Pier Paolo Pasolini was among the most controversial and provocative filmmakers ever to impact the international cinema community. Emerging during the 1960s, Pasolini broke from his New Wave-inspired peers, drawing influence for his work not from other cinematic sources but from art, literature, folklore, and music. He was also among the few directors of his era to focus less on the process of filmmaking than on his subject matter, bringing to the screen the gritty desperation of life on the fringes.
Pasolini was born in Bologna, Italy, on March 5, 1922. The son of an army officer, he grew up at various points throughout the country, and began writing poetry at the age of seven. While studying art at the University of Bologna, he published his first book of poetry, Poesie a Casarsa, in 1942. A year later, he was drafted to serve in the armed forces during the waning months of World War II, and after Italy's surrender his regiment was captured by the Germans. Pasolini soon escaped and fled to the small town of Casarsa, where he remained for several years. He joined the communist party in 1946 but was expelled three years later in the wake of an arrest for "moral indignity." Regardless, he remained under the sway of Marxist doctrine, finding particular inspiration in the writings of Antonio Gramsci and his belief in the revolutionary power of the Italian peasantry.