Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma
meaning that if a viewer can stay tuned, as I could, through the “Circle of Sh*t” segment, then a viewer can sit through just about anything that’s on celluloid. It’s indeed appropriate that it’s called the most disturbing and disgusting film ever made, as it well could be.
Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma As I watched all the way through till the end I got the same feeling as I did watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Both films go out on a limb with excesses (although Gibson’s excesses were arguably not as faithful to the source as Pasolini was), and I have to say that at least from an objective point of view Pier Paolo Pasolini gets the job done there.
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With great cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli (Once Upon a Time in the West) providing the sometimes exquisite camera-work and lighting, Ennio Morricone delivering a slight, but melodic tone in the background, and with interesting sets, plus an interesting editing style that doesn’t entirely show as much of the grotesque and sex as it could’ve, the craft behind the film is pretty good. If one were to look past the subject matter, it’s actually a very well constructed piece of film art, which is why many consider it important.
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I suppose it’s a unique film, but you couldn’t pay me to want to watch it again (unless it was in a film class where the teacher proved himself to have reason to have us watch it). At the core, Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, is interesting as a concept, from which it was taken from Sade’s novel – a group of f*cked up fascists during the end of world war two capture some young boys and girls and force them to go under sexual and mental tortures.
As in the book (which I’ve never read and don’t really have a desire to seek out at this point in my life), the acts are relentless, and in between the fascists instilling fear and intense degradation, a woman narrates stories that go over and over as she describes everything from eating excrement to helping out a grown man in diapers. By the end, it’s a controlled chaos as most are dead and those who aren’t look on with binoculars. Now, the problem is with this material, at least for me, it becomes very subjective.
I can see the core point PPP’s making (it’s almost like a twisted satire), and it does remind me how much fascism is the worst kind of ideology there is on Earth…But then the relentlessness of it all becomes very, very close to unbearable (i.e. endurance test). And, reminding me again of ‘The Passion’, Salo doesn’t give any of the characters any other kinds of emotions to work in than those they’re stuck with.
There’s no deviating from the paths and fates of the characters, and without any point of entry into the victims (the exclusion being two girls, who all they say are ‘I can’t take this anymore’ to each other), they’re left with the controlled state that the villains have put them in. I suppose the acting by these four, vicious bastards is commendable, but after a while the acts that they thrust upon the kids stops being shocking, and becomes boring.
And when a film that is supplied with a talented crew and cast that does whatever PPP tells them to do, and it’s boring, it doesn’t work for me. The stories by the one woman, in-particular, tend to drag on as her character seems to just think up new ways to entice the heads of the manor into ecstasy. On top of this, there isn’t logic to history because if this is towards the end of the war, where are the allies putting a stop to the fascists?
I guess, in the end, I found Salo to be one of the more difficult films I’ve ever seen. I know I’m sort of glad I got through with it, but by the end I realized that PPP committed a bit of a film crime (though certainly not deserving of his mysterious death before the film was released) – there’s no room for catharsis.
This could be argued by some, however I’d have to say that if there was one it was buried underneath all of the sh*t food and *ss raping. Because the film is a bit one-dimensional, and hope is a lost cause, by the end all one could reasonably be left with is emptiness. In a way it reminded me of Bergman’s Cries and Whispers in how it’s just a sea of bleakness and despair for everyone involved, but at least in Bergman’s bleak world there are moments of sweet (if maybe brief) humanity and love.
I can’t recommend Salo except for extreme, die-hard film buffs and for nihilistic types (and maybe for those interested in understanding the nature of fascism), and for those looking for what’s worse after Gibson’s POTC. It’s definitely deserved, either way you take the film, as one of the most notorious, soul-churning pieces ever produced, though I wouldn’t say it’s one of the worst.