The pundits will tell you the Rome of Pier Paolo Pasolini has vanished; Pasolini, the rebel poet, film-maker, novelist and Marxist intellectual from Bologna who discovered in Rome the one place in the world where his nature thrived. Nonsense. Said pundits have clearly never been in either Monteverde Nuovo (see the 27 September issue of Wanted in Rome) or another quarter, Il Pigneto, for in both places Pasolinis people are today as alive, laid back and wittily cynical as ever they were.
Il Pigneto is a charming little quarter, now done up, wedged into the junction between the Prenestina and Casilina consular roads, close to Porta Maggiore, the massive gateway guarding Romes south-eastern approaches. There everyone remembers Pasolini. The husband and wife who run the Rosi snack bar overlooking the railway lines knew him. Around here was his favourite beat, said the husband. Was he an extra in one of Pasolinis films, as everyone seems to have been then? No, but a friend of mine who used to push a hand-cart around was. Valeria still cooks in Bar Necci where Pasolini often ate. The ticket-tearer at the 60-year-old Cinema Avorio had known him: He was serious of course. But what else can you expect from a man of such deep learning?
Il Pigneto has a vaguely English air about it, with small, two or three-storey houses built during the Fascist era, ivy-covered courtyards and silent, tree-lined streets, now dotted with wooden benches and chic wine-bars. In one of them, the local branch of Rifondazione Comunista was urgently meeting to debate the theme of war.
In 1961, Pasolini shot the whole of his first film, Accattone (The Sponger), in Il Pigneto. It is the story of a young pimp from a sun-drowned shanty town who finally seeks redemption in death. At a recent screening of it, the entire quarter turned out. They felt they owned Pasolini. After all, in Il Pigneto, the gay, taboo-breaking director got to know boys who were to remain his friends until the mystery of his murder some 30 years ago, above all Sergio Citti, picked up when he was a house painter in popular nearby Via Torpignatara, who went on to become a well-known film-maker in his own right. (His brother, Franco, played the lead in Accattone.) In Il Pigneto he also discovered Ninetto Davolo, the curly-haired, ever-smiling youth who features in so many of his films, including Uccellacci e Uccellini (1965), in which he co-starred with the famous comedian Tot.
In both Monteverde Nuovo and Il Pigneto, Romes left-wing city council promotes the memory of Pasolini vigorously, especially in the person of Gianni Borgna, head of the culture department, who in a phone chat with Wanted in Rome spoke of what he thought Rome meant to Pasolini.
Before he came to Rome, he was painfully unsure of his sexuality, feeling half-hetero, half-homo. In Rome, where he first lived near Rebibbia prison, he found in the pagan, amoral, atavistic world of the kids in the citys shanty towns the sexual liberty he was after and established his own gayness for good. I think all his life was an obsessive search for a humanity that was still innocent, uncontaminated; and through Romes ragazzi di vita, he dreamt he had touched his dream. It was the sub-proletarian world of struggle and hungry bellies where women were still forbidden until marriage, and where boys found among men the obvious outlet. But it was always a game for them, an adventure, their first sexual encounter, and they didnt necessarily do it for money either For the purist communist that Pasolini was, such a world was his natural homeland too.
Then, with bitterness, Pasolini saw the transformation of that Rome into a Rome of middle-class standards, a process he once decried as cultural genocide, Borgna continued.
Romes mayor, Walter Veltroni, shares the view, seeing in Pasolini both the prophet with his accurate prediction of Italian societys consumerist future and the man of nostalgia for a simpler Italy that no longer existed. What most depressed him, Veltroni told the magazine Micro Mega last year, was the eventual levelling of everybody.
It was a fear symbolised by Tommaso, the frightening protagonist of Pasolinis second novel, La Vita Violenta, whose family proudly moves into a sparkling new council flat in Pietralata, while he in turn gets engaged, then finds a job, but the money is not enough to hold his fiance and he sinks again, into holding up a gay at knife-point, before dying of tuberculosis in hospital. Thus does the unforgiving Pasolini kill off the hated bourgeois dream.
Then an ever murkier political world got its own back on a commie egg-head who, as an intrusive prober, perhaps knew too much about the death in a plane crash, for instance, of Enrico Mattei, the controversial head of Italys state-controlled oil conglomerate, ENI, in 1962.
They killed Pasolini on wasteland at Ostia in 1975: such at least is the claim of those who see in him the victim of a right-wing political plot including the late journalist and writer Oriana Fallaci who was briefly jailed for refusing to identify witnesses in nearby hovels said to have espied an alleged killer squad of several on the scene of Pasolinis murder.
Last year his convicted murderer, rent-boy Pino Pelosi, confirmed in a television programme shown by RAI, Italys state broadcaster, that he had indeed been put up to it by others: magistrates concluded that RAI had paid Pelosi for the tale and they ignored the allegations.
Sergio Citti died this year, still claiming Pasolini had been lured to his death by the promise of the return of stolen reels of his last film, Sal o Le Centoventi Giornate di Sodoma (1975); he was never questioned.
The insole of a right shoe, size 44, was found in Pasolinis car; he never used the things.
Rome city council, and Gianni Borgna, are still waiting for answers.