The Canterbury Tales

I racconti di Canterbury

July 2, 1972 (Berlin International Film Festival) — 111 minutes, color, 35mm, aspect ratio 1.85:1 — Comedy
Pasolini’s 10th feature, stars Pasolini as Geoffrey Chaucer, in this delirious film based on Chaucer’s medieval comic epic about the misadventures of a group of English pilgrims.

Later in 2022, I will post my first-time review of The Canterbury Tales.

FILMS: Shorts and Documentaries | 1. Accattone | 2. Mamma Roma | 3. Gospel According to Saint Matthew | 4. Hawks and Sparrows | 5. Oedipus Rex | 6. Teorema | 7. Porcile | 8. Medea | 9. Decameron | 10. Canterbury Tales | 11. Arabian Nights | 12. Salo.


Full review forthcoming, but here are a few notes. Canterbury Tales is one of Pasolini’s wildest and most erotic pictures as he goes for the bawdy spirit of Chaucer… whom he plays in one of his slyest performances. This is the second part of his monumental Trilogy of Life, comprised also of The Decameron and Arabian Nights. Pasolini has drawn his screenplay from eight of the 24 stories that make up Chaucer’s epic comedy, of the same title, about a misfit group of pilgrims wending their way from London to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Wikipedia provides background on the film, that Pasolini shot on location in England. This was an emotionally fraught time for the filmmaker. Pasolini’s heart was breaking at the loss of his beloved muse Ninetto Davoli, who was in the process of leaving him to marry a woman.

Harvard University provides a useful edition of Chaucer’s poem. It includes the original Middle English, which is somewhat different from what we speak, with modern translation below each line.

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
When April with its sweet-smelling showers

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  • Written and Directed by Pasolini
  • Based on The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
  • Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli
  • Production Design by Dante Ferretti
  • Art Direction by Nicola Tamburo
  • Set Decoration by Ken Muggleston
  • Costume Design by Danilo Donati
  • Edited by Nino Baragli
  • Music by Ennio Morricone

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  • Hugh Griffith as Sir January
  • Laura Betti as The Wife of Bath
  • Ninetto Davoli as Perkin
  • Franco Citti as The Devil
  • Josephine Chaplin as May
  • Alan Webb as Old Man
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini as Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Jenny Runacre as Alison
  • Orla Pederson (credited as OT) as Chief Witch-Hunter
  • George Datch as Host of the Tabard
  • Dan Thomas as Nicholas
  • Peter Cain as Absolom
  • Daniele Buckler as Witch-Hunter
  • John Francis Lane as The Friar
  • Settimio Castagna as The Angel
  • Athol Coats as The Rich Homosexual
  • Judy Stewart-Murray as Alice
  • Oscar Fochetti as Damian
  • Martin Whelar as Jack the Justice
  • John McLaren as Johnny the Grace
  • Edward Monteith as Dick the Sparrow
  • Tom Baker as Jenkin
  • Robin Askwith (credited as Robin Asquith) as Rufus
  • Michael Balfour as John the Carpenter
  • Vernon Dobtcheff as The Franklin
  • Derek Deadman (credited as Derek Deadmin) as The Pardoner
  • Adrian Street as Fighter
  • Nicholas Smith as Friar
  • J.P. van Dyne as The Cook
  • Willoughby Goddard as Placebo
  • Peter Stephens as Justinus
  • Giuseppe Arrigio as Pluto
  • Elisabetta Genovese [it] as Prosperine
  • Gordon King as The Chancellor
  • Patrick Duffett as Alan
  • Eamann Howell as John
  • Albert King (Tiziano Longo) as Simkin the Miller
  • Eileen King as Simkin’s wife
  • Heather Johnson as Molly
  • Kervin Breen (credited as Kervin)
  • Franca Sciutto
  • Vittorio Fanfoni
  • Eduardo De Filippo – voice of the old man in the Pardoner’s tale (Italian dub)
  • Francesco Leonetti – voice of Tabard inn host (Italian dub)
  • Winni Riva – voice of Mabel, the old woman with the pitcher in the Friar’s Tale (Italian dub)
  • Marco Bellocchio – voice of greedy friar in the Summoner’s Tale (Italian dub)

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Video Release (Used for This Review)

The Criterion Collection has released a box set, available in either Blu-ray or DVD, of Pasolni’s complete Trilogy of Life, that includes The Decameron, Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights. They have also releases each of the three films as individual discs.

  • Original theatrical release aspect ratio of 1.85:1
  • New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview with film scholar Sam Rohdie
  • The Secret Humiliation of Chaucer (2006), a forty-seven-minute documentary by Roberto Chiesi about The Canterbury Tales
  • New interviews with art director Dante Ferretti and composer Ennio Morricone
  • Trailers
  • Pasolini-approved English-dubbed track
  • New English subtitle translation
Jim's Reviews / Pasolini
Jim’s Reviews / Pasolini

Review forthcoming

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