In the last of his Trilogy Of Life series Pier Paulo Pasolini dispenses with social satire as displayed in The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales and becomes unashamedly sensual and dreamlike. Sex drives the engine of his imagination. Innocence is not so much abused as enchanted.

He takes a handful of stories from The Thousand And One Nights and weaves them together in a continual tale of love and loss. Boys are beautiful and girls manipulative. His obsession with the male member goes as far as a particularly nasty castration scene. Girls know what to do, while boys cry a lot.

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Every story, whether magical or personal, concerns the pursuit of sex. They call it love, but it's really lust. Fidelity is in short supply, with the girls coming off the worst. A man on the eve of his wedding will spy a girl in a high window and decide she's the one he wants. Another will be tricked into a woman's house, which inevitably means bed, leaving his true love behind in a tent, and won't come out for over a year, by which time he is married and has a son.

It is difficult to get used to Italian faces in Arabic settings, not to mention the language, but the locations in Ethiopia, Yemen, Nepal and Iran are breathtaking. Pasolini has achieved with his camera a unique and unexpected beauty.

The problem is the acting, which is unreal. The use of non-professionals can provide a fresh approach sometimes. Not here. Even old hands, such as Ninetto Davoli, do little but weep. They can take their trousers down again, if they're desperate, but you've seen that already. What you miss is empathy.

Reviewed on: 04 Oct 2001
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A collection of stories that tell of love, desert lands, sex, death and magic.
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Director: Pier Paulo Pasolini

Writer: Dacia Maraini, Pier Paulo Pasolini

Starring: Ninetto Davioli, Franco Citti, Ines Pellegrina, Franco Merli, Tesa Bouche, Francesco Apolo Governale

Year: 1974

Runtime: 125 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy/France

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