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Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
BLU-RAY disk
10.11.2011 By: Mathew Plale
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom order
Director:
Pier Paolo Pasolini

Actors:
Paolo Bonacelli
Giorgio Cataldi
Umberto P. Quintavalle

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
"The Most Controversial Movie Ever Made" observes the horrific treatment four fascists thrust upon several teenagers in Nazi-controlled Italy.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Rape, coprophagia, scalping, bread laced with nails…Just another day in the life of your average web-based film critic…

The film is Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last picture before his murder in 1975. Released in 1976, Salò takes its source from the Marquis de Sade’s graphic 1785 work, ‘The 120 Days of Sodom or the School of Licentiousness,’ itself banned in several countries. The plot description that follows is relatively tame compared to its 18th-century source:

Set during the last years of Nazi-occupied Italy in the section of Marzabotto, four men of hierarchy—The Duke, The Bishop, The Magistrate, and The President—on their day of marriage (to each other’s daughters, naturally), round up eighteen boys and girls to torture and maim while a pimply-assed prostitute recites tales of masturbation, anal sex, and coprophilia.

Pasolini, influenced by the great Italian writers (he previously adapted the works of Boccaccio and Chaucer) and his own masochistic mind, divides Salò into four circles (à la Dante’s ‘Inferno’): 1) Antechamber of Hell, 2) Circle of Obsessions, 3) Circle of Shit, 4) Circle of Blood. “All’s good if it’s excessive,” one of the fascists says. But it’s the excess (i.e. the steaming tray of shit and the victims’ forced barking) we have to ignore. The faint, seldom-mentioned production design (by Dante Ferretti, who would later win two Oscars) and underused Ennio Morricone score are the only masterful aspects of Salò.

Since its premiere, Salò has become a film shrouded in legend and rumor. No, the actors didn’t really eat shit (it’s chocolate with candied fruit--the next worst thing). But yes, maybe they weren’t the age of consent. But still people come to Salò, and through the decades it has become an essential, almost in the same way Cannibal Holocaust has.

But controversy does not equate greatness or art. There is a peculiar crowd out there that will endlessly praise Pasolini’s curtain call as “art.” But there are also people out there who think GG Allin and Jackson Pollock were geniuses.
THE EXTRAS
Salò: Yesterday and Today (33:14): This documentary, which details the film’s production, features interviews with director Pasolini, actress Hélène Surgère, collaborator Jean-Claude Biette, and actor Ninetto Davoli. The subjects provide great insight (though naysayers like myself will be quick to disagree), but the highlight here is the archival footage of Salò’s final days of production.

Fade to Black (23:20): Another interview-heavy piece, this documentary by Nigel Algar gathers directors Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris), Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl), John Maybury (Love is the Devil), and Professor David Forgacs to argue the merits of Pasolini and his final film.

The End of Salò (39:44): Actors Antinisca Nemour and Paolo Bonacelli, (uncredited) screenwriter Pupi Avati (who admits to have never seeing Salò), production designer Dante Ferretti, and more all reflect on Pasolini and the making of Salò. Similar to the other features, but the first-hand accounts provided here are unmatched.

Dante Ferretti (11:25): The production designer discusses his relationship with friend/collaborator Pasolini.

Jean-Pierre Gorin (27:06): The filmmaker provides his well-rounded thoughts on Salò.

Theatrical Trailer

Also included in this Criterion Collection Blu-ray set is an 80-page booklet featuring excerpts from Gideon Bachmann’s on-set diary and six essays: “Watching Salò” by Neil Bartlett; “I, Monster” by Catherine Breillat; “Breaking the Rules” by Naomi Greene; “A Cinema of Poetry” by Sam Rohdie; “The Present as Hell” by Roberto Chiesi; and “The Written Movie” by Gary Indiana.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is a film that has debated so much that you almost have to dare yourself to watch it. Some have lauded it as brilliant, but it’s more along to the lines of exploitative--pardon the pun--crap. The Criterion Collection has recycled all of the special features from the 2008 two-disc DVD, but the new transfers may be worth it to fans…if scalping and coprophagia in 1080p are their thing.
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7:47AM on 10/14/2011
Surely it's not a pleasant film to watch, but I highly disagree with the one star rating. Salo is a film that is largely misunderstood in my opinion. People pay too much attention to the violence and depravity that occurs in Salo, and not enough attention to what it all means. To call Salo exploitative completely undermines the film's message. The film is actually not exploitative at all. Much of the violence occurs from a distance, which is all done on purpose as Pasolini tries to detach you
Surely it's not a pleasant film to watch, but I highly disagree with the one star rating. Salo is a film that is largely misunderstood in my opinion. People pay too much attention to the violence and depravity that occurs in Salo, and not enough attention to what it all means. To call Salo exploitative completely undermines the film's message. The film is actually not exploitative at all. Much of the violence occurs from a distance, which is all done on purpose as Pasolini tries to detach you from the violence, visually and emotionally. What he is saying here is that we've all become desensitized to violence and that we've all just stood here vicariously and have let atrocities happen. That's really the brilliance of Salo, is that it really challenges you as a viewer and makes you ask your own questions about yourself, and that's what I respect about it. Thank you for the review and this opportunity to voice my opinion.
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