The Vatican Rag

Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. today, and it’s quite a spectacle seeing so many agnostics and atheists posting quotes by him, as in “See, I told ya, even the pope says so,” about climate change or colonialism or many other things. Of course he doesn’t go far enough for some, and too far for others, but if you don’t have a soft spot for a pope who comes to the U.S. for just five days and visits a prison in Philadelphia, then you just don’t have any soft spots.

As Tom Lehrer said, “Ave Maria, gee it’s good to see ya”:

La Strada: The Pope’s Favorite Movie

An interview with Pope Francis published today is getting front page headlines because he is trying to shame the conservative wing of the church to make a tactical retreat on sexual issues: abortion, contraception, and gay and lesbian life. Call it a watershed moment, or call it too little way too late, but give the guy at least a little credit.

He also says his favorite movie is Fellini’s La Strada, and we can only guess why. Has he always been an Italophile? Does he identify with Giulietta Masina, and his Catholic faith is Anthony Quinn, who drags him to  the wilderness and abandons him? Or does he just identify with clowns throwing a sad circus?

I recently got my haircut by a 20-something barber who wouldn’t shut up about Naked Lunch. I told him the best Burroughs book was Junky, something I often feel about that generation of writers: their best work was their early, simple stuff, before they had crazy reputations to uphold, and a young counterculture to try to stay a step ahead of. I’d definitely add Fellini (and Bergman) to that list.

As for the pope, anyone whose favorite movie is La Strada, which was written by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, and Ennio Flajano, can’t be all bad. It’s going to the top of my re-watch list immediately.