I don't know the man (and wiki may not always be accurate) but the Wiki page on the director says he was a political leftist, and an atheist with homosexual tendencies (not really explained in detail). The poor man was also murdered for unknown reasons.
He was a very challenging filmmaker. One quote from him via the same page:
"If you know that I am an unbeliever, then you know me better than I do myself. I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief." (1966)
The same page says the Catholic Church supported his creation of the Gospel According to St. Matthew which he intended to be made from the point of view of a believer, but saw also his own ideas coming out in the film.
I just watched it the other day and greatly enjoyed it. You can tell it's very low budget, but I can see how it gained its reputation. This is another view of Jesus to go with the pantheon (pardon the term) of excellent Christ movies out there. Not the best, but one of the best. His Jesus is not a demystified Jesus, but a charismatic leader who does miracles and rises from the dead. He has real power. Surely the marxist in the director sees parts of Jesus he identifies with, like the power he asserts in uplifting the poor and suffering, and challenging those in authority. Angels and the Devil appear (though they are not identified as such) with the Devil appear as a tall man in a black coat, and the angel as a young woman in white. The voice of God speaks from heaven to a crowd, and Joseph is spoken to in dreams. He doesn't attempt to whitewash Jesus' message, all of the text appearing to come from the King James Bible (which I think is a bit harder to read for modern ears, but has a certain character all its own in this movie, I wonder what it sounds like to an Italian speaker?).
Marxist thought is definately atheist, although some have tried to take Marxism and meld it with Christianity (hence where you start to get Liberation Theology, though some would object to the notion that it is Marxist, and would point out instead to the similarities of the two philosophies in certain aspects, but which are coincidental). Some read socialism in the New Testament (such as some communities sharing everything in common, denouncing wealth and riches and the evil social order, etc). For whatever reason, he created this movie and I think it can give a profound vision of Jesus, definately worth a viewing.
The point of the movie is that if Jesus was alive today he would "translate" into a Marxist revolutionary. Or, marxist revolutionaries are the "jesuses" of our time.
Thing is, yes, Pasolini did call himself a Marixt, also when being interviewed about this film. He also mentions having grown up with what he calls an irrational christian belief. So, what he did was, pick up the Bible and feeling again very strongly about what he found in there. Apparently he didn't like the other gospels as much as he did Matthew's, so he decided to make a film out of that particular one, also since it is the gospel in which Jesus is portrayed most as a human being.
The Marxist element, if you will, is not visible on the surface, as the surface matter is all from the Bible. It is deeper than that. It lies, for instance, in the perspective that is chosen, the emphasis on people's faces, the people who lived with him and believed in him. It is in their perception that
Jesus is divine. A perspective from the people, a historical perspective which is generated from the Marxist conception of history as a continuous struggle of classes, the mass of people propelling history forward, is indeed a very Marxist perspective.
Also, the parts about how hard it is for rich people to gain access to heaven and how earthly goods like money are less valuable compared to faith etc, are obviously very fit for any Marxist, even though they're straight from the gospels.
These games are being degraded by the increasing use of professional tricks to stay alive!
Somebody earlier said Pasolini was a Christian. Actually that is not true. He is quoted in Tatum's book "Jesus at the Movies" as saying "I, a non-believer, was telling the story through the eyes of a believer."
After I study this film more, I would like to revisit this thread and have something to say about the marxism in this film. He doesn't seem to want to debunk Jesus even though he has Marxist view of the Jesus Movement. He wants to tell it through the eyes of a believer.