REVIEWER: JAMES ACKLAND
Film genre: Drama/Cult
Label: Cinema Cult
Audio: English/Italian 2.0
Running time: 117mins
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
Buy it here at Screenpop
An equation of disturbance
1785- The Marquis de Sade pens the 120 days of Sodom. A tale of four libertines who use young men and women to act out the most lavish and outlandish tales of sex and depravity.
1944- The Republic of Salò, a Nazi satellite state formed as safe house for Benito Mussolini and his fascist Republican Party.
1975- Pier Paolo Pasolini
Salò or the 120 days of Sodom
Remarkably transposing the book and historical events Pasolini creates a film that continues to disturbed and court controversy.
Banned for longer than any film should be we are finally seeing the clearest vision to Pier Paolo Pasolini's crystal ball of the future.
We witness four men, the Duke, the Bishop, the Magistrate, and the President sign a document of the rules.
These rules will outline the life and fate of 18 young men and women who they select to torture, rape, degrade and humiliate. But those rules are not limits.
Accompanying the men are four ageing prostitutes who recount sexual tales of their past that the youth are then forced to recreate. This element is the basis of the stories told in Sades book.
The film is then split into the Anteinferno, Circle of Blood, Circle of Shit and the Circle of Manias taking inspiration from Dante's Divine comedy. As each chapter unfurls the degradation deepens and the delight of each man of power rises.
It is in the halls of the great house near Salo where the men and victims gather to hear the sordid tales accompanied by a pianist. Each of the men have their selected favourites and at anytime during the proceedings they can abuse or chastise their pets. Often running from the room to receive their sexual rewards. Curious they feel the need for privacy in a room where freshly laid faeces steams on the floor.
As the depraved acts continue we'll witness the eating of nail laden food, people treated like dogs, the glory of the golden shower and the ultimate banquet of shit. Pasolini does not care what you think as he is sure you are living this world right now. For this is his commentary and view on his country.
It's in its final act where we see pasolini's views on the television culture as the last of their victims are tortured to death. But the libertines are safely away, spying with binoculars from above as are we, voyeurs on a world full of bloodlust and violence.
How could Pasolini have known we would ourselves create reality tv at the turn of the century and live out Salò for real? As you may have witnessed in the Japanese show Endurance or the controversial and sadistic Susunu! Denpa Shōnen. Programmes such as Big brother and any number of degrading talent "contests" where each victim is judged by salò like bullies. How could he have seen the food bi-product age where we are eating manufactured slop more often than we eat the food from the ground?
How frustrated Pasolini must have felt with his mother country, how angered by consumerism and the growing popularity and adoption of television must he have felt to make Salo. What horror he saw through his thick black rimmed glasses. His anti conformist and heavy Marxist leanings put him outside of society and yet he used the popular medium of film to share them. Pasolini was also a very accomplished and respected poet, some say the most important of his time.
Salo is boiling over with pasolini's hatred for the bourgeoisie and the countries leaders at the time. He felt that Italy itself had lost its rich culture and was tumbling into a dull and frivolous Neo-capitalist society. Urging us to open our eyes and see what power does to the human body.
Pasolini may have paid the ultimate price in creating Salò. Weeks before its release he would be found dead on a beach near to Rome. Repeatedly beaten and run over by a car. The details are still contested to this day as to why Pasolini's murder occurred. Was it organised crime? Was it a sexual advance gone wrong? Or was it the world that Pasolini railed against come to take its grim revenge for his insult to Italy.
At the time of release and ceremonious banning it was classed as pornography of the most abhorrent kind. But this film cannot be further from pornography. While the world watched the Vietnam war play out on their television screens in the 1970s the truth of Salò was deemed too graphic and instead we were shown the ultimate pornography, that of the world at war.
Salò recently retained its number on spot on a popular websites most disturbing films list. But is it because it's disturbing or that it's true? Salò will hold a mirror up to you and dare you to open your eyes.
Is Salò a film i will revisit frequently, no. Would i recommend you watch it? Absolutely. I remember the first time i visited it, looking for titillation and finding none. This time around i was fascinated by what Pasolini had to say. And i was not disappointed. There were pauses in the film where i had to catch my breath and put down my freshly made curry. Note: Do not eat ANYTHING during the film. It will only put you off. I could write more and more about this film. It's like a prism that uncovers new and hard truths. I definitely recommend further reading to learn and understand what Pasolini has achieved with this film.
Amazing content here for fans of Pasolini.
Ostia music video by Coil
Open your eyes- Onset documentary featuring colour film shot in 1974 during the production of Salò
Fade to black- Documentary about the ongoing relevance and power of Salò
Whoever says the truth shall die- The life and death of Pasolini
Ostia- Short film about Pasolini's last days