiteer Ugo Tognazzi, whose combination of the words "Jewish," "commissars," and "Bolshevik" fills the industrialist with merriment. Pasolini's freak-out is rigorously controlled, his political vaudeville is unsurpassable: His merciless punchline is Orwell's in Animal Farm and also Twain's in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, modulated into Buñuel's clarified rhythm. The cannibal chants defiant ecstasy before death ("Ho ucciso mio padre, mangiato carne umana, e tremo di gioia"), the intellectual seeks vitality in the company of pigs, getting devoured for his trouble -- Ninetto Davoli witnesses both, Tognazzi requests the silence of oppression, and, excoriatingly, Pasolini refuses it. With Margarita Lozano, and Marco Ferreri.
--- Fernando F. Croce