The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

In an age of There's Something About Mary, American Pie and South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, The Canterbury Tales is a timely reminder that little is genuinely new.

For the middle film in Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life" brings some of Geoffrey Chaucer's medieval tales to the screen, in all their farting, pissing, excreting, fornicating glory.

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Those with delicate sensibilities are thus advised to steer clear of the film, while Chaucer scholars may object to the liberties Pasolini has taken with the author's work.

By concentrating on the bawdier Tales and disregarding their sequence, the director's interpretation obscures the way in which tales would engage in a dialogue with one another somewhat.

But fans of contemporary gross-out comedy from the Farrelly Brothers and Trey Parker and Matt Stone may find The Canterbury Tales an unexpected delight.

Where Parker and Stone have Satan and Saddam Hussein as gay lovers, Pasolini has the horned one expel what the South Park kids might term an "explosive diarrhoea" of priests.

Of course, Pasolini expects the viewer to work with his film. But, with the deliberate flatness of the actors counterbalanced by rich costuming, production design and mise-en-scene that consciously evoke the paintings of Brueghel and Bosch, our efforts are amply rewarded.

Ironically the most alienating aspect of the film is accidental: it's downright odd to see familiar British faces like Tom Baker and Robin Asquith speaking with unrecognisable Italian voices.

While The Canterbury Tales is never going to be the sort of film that will appeal to everyone it does deserve to be better known.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2001
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Bawdy retelling of the medieval Chaucerian stories.
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Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Writer: Pier Paolo Pasolini, based on The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Starring: Hugh Griffith, Laura Betti, Ninetto Devoli, Franco Citti, Josephine Chaplin, Alan Webb, Pier Paolo Pasolini, J P Van Dyne, Vernon Dobtcheff, Adrian Street, Derek Deadman, Nicholas Smith, Tom Baker, Robin Asquith

Year: 1972

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy/France


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