Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Distributed by: United Artists
Written by Raúl Mendoza
Finally, in this journey through Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life we’ve reached the final film based on “One Thousand and One Nights.” On one hand, “The Decameron” was a strong introduction to this trilogy that set out the style that Pasolini would examine these pieces of literature through. “The Canterbury Tales” is likely the strongest of the three as it works cohesively with its imagery and ridiculousness to protest the gatekeeping of art by religious constraints. Now, we have made it to the final film, Pier Paolo Pasolini sets off to various locations in the Middle East like Iran and Yemen to shoot this daring film. Yet, as ambitious as “Arabian Nights” is, it falls between the cracks of its own thematic exploration.
Much like the past two films, Pasolini adapts the Arabic anthology text to create a sensual depiction of the erotic filled with slapstick humor. The cast includes Ninetto Davoli, Franco Citti, Franco Merli, Tessa Bouché, Ines Pellegrini, Margareth Clementi, and Luigina Rocchi. The film’s beautiful naturalistic cinematography is crafted by Giuseppe Ruzzolini. Legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone provides the score which transforms the atmosphere for Pasolini’s view of One Thousand and One Nights.
By this time, Pasolini and Davoli’s relationship has come to an end, and you would think this doesn’t have anything to do with “Arabian Nights.” Yet, their breakup has everything to do with the film. As “Arabian Nights” is the only film that does not treat sex and excess as sinful by including the location’s religious counterparts. There are few scenes where the characters are attending mosques or praying. This is where my biggest problem with “Arabian Nights” lies. Whereas in “The Decameron” and “The Canterbury Tales,” Pasolini finds a way to balance his thematic layers with the style and tone of the film. In “Arabian Nights,” Pasolini constructs more of a final goodbye to Davoli that never feels balanced with the raunchiness of the film. Pasolini includes the stories that he found the most “beautiful” in a way that’s him correlating them to the moments he loved the most during his time with Davoli. A lot of the film has this heartbreaking feel like stories where a lover is stolen from someone or one where a character vows to never cheat ever again.
I don’t mind that Pasolini wants to relate these stories to his life but his execution is too on the nose. It’s not to say that “Arabian Nights” is a terrible film because I think that it has some interesting fables and tales that it is adapting. With beautiful costumes, hairstyling, and an overall remarkable production design. Pasolini and his team excel at being able to create a marvelous atmosphere that feels adjacent to the other films in the trilogy. Even in his weakest works, Pasolini finds a way to construct a distinguished movie.
“Arabian Nights” Trailer