Saturday, 1 October 2016

Listen. Listen.

This is the truth.


One.
In blood. It begins in blood.

I listened to the first song on Scott Walker's Tilt album over and over that night. It was 12th January, 2013; the Christmas decorations had just come down and it was cold, the cold that insinuates into your joints, and me there leaving the open mic poetry night at Mozarts Bar in my old, tatty duffel coat, the scarf I'd found, sodden, on Cambridge Street years before, and although it was nearly eleven, I walked in the opposite direction from home and went to a flat in Mount Pleasant, for which I had a key, and where I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed a dried pool of blood, just under two weeks old, a deep red aftermath, from the carpet. I scrubbed and scrubbed, until the small hours, until the blood stain was hard to see without more than a glance.

I remember the smell of it, mixed up in the detergent. The way it stained my hands.

Two.
"Farmer in the City" is about the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini. It is gnomic, dense, sounds almost comic when it starts, the plaintive voice of a cattle auctioneer calling out over a deep drone:
Do I hear
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one?
I'll give you
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one.
The song finally resolves into a thing of stunning beauty, the strings, at first minimal, gaining gaining gradual shades of richness, of feeling. It rises like tears.
Listen.
Listen. 
The thought it carries, of an outsider at home, an outsider here.
And I used to be a citizen
And I never felt the pressure
And I knew nothing of the horses,
Nothing of the thresher.
Paolo, take me with you...
It returns to the cattle market. It ends with the cattle market.
Do I hear
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one?
I'll give you
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one,
Twenty-one.
Three.
Pasolini's last film was Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. He had made Theorem, a strange, dreamlike film where a young man seduces every member of a rich Italian family, male and female, transforming each of them in different ways. Among his films was his beautiful, politically charged Gospel According to Saint Matthew. And he had made a series of joyous, bawdy takes on medieval literature: The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron. Someone had made a soft porn sequel to one of these celebrations of life and he made Salò almost as a challenge to them. Sequelise this, vultures.

Salò is one of those very few films made immeasurably greater by its contempt for its source material (Starship Troopers falls into that category, and I can't think of anything else that does). Sade's libertines ride out of 18th century France and into 1940s Italy, becoming fascist grandees. They take their kidnapped victims to the castle of Salò (the Chateau of Silling is far away) and there they subject them to every kind of humiliation and perversion of healthy desire. Sade's story is a fascist story, says Pasolini: capitulate to fascism and the fascists will rape you, deny you the right to love, and make you eat your own shit and like it. And then they'll torture you to death.

You come out of watching it shattered. It is a great work of art. I never want to see it again. It is a great work of art. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It is a great work of art.

It ends in blood. There's no justice, no salvation for the victim. Only blood.

And it wasn't long after making Salò that Pasolini's life ended, in blood. A young man Pasolini had solicited for sex confessed to having beaten him to death; years later the man would claim that a gang of Italian neofascists had done it and he had only been the patsy.

Pasolini, lying in a pool of his own blood.

In blood is where I began. In blood seems a good place to finish.

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