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Salo Or The 120 Days Of Sodom
Italy/France 1976
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Running time 117 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film, based on the Marquis de Sade's 18th-century novel, 120 Days of Sodom, is a work that draws rapturous praise from some quarters and scorn from others. The praise comes from the self-declared intellectual art set (it is the only film I’ve seen that comes with a bibliography of essential reading), the scorn comes from the moral majority and anyone to the right of it. Whilst I have no sympathy with the either side the fact is that Saló is at best a tiresome film, at worst, repugnant.

Saló followed on the heels of the director's "Tree of Life" trilogy of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974) with its over-arching thesis that sex is joyfully disruptive of the dominant order, a thesis which he soon after recanted as naive. The now seemingly embittered Pasolini’s thesis, apparently informed by the writings of Roland Barthes, Maurice Blanchot, Philippe Sollers and Simone De Beauvoir, amongst the cultural critics listed in the opening credits, is that consumer capitalism makes its citizens eat shit, metaphorically speaking. So Pasolini transposes de Sade's novel to wartime Italy and has a quartet of vile Fascist lackeys capture some cherubic teenagers ,take them to an isolated villa and make them eat shit literally (at least as far as film fiction is concern). They also torture, rape and murder them to the accompaniment of maniacal laughter and an Ennio Morricone score.

According to Bernardo Bertolucci all this is “sublime” whilst Catherine Breillat claims that one must be strong to watch it (both are on the DVD extras) . I’d say rather that you’ve got to be desperate. Pasolini, who was murdered soon after the film was released, allegedly by a teenage toilet trader, at least had the guts to live his own philosophy but I find the armchair admiration for this essay in degradation more repellent than the film itself.  Who needs to be told that vileness is a part of human nature? If you need Pasolini’s film to realize this you really should get out more.

DVD Extras: An extensive suite of extras, spread over 2 discs includes Ostia  - The Death of Pasolini and Whoever Says The Truth Will Die both about Pasolini’s life and death and Ostia (with optional director’ s commentary, a short film about the last days of Pasolini starring Derek Jarman; Open Your Eyes, a documentary on the film’s making; and Walking with Pasolini and Fade to Black, two documentaries in which various directors, academics and English film bureaucrats lavish praise on the film.

 

 

Available from: Shock Entertainment

 

 

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