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Salò - Criterion Print E-mail
User Rating: / 8
Written by S. J. Alpino   
Sunday, 20 January 2008

AKA: Salo ou les 120 journées de Sodome, Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom
Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Written by: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergio Citti
Produced by: Alberto De Stefanis, Antonio Girasante, Alberto Grimaldi
Cinematography by: Tonino Delli Colli
Music by: Ennio Moricone
Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Georgio Cataldi, Umberto P. Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti
Make up: Alfredo Tiberi
Year: 1975
Country: Italy, France
Language: Italian
Color: Color
Run time: 112 minutes

Video: NTSC R0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono - Italian
Distributor: Criterion (OOP)

Sadism means the derivation of pleasure through the infliction of pain on another person.  Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade more famously known as the Marquis de Sade, (1740-1814) whose name was chosen to create this term, because Sade enjoyed violent sexual extremes in his fantasies and in his private sexual practices with others while living in France.  He was a libertine or one who strives for absolute freedom in all of life's pursuits especially where sexuality was concerned.  Writer of such literary works such as “Philosophy in the Boudoir”, “Justine”, “Juliette”, “Dialogue between a Dying Man and a Priest”, and “The 120 Days of Sodom”, Sade was also a devout atheist.  “The 120 Days of Sodom” was a novel which explicitly described increasingly violent acts of blasphemy, debauchery, and perversion climaxing with the "Rites of Hell."  15 different barbaric acts of torture for 15 different teenage females so heinous death was a deliverance.  Sade wrote most of his works including “The 120 Days of Sodom” (which he wrote in the Bastille) while imprisoned for various offenses including debt avoidance, infidelity with his sister in law, and extreme cruelty to prostitutes.

Pier Paolo Pasolini's “Salò” took its inspiration from “The 120 Days of Sodom” and transported its events from King Louie XIV's reign of 18Th century Francto Italy during El Duce's reign of power at the end of WWII.  “Salò” while not nearly as lascivious or perversely homicidal as Sade's novel was still a landmark in transgressive cinema.  Incest, flagellation, anal intercourse, golden showers, and the always delectable coprophagia comprised the majority of obscenities explored in “Salò”.  While both “Salò” and “The 120 Days of Sodom” were socio-political commentaries on fascism and absolute power there was a philosophical difference between them.  While Sade seemed to be envious of those powerful figures with impunity from the laws and morals of society Pasolini meditated on the terrible consequences of fascism.  In either view, the end result was the same. Men who only answered to themselves and who had the time and the resources to explore the depths of their personal depravity would ultimately annihilate those around them and themselves.  “Salò” was Pasolini's final film.  He was murdered shortly after the film wrapped by rough trade who used Pasolini's sports car to run him over with, but not before he bashed Pasolini's skull in with a nail studded piece of fence.

Salò” begins with four men sitting at a table signing a book of laws which will govern their future subjects. A Duke, a banker, a judge, and a Monsignor constitute the libertines of the film.  The next few scenes detail the round up of young men kidnapped from various war torn villages by soldiers in order to be used as guards at the villa.  The scene that follows is a blasphemous wedding between the libertines and their own daughters. Next is the round up for the fuckers (handsome, well endowed young men kidnapped from all over the countryside) and the harem girls (similarly beautiful, well bred young teenage girls ripped away from their villages.)

The first of the three chapters of “Salò” entitled "Circle of Obsessions" starts with the guards, fuckers, and harem girls gathering below a balcony in a courtyard of a villa listening to the libertines' rules of conduct. Mentioning God is forbidden as well as regular sexual intercourse.  At 6 o'clock everyday everyone will gather in the "Orgy Room" where one of the four courtesans will tell sexual stories from their pasts as prostitutes while another courtesan plays the piano. Music is sparse in “Salò” and can only be found at the very beginning during the title sequence and in the very last couple of scenes.  At any time the libertines may interrupt the story-telling, because "any lewdness will be allowed".  Highlights of this chapter include: the first story-telling session by a courtesan in which she describes how her teacher instructed her how to masturbate him while she was at the tender age of seven.  The fuckers and harem girls nude with leashes around their necks, crawling up stairs and into a room where the libertines throw scraps of food onto the floor or into doggie bowls.  A wedding between a fucker and a harem girl brings an end to the initial chapter.  However, not before the newlyweds are brought into a room, stripped, and then buggered by two of the libertines while a third libertine pushes the chocolate deep inside of his already busy fellow libertine.

Speaking of chocolate, though the finest Swiss chocolates are used to simulate fecal matter in the second chapter "Circle of Shit" this tidbit does not take away from the raw nausea inducing power of these scenes.  Another blasphemous wedding this time between a libertine and a fucker dressed in a white wedding gown is the centerpiece of this chapter.  The main course of the wedding reception is a silver platter of a huge pile of steaming shit.  Now I have seen plenty of blood and guts in Mondo films like "Faces of Death" and "Traces of Death" as well as conventional horror films like John Carpenter's "The Thing" and Jörg Buttgereit’s "Nekromantik".  Gore while unpleasant at times to watch never achieves the level of dry heaving the coprophagy scene attains in “Salò”.  Ever look at yourself in the mirror while you're eating an Oreo cookie?  Imagine that to be shit in your mouth and you get the picture luckily without the bad breath.

The final chapter of “Salò” is the "Circle of Blood".  The final courtesan tells the tale of the "Rites of Hell".  The fuckers and harem girls become keenly aware that life in the villa is going to come to a painful end, so they do what comes naturally to humans when their lives are at stake. They turn against each other.  This desperate attempt to avoid the foregone conclusion of annihilation at the hands of the libertines is essentially an exercise in selfish futility.  The final scenes of torture of the boys and girls remind me of the grainy snuff film footage in “Emanuelle in America”.  A libertine sodomizes a girl staked to the ground then scalps her with a blade.  One boy has his nipples seared off with a hot iron while another boy has his tongue cut out.  There are those that scoff at the notion that “Salò” is a horror film and to those people I say: You must be libertines!  “Salò” may have more shit than blood, but the horror wrought by absolute power is far more frightening than the Vegas Ripper in “Nutbag”.  Unfortunately we have witnessed such abuse of power in Hitler's Germany and Idi Amin's Uganda.  People become objects to be abused in the bloody fantasies of perverse libertines.  The end result is annihilation in the nihilistic existence that is “Salò”.


- zip

This DVD contains no supplemental features.

VIDEO: 1.85:1 Widescreen 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono – Italian (English Subtitles) 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema




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