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Trilogy of Life (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights) (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1974)

Pier Paolo Pasolini , Pier Paolo Pasolini  |  NR |  Blu-ray
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Pier Paolo Pasolini
  • Directors: Pier Paolo Pasolini
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • Run Time: 352 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B008Y5OWKW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,970 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
  • New visual essays by film scholars Patrick Rumble and Tony Rayns on The Decameron and Arabian Nights, respectively
  • New interviews with art director Dante Ferretti and composer Ennio Morricone about their work with Pasolini, and with film scholar Sam Rohdie on The Canterbury Tales
  • The Lost Body of Alibech (2005), a forty-five-minute documentary by Roberto Chiesi about a lost sequence from The Decameron
  • The Secret Humiliation of Chaucer (2006), a forty-seven-minute documentary by Chiesi about The Canterbury Tales
  • Via Pasolini, a documentary in which Pasolini discusses his views on language, film, and modern society
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Form of the City (1974), a sixteen-minute documentary by Pasolini and Paolo Burnatto about the ancient Italian cities Orte and Sabaudia
  • Deleted scenes from Arabian Nights, with transcriptions of pages from the original script
  • Pasolini-approved English-dubbed track for The Canterbury Tales
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critic Colin MacCabe; Pasolini’s 1975 article “Trilogy of Life Rejected”; excerpts from Pasolini’s Berlin Film Festival press conference for The Canterbury Tales; and a report from the set of Arabian Nights by critic Gideon Bachmann

  • Editorial Reviews

    In the early 1970s, the great Italian poet, philosopher, and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom) brought to the screen a trio of masterpieces of premodern world literature—Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and The Thousand and One Nights (often known as The Arabian Nights)—and in doing so created his most uninhibited and extravagant work, which he titled his Trilogy of Life. In this brazen and bawdy triptych, the director set out to challenge consumer capitalism and celebrate the uncorrupted human body while commenting on contemporary sexual and religious mores and hypocrisies. His scatological humor and rough-hewn sensuality leave all modern standards of decency behind; these are physical, provocative, and wildly entertaining films, all extraordinarily designed by Dante Ferretti (Hugo) and featuring evocative music by Ennio Morricone (Days of Heaven).

    The Decameron Pasolini weaves together stories from Giovanni Boccaccio’s fourteenth-century moral tales in this picturesque free-for-all. The Decameron explores the delectations and dark corners of an earlier and, as the filmmaker saw it, less compromised time. Among the chief delights are a young man’s exploits with a gang of grave robbers, some randy nuns who sin with a strapping gardener, and Pasolini’s appearance as a pupil of the painter Giotto, at work on a massive fresco. One of the director’s most popular films, The Decameron, trans­posed to Naples from Boccaccio’s Florence, is a cutting takedown of the pieties surrounding religion and sex.


  • 111 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • In Italian with English subtitles
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio

    The Canterbury Tales Eight of Geoffrey Chaucer’s lusty tales come to life on-screen in Pasolini’s gutsy and delirious The Canterbury Tales, which was shot in England and offers a remarkably earthy re-creation of the medieval era. From the story of a nobleman struck blind after marrying a much younger and ultimately promiscuous bride to a climactic trip to a hell populated by friars and demons (surely one of the most outrageously conceived and realized sequences ever committed to film), this is an unendingly imaginative work of merry blasphemy, framed by Pasolini’s portrayal of Chaucer himself.


  • 111 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • In Italian with English subtitles
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio

    Arabian Nights Pasolini traveled to Africa, India, and the Middle East to realize this ambitious cinematic treatment of a handful of the stories from the legendary The Thousand and One Nights. This is not the fairy-tale world of Scheherazade or Aladdin or Ali Baba—instead, the director focuses on the more erotic tales, ones of desire, betrayal, and atonement, framed by the story of a young man’s quest to reconnect with his beloved slave girl. Full of lustrous sets and costumes and stunning location photography, Arabian Nights is a fierce and joyous exploration of human sensuality.


  • 130 minutes
  • Color
  • Monaural
  • In Italian with English subtitles
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio

  • Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Best transfer of these films, but.... April 19, 2013
    By Y.P.
    If you are planning to order these BDs, chances are you need no introduction to Pasolini's Trilogy of Life.(*1)

    I first watched these films during my college years, and was immediately drawn to Pasolini's very unconventional film-making techniques.(*2) Thus, when these were up for sale last November from the redoubtable Criterion Collection, I preordered the blu-ray set. The "Criterion magic" does not disappoint, but.... If memory serves, there are more than 3 or 4 instances when vertical red straight lines appear prominently in the Canterbury Tales.(*3) So here is the puzzle: Why are they (still) there after the careful restoration?

    I love Criterion Collection. Even though their products are more expensive, they are almost always worth the additional cost. In particular, these are great improvements from BFI's Region B (UK) blu-ray releases in terms of clarity, contrast, color scheme and especially naturality of the skin tone. So they are really currently the best transfer for these films. However, these vertical red lines are distracting, for me at least. (They are not present in BFI's edition.) I imagine one reason they are there (after the restoration) is that the current digital restoration technology is not advanced enough to remove these lines without compromising the entire frames. However, that theory doesn't seem convincing as Criterion Collection has in the past fixed tears and scratches more serious than these lines. An email inquiry to Criterion Collection did not produce a satisfactory answer. "The lines are in the source material" was all I was told. Maybe I am spoiled, but I have come to expect only the highest quality from Criterion.

    If anyone has an answer, I'd be curious to know.
    Read more ›
    Was this review helpful to you?
    14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Alibech and Rustico missing November 24, 2012
    An excellent new print of Pasolini's 'Decameron', crystalline compared to the version available previously, but purchasers should know that the 40-minute documentary about the episode of Alibech and Rustico, eliminated by Pasolini from the final version of the film, does not contain any actual footage of the episode.
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    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Wow Great HD transfers! July 17, 2013
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    I have been looking for these films for a long time. I've only seen a poor quality VHS of THE DECAMERON that I found in my local public library. Criterion Collection has done a great job compiling this collection together! The quality is top-notich and the booklet that comes with it is very informative. Thanks!
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    4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Pasolini The Master February 5, 2013
    By GatoLB
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    In a sentence: A cinematographic experience.
    Pasolini takes you to beyond your imagination. Love the architecture and the spaces he creates. He approaches cinema as painting.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    Pasolini has chosen three tales that have lived for ages, and given them new life. I love many of the European films because they depend on acting and story instead of special effects. I don't speak or understand Italian, but you don't have to to get the entire visual story and see the emotions in the faces. For the serious student of film, these are classics in the true sense. A must.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and unusual. December 11, 2013
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    This is a very unique set of films. The actors are apparently local people so, while they are a bit awkward, they certainly give the films more realism. I am a bit surprised of the sexual nature of the films given that the plots are set in areas I believe are dominated by Islam.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars So nice to have this October 22, 2013
    By TRP
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    This was a very influential series of films on my young adulthood and it is really delightful to have it available in Blu-Ray with interesting extras.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST FOR YOUR CINEMA COLLECTION August 9, 2013
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    These are great stories brought to life as only Pasolini could have done. My favorite is Arabian Nights which takes the fantasy and turns it into a gritty, naturalistic real life adventure. Mesmerizing in the least. The other tales are also compelling in their settings and realistic composure. Beautiful set, really.
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