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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Ragazzi di vita (1956) by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pasolini loved his hustlers.
Book Review
Ragazzi di vita AKA "The Hustlers" (1956)
  by Pier Paolo Pasolini

     Pasolini loved his street-wise hustlers.  He was famously beaten to death by one in the prime of his career.  At a time (1950s) when Italian culture was hitting on all cylinders world-wide, Pasolini was a dark prince.  Famously controversial, he devoted his career to depicting the dark side of human nature, like in his 1975 movie version of the Marquis De Sade's, 120 Days of Sodom, updated to include Nazis instead of French aristocrats.  The young male hustlers in Ragazzi di vita are "street toughs" instead of being members of a specific working-class youth subculture.  Their days consist of stealing scrap metal, picking pockets, pursuing sex with prostitutes, drinking, sleeping outside and very rarely gay sex with older men.  They are pursued sporadically by the cops, and they are all on the cusp of contracting tuberculosis and dying.

  Pasolini does nothing to glamorize their petty criminal life style, but it is clear that he has a fondness for these characters and that he is sympathetic to their plight.  At the time of publication, Pasolini said that he was trying to help remember the forgotten.   The city of Rome is another major character in Ragazzi di vita.  Anyone who has been there for a weekend will recognize the locations of the center city, from the Via Veneto, to the Villa Borgese, to the area around the Coliseum. Other locations are less familiar to a tourist, but are vividly drawn.

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