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Salo - Criterion Collection (1975)

Art House & International movie directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini

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A Shocking Pasolini

  • Jul 5, 2008
"Salo" or "The 120 Days of Sodom"

A Shocking Pasolini

Amos Lassen

"Salo" is a powerful movie that shakes us out of out casual attitude to film violence. It is a movie that has been condemned as pornographic and it leaves the viewer with strong impressions and he sits on the edge of his seat for the entire 140 minutes that passes as this movie plays. So strong is the film that many think that the director's, (Pier Paolo Pasolini) murder shortly after he finished the film may have, in some way, had something to do with what is seen here. Every sequence and every shot and almost every moment of "Salo" shows despair, rage and a disgust of humanity.
Pasolini took one of the Marquis de Sade's most depraved writings and channeled it through the excesses of WW II and used the Fascist ruling classes as the villains. Pasolini hated the modern world and explained the disgusting banquet scene in the film as an attack on what he saw was global domination of fast food chains. "Salo" has an overall mood that depresses the viewer. The film is shot in washed-out faded film and uses static cameras, long shots, sloppy editing and this gives a style akin to cinema verite documentaries. The music also adds to the feeling of depression and what we get is an almost primal scream of rage which was obviously designed to shake us out of a feeling of complacency and it does.
"Salo" is divided into four parts and each represents a stage in which the innocent, young and gentle are systematically and deliberately corrupted and even destroyed by the leaders of the state--the evil hungry feed on the naïve innocent.
"Antechamber of Hell" shows beautiful and fresh young people who are corralled and brought to the palace where they are told the rules that will govern their existence within the chamber of power. I saw this as a vision of what hell really is.
"Circle of Obsessions" shows state officials telling erotic and sensual stories in order to bring about self arousal and to bring the youth into committing perverted sexual acts. There is a great deal of nudity, autoeroticism, hedonism and homoeroticism.
"Circle of S**t" deals with feeding as the people are fed their own excrement. This shows the evil in all of us and the images do repel but they are effective.
"Circle of Blood" takes us to "Salo" the place where the young who broke rules and regulations are punished by those in power. We watch some of the most brutal acts and again we are repelled.
The movie is offensive and shocking and it is only natural to wonder why we would watch something like this. It is a vision of what can happen if we are not careful to prevent it. We see the dark side of human nature and the atrocities that humans inflict on other humans. However, what is disgusting is not the core of the film. The central idea is one of hopelessness as we see the depths to which we can descend.
Most certainly this is not a film for everyone and having seen the film I am not sure that I would watch it another time even though this new Criterion DVD is the second time I have watched it. I do think it is an important film because it does let us know how we can end up if we are not careful and watch ourselves and our leaders as well as our youth. While "Salo" may not be pleasant, there is no question that it is important.

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More Salo - Criterion Collection (1... reviews
review by . December 04, 2010
posted in Cult Cinema
When a film is labeled as “disturbing” –and particularly “very” disturbing—the cynic in me says: “Is this true for even a minority of film-goers or is it just a marketing ploy?” I cannot escape marketing influence how jaded I am or how much I claim otherwise. So I do linger a little longer over a decision whether to watch a disturbing movie than I would if that wasn’t a component of the description. Having outgrown the horror version of “disturbing” …
About the reviewer
Amos Lassen ()
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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A loose adaptation of the Marquis de Sade'sThe 120 Days of Sodom, Pier Paolo Pasolini'sSalòis perhaps the most disturbing and disgusting film ever made. It is also one of the most important, offering a blistering critique of fascism and idealism that suggests moral redemption may be nothing but a myth. Criterion presentsSalòin its uncut, uncensored version.
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DVD Release Date: August 12, 1998
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Criterion
First to Review

"A Shocking Pasolini"
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