Ryan Gilbey at The New Statesman:
In his varied career, Willem Dafoe has played Jesus Christ (inThe Last Temptation of Christ) and the Nosferatu actor Max Schreck (in Shadow of the Vampire). He brings elements of both to the title role of Pasolini. Dafoe is as close a physical fit to the Italian poet, writer and film-maker as is possible without recourse to CGI. The craggy face, noble yet reptilian, is lined with deep bedsheet creases; the cheekbones could double as bookshelves. He also wears Pier Paolo Pasolini’s actual glasses (thick frames, tinted lenses), which transform him into something part-mechanical. We can only nod in agreement when he delivers one of his gospels to a journalist: “There are no more human beings, only strange machines colliding towards each other.”
He is referring to consumerism, which has turned people into personifications of appetite. We have, he claims, become “sinister gladiators trained to have, possess and destroy”. Pasolini is rightly remembered for his films, which located spiritual salvation in lives that would otherwise be considered unremarkable, even coarse – the pimps and petty hoods of Accattone, the former prostitute trying to save her wayward son in Mamma Roma. Those who have never seen a frame of his work may still be familiar with the circumstances of his death: beaten savagely on a beach in Ostia by a 17-year-old rent boy and unidentified others, who proceeded to run him over with his own car.