148 of 165 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Descent Into The Empyrean
There are few movies out there, if any, that can generate as much ire and disgust as Pasolini's "Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma". Over the years, the film has created this almost mythical quality around itself, if mostly for the fact that it's still banned / badly cut in many countries around the World (Including Australia; so much for the Enlightenment). Not so...
Published on 26 Aug 2008 by Brady Orme
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Woof Woof!
I see one reviewer called this 'the greatest film ever made'. Another insists 'This is true art'. But, what exactly is great or artistic about this film?
It was shot like a particularly bad Tinto Brass movie. Dialogue? Some aristo says 'we fascists are the true anarchists'. Wow! Powerful. A lot of the 'dialogue' involves aged ladies delivering bed time stories...
Published on 22 July 2009 by Graham Chapman
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to decide - in what way shall we look at this?,
This review is from: Salo, ou les 120 jours de Sodome - Édition Collector (DVD)
I really dont know what to say or how to rate this movie. I am not prude, oposite actually. Many people would be shocked how tolerant I am with many taboo topics when I choose my entertainment. I saw different movies around the topic and I knew when I started to watch that it wont be an easy one. (which I normally list as a positive. I love using my brain).
Where to start, what to judge?
Shall we say that he was a crazy sick pervert to write books like this? Or the director is shamless to make this adaptation? Shall we agree that this was a very provocating movie - which he wanted us to hate? They nailed that part for sure. And no I didnt like it one bit, I found it disturbing - even tho Im somehow familiar with many sexual perversions (studied a lot about them at the uni).
Im just saying - see behind the obvious! Nobody likes the story, nobody likes what they do and how they treat other humans and how twisted it is.
The question is: is it a daring art piece wanting to rape your emotions and force you to face things, see things and feel things? I think yes.
Everyone has an opinion - so he nailed it! Hundread of years and we still talk about his perverted mind!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Proper" horror,
OK, so this film is not classed as "normal" horror, but that is possibly the best way to consider this piece of art (some may not call it that, by the way). Disturbing, shocking, graphic; all words which can be appropriately applied to it.
As others have mentioned, it is extremely difficult to recommend it or rate it. I have tried to base my rating therefore on the relative importance of the right of film makers to produce art. Many viewers may dislike or even loathe this film, but that should not stop producers from having the right to make such films. There is a serious message, it is not gratuitous - if you consider the film as a whole.
But be warned. This is a very visceral film. Worthwhile, but disturbing nonetheless - it may stick with you for longer than you want.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It does just what it says on tin, disturbs the trousers off've you!,
This review is from: Salo [DVD]  (DVD)
Pasolini's last film "Salo..." is extremly unsettling it has a way of staying with you ages after you watch it and the ability to linger in your mind leaving you with no choice but think about the horrific scenes constantly which include rape, excrement eating and drinking urine among many more.
I have only ever been able to watch this film once due to it's content and even the first time I found it hard. Although it is very disturbing it is actually a very good film which paints a very accurate portrait of fascism and in a way it is morbidly interesting to see what horrors these people went through. The way the director shows how having power affects people is also very good which he does through the fascist libertines.
Do not buy this though if you're expecting an exploitive horror movie filled you gore, it's nothing like that it has a very serious tone and will probably put you off you're gore-fests.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful quality dvd, not exactly an enjoyable film,
It's hard to rate a title like "120 Days of Sodom." Technically speaking it is a fine film, but with 'salo' the technical aspects aren't what is really important, and unless you are a film student/maker, you wont notice them. For people who are fascinated with evil, who don't turn away from bloody car wrecks or photos of mutilated bodies on the news, "Salo" should prove to be hypnotic viewing. I admit to being fascinated by the minds of seriel killers, and equally fascinated hearing about all the bizarre sexual fetishes in the world. But 'Salo" transends all that, to the point where it is no longer entertainment, and it becomes genuinely uncomfortable to watch. uncomfortable because we as a race are forced to see what we are capable of, if driven to extremes. There seems to be only one shred of optimism in the film; a short scene where an imprisoned teen breaks down in tears and her friend tries to comfort her. That's it. The rest of this exercise in hate is filled with fury, disgust, and an absolute contempt for anything good or innocent. But if you pay attention, you will notice that the evil adults of this story, inevitbly fail to corrupt and rob the children of their innocence. for never do the kids stop being terrified and sickened at what they ar witnessing. Even when they are being murdered at the films completion, their cries and desperate screams still sound like those of normal, innocent kids trapped in a vile world that they dont understand. The fact that these young actors are so beautiful makes the film more painful to watch. i originally bought the film because of the actor Franco Merli, who played the shephard boy from "The Arabian Nights," whose slave Zumerrud has been stolen from him. He was so great in that, with his off kilter beauty and crooked teeth, i thought he was perfect for his role. to see him being raped and having his tongue ripped out of his skull are images that i will never forget, images that made me extremely angry. Pasoloni must have been a very unhappy man, and an angry one at that, to turn his back on such great works as "Arabian Nights.' Turning ones back on that film is like turning your back on life itself. Hard to believe the creator of the most beautiful film ever made, could be responsible for "120 days of Sodom." Still, i recommend this film for completists, or fans of dark cinema. dont expect any prurient thrills here, in spite of the non-stop nudity. If you are like this viewer, you will walk away feeling a great sadness in the pit of your soul. On a side note, the Bfi twin dvd set is beautiful and is the only truly complete version of the film. It even has a scene the Criterion version is missing. Included is a thick booklet loaded with photos and information, and the extras are great too.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Transfer!,
This review is from: Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
The Blu-Ray transfer of this movie is astounding. The opening credits appear as if some clean-up is needed, but once the movie starts, this is 1080p all the way. I was amazed that a movie this old could look so good. This is much better than the Criterion DVD version, although the Criterion box set is high-quality. I had bought one of those mega-expensive criterion copies that came out decades ago, because it was such a rare movie. Then, a few years ago, Criterion re-released it in a box set and the difference between the two was fantastic. For anyone out there who has not been able to decide which version to buy, believe me, the blu-ray version is best. The chocolate-covered bananas really do look like chocolate-covered bananas now!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Salo,
Crikey! This film was recommended to me by a fellow film studies student during a conversation about the fascist/Nazi movement in Italy. She didn't go into detail about the content of the film but I wish she had. Luckily I watched this alone and not with my girlfriend, I think maybe she would have frowned a little at my Saturday night viewing choice. It is very good and very daring of someone to tackle this epic film - I say epic, as although geographically it is not epic (it is all set in pretty much one building/several rooms), it is very uniquely shot, styled and performed.
I don't think Ixcould watch it again as it depicts some utterly depraved acts upon innoncent youths. Although most of whom seem extremely calm considering the dire circumstances they are facing - it still made me feel very sympathetic towards them. It frustrated me that none of them attempt to overpower their captors and exact revenge on them. I think this was obviously the directors intent, to leave you feeling completely helpless.
It's a very dark film, but also very intruiging and at time beautifully shot, particularly from a behind the scenes point of view - I believe many of the scenes were not fully communicated to the actors, so that when certain shocking events occur, a sense of reality was acheived from their reactions. There are several documentaries included on the DVD and these are really interesting and the packaging is top notch. Not for the faint hearted.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All things are good when taken to excess,
This review is from: Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom [DVD + Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
This is an outstanding BFI issue of Pier Paolo Pasolini's notorious final film, Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975). Not only is the print uncut and uncensored, but it has been restored to its original aspect ratio (1.85:1) and looks absolutely fabulous. Tonino Delli Colli's extremely beautiful compositions and Dante Ferretti's superb symmetrical art direction are shown off to great effect with Pasolini's dark disturbing sexual-political allegory packing a powerful visual punch. There are 3 discs here. Disc 1 is the Blu-ray which contains the original English as well as Italian versions. Also there is the original Italian trailer and a music video track, 'Ostia - The Death of Pasolini' by the rock band, Coil. Disc 2 contains the same content but in DVD format. Disc 3 is an outstanding DVD collection of documentaries consisting mainly of interviews which cover many aspects of Salo. We see Pasolini in action directing the final gruesome torture sequence in the first documentary, Open Your Eyes! (2008). Probably the best documentary on the disc is the excellent Pasolini TV profile, Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die (1981) which gives an overview of the life of this extraordinary artist. In addition, I was delighted to find a very good 26 minute short film directed by Julian Cole, Ostia (1987) which stars Derek Jarman. It is a fictional reconstruction of the brutal murder of Pasolini at the beach in Ostia, just outside of Rome (but relocated to London's East End) at the hands of a homosexual prostitute and/or a possible political conspiracy. The short is a graduation film made at the Royal Academy of Art and its visual invention shines through the rough transfer quality. The film is made moving by the fact that Jarman learned he was HIV positive during the shoot and was acting under considerable personal stress. Cole provides an illuminating commentary. Added to the shear wealth of things to watch, there is also an excellent 30 page booklet on the film which contains a lucid introduction to Salo by Sam Rohdie, the original MFB review by Gilbert Adair, a printed version of the prologue and epilogue which the BBFC were obliged to attach to the film in its 'club cut' version which was the only way it could have been seen in the 1970s in the UK, James Ferman's 1979 letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions explaining in detail why he thought Salo shouldn't be banned, the lyrics to the Coil music track and a brief biography of Pasolini by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. The 150 minutes of high quality extra material on the third disc and the booklet make the best possible support program for a film which few like, let alone love, and which happens to be one of Pasolini's greatest achievements and a film which is essential viewing for anyone interested in cinema as an art form.
It's very easy to see why Salo has kicked up so much hostility. It's undoubtedly 'repulsive, outrageous and abhorrent' as Malaysia's censorship board found it. Based on The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, but updated to the Salo Republic of the last year of World War II, it charts the story of 4 rich Fascist libertines who kidnap 18 boys and girls, whisking them off to a country house where the most outrageously depraved sexual acts are perpetrated on them for the rich enjoyment of their masters. The narrative structure is lifted from Dante's Inferno and there are 4 parts to the film - the Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of S*** and the Circle of Blood. The Anteinferno sees the 4 libertines sign an agreement to what they are about to do, they marry each others' daughters, recruit 4 studs (or 'guards') who are chosen because they have large penises, personally select the 18 victims (9 boys, 9 girls) and then convene at the country house chosen for their debauchery. There they are met by 4 middle-aged collaborating prostitutes who are hired to tell filthy erotic stories in a salon of the house. The rules are read out to all and the debauchery begins. The Circle of Mania incorporates many of Sade's stories taken from the book which are read while the masters listen and enjoy the young bodies that surround them. Here no distinction is made between heterosexuality and homosexuality, vaginal intercourse and anal intercourse being freely interchangeable. Particularly nasty are scenes of rape and victims forced to behave as dogs tied to leashes as they eat out of dog bowls. One girl is forced to eat bread with nails which have been deliberately planted within. One of the libertines smiles as the girl's mouth flows with blood. The Circle of S*** sees the obscenity escalate even further with stories focusing on defecation and coprophagia. One of the libertines defecates in front of everyone and forces a girl to eat his feces. The victims are forbidden to defecate except when required and later everyone feasts on a giant plate of feces which has been collected from the bowels of everyone present. The names of those who disobey the rules are taken in a black book and marked down for later punishment. One girl is slated for invoking the name of God, another for daring to wipe his backside after defecating. The film assumes the form of Sade's book in its compendious cataloging of depravity and it never lets up. The final Circle of Blood forms the suitably sickening finale with the victims who have transgressed the rules being rounded up in a courtyard and then tortured and killed for the delectation of the libertines who both take part in the depravities and observe from afar, Pasolini controversially inviting us to share in their sick voyeurism. One boy is scalped, another's eye is gouged out. One girl is anally raped immediately before being hanged. Nipples are burned, breasts are branded, tongues and penises are cut off and two young boys (who have watched and taken part in much of the preceding depravity) dance a sweet little waltz. Yes, it's safe to say this is probably cinema's most depraved film this side of snuff. So why do acknowledged artists such as Martin Scorsese and Michael Haneke insist Salo is a masterful statement which should be seen?
The main reason for Salo's high regard lies in the success with which its political allegory is rendered. The film's uncompromising depiction of sexual depravity had never been seen in the cinema before and has never been seen since. And yet the depravity is harnessed by Pasolini to make a political statement which is arguably profound and important as a cautionary warning. Before everything else I think it should be said that the subject of Salo is not sex. The subject is Fascism. Pasolini hated Fascism and made his feelings about it known in the strongest possible terms in this film. The film is obscene because Fascism itself is obscene. The film is an allegory which plays out on two different levels. The first is the obvious one of the Fascism of those 18 months towards the end of World War II when the Nazis set up a puppet Fascist state in Salo, a small town on the shore of Lake Garda. It was the last place Mussolini held power. The period of the Salo Republic was a time of unprecedented horror during which 72,000 people were killed, 40,000 were mutilated and another 40,000 were sent on to German concentration camps. The truck with the victims at the beginning of the film passes through the infamous town of Marzabotto, a place where 2,000 inhabitants were rounded up and massacred by 18 year old boy collaborators. Pasolini was personally affected by this horror. He spent part of his childhood growing up in the area, his brother had been killed during partisan skirmishing during the last days of the war, and his father (who he hated) had been a Fascist in the early days, decorated for having saved Mussolini's life. Add Pasolini's Communist convictions into the mix and we have good reasons for his desire to make a strong anti-Fascist statement. It's spelled out clearly at the outset that the film's 4 Fascist libertines represent the 4 sides of the Salo Republic power structure - there is the Duke (Paolo Bonacelli) representing the aristocracy, the Bishop (Giorgio Cataldi) representing religion, the Magistrate (Umberto P. Quintavalle) representing the Law and the President (Aldo Valleti) representing the political infrastructure. The agreement they sign at the start of the film represents the constitution, the rules of which are read out to the victims (representing the Italian people living in the Republic) and enforced by the soldiers and prostitutes (representing all Fascist collaborators). Fascism in Salo for Pasolini is a huge allegorical fantasy of power and male domination in which the human body is turned into an object to be exploited, hurt and destroyed. For the director, exploitation and degradation of the human body was at the heart of Fascism so that sexual brutality is synonymous with political brutality.
The second level of the allegory is more controversial in that it focuses on what Pasolini saw as the Fascism of the day (in 1975). In interview he said, "I hate with particular vehemency the current power, the power of 1975, which is a power that manipulates bodies in a horrible way; a manipulation that has nothing to envy to that performed by Himmler or Hitler". We must remember that Pasolini made his first film when he was in his 40s and that he was as famed a poet, a novelist, an intellectual, a philosopher and a journalist as he was a filmmaker when he came to make Salo. He was a controversial public figure who had a regular newspaper column in the Corriere della sera which he used to attack the government of the day calling for the arrest and trial of all the major Italian Christian Democrat politicians for their part in what he saw as Italy's degradation thanks to capitalist materialism, the accepting of new false material values that were debasing Italy's beloved traditions and the ever-closer relationship with future scion of globalization, the USA. Pasolini had naively thought that the human body was the only site to have escaped domination by consumer capitalism and made his Trilogy of Life (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights) as a celebration of human sexuality. However, the commercial success of these films (because of their sex and nudity) and the cheap copies that came out ripping them off made him realize that not even the body was exempt from this exploitation and Salo is an admittance that he had been wrong. Therefore the second part of the allegory in Salo focuses on the Fascism of the 70s for which bodies were the mere sites for the inarrestible imposition of power for Power's own anarchy. The s*** that the victims are forced to sit in and eat is the food of consumer capitalism which Pasolini railed against daily in the Press. Those of us not familiar with Italian history of the 70s probably won't get this part of the allegory as there are no direct references in the film to 1975, but of course everyone at the time of the film's release had no doubt that Pasolini was attacking the Fascism of the day as much as the Fascism of the 1940s. This enraged Pasolini's already numerous enemies and is the source of all the rumors that his brutal murder just after Salo's completion was in fact a conspiracy plot.
An allegory on Fascism, Salo is a serious-minded film and the way Pasolini treats the characters and the mise-en-scene supports this very closely. Brechtian alienation had already played a part in Pasolini's earlier films like Teorema (1968) and Porcile (1969) and in Salo it is no different. All characters are held at arm's length so that we never get to know them or feel for them. This goes for the victims as well as the perpetrators. We are removed from direct contact with personality and instead have political tableaux in which temperaments and ideologies are played out through characters whose conflicts are determined by and whose emotions are filtered through the filmmaker's analysis of the subject. This forces us to think through the links Pasolini has presented for us to make narrative sense for ourselves. The director showers us with cultural references throughout the film in a very carefully arranged mise-en-scene. The country house chosen for the debauchery is furnished in Bauhaus style and is covered in references to paintings by artists of this persuasion. On the walls we can see Leger, Feininger, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Mack and artists of the Dada movement. In the opening credits Pasolini directly lists a bibliography of 4 famous writers who have at some stage supported Sade's philosophical project - Roland Barthes, Maurice Blanchot, Simone De Beauvoir, Pierre Klossowski and Philippe Sollers. Some of these are quoted in the screenplay mainly by the libertines in addition to Nietzsche, Ezra Pound and Gottfried Benn. On the soundtrack we hear dance music associated with the Fascist period along with fascist anthems (sung at dinner-time) and even Carl Orff whose Carmina Burana is used during the final bloodbath - Orff was a Nazi who stayed in Germany throughout the war. To cap everything off we have bursts of Hitler speeches on the radio and the sound of bombers flying overhead (first heard just as the Circle of S*** commences) to warn us that the Salo Republic is about to come to an end. This bombardment of cultural references underlines repeatedly that we are looking at an allegory, distancing us all the time from any kind of emotional involvement with the characters. This distancing is important because we are never allowed to engage with or empathize with any of the characters as we are constantly invited to do in the average porno film or routinely violent action movie coming out of Hollywood. Like Michael Haneke (I'm thinking especially of Funny Games) Pasolini finds the routine commercialization of sex and violence more disgusting and more disturbing than anything he puts before us in this film.
Finally I should address the question of Salo's supposedly pornographic content. I'm sorry but I fail to see it. Salo is a turn-off film, not a turn-on film. Pasolini is very careful never to dwell on human bodies coupling in any way that might be called attractive. When characters do attempt warmth they are immediately screamed at by the libertines and when one guard is caught making love to a servant girl he is killed instantly. All warm humanity is stripped away here in a film which Pasolini makes so clear is a visual depiction of Fascism. As such it should be despised. It's OK to despise Salo. That's exactly the reaction Pasolini wants from the audience, and as nauseating and as uncomfortable as watching it is, you have to admire the bravery and the sheer honesty of his nihilistic vision. There really is nothing else quite like it.
1.0 out of 5 stars Unwatchable......,
This review is from: Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom [DVD + Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
Having read the other reviews I wasn't sure this would be worth the money, and it isn't. I doubt it has any actual history in it, it isn't art and it's definitely not erotic. I fast forwarded through most of it, as it's either dull or appallingly grotesque. Give it a miss.
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power and the dark side of the moon,
This review is from: Salo [DVD]  (DVD)
This film is Pier Paolo Pasolini's testament. It has not aged one iota and is even probably better now than it used to be. The first strong element is that it has to do with sex, the body and the use of the body for all kinds of sexual activities and pleasures. But onanism is out. Sex is always an activity that connects at least two people, more often than less a lot more than two if you include the voyeurs. The film is turning our voyeurism into a saturated mental ability though strangely enough the film remains extremely prudish as for actually showing the sexual intercourse and the torturing that is to come sooner or later. In fact when he wants for us to « see » the men with erections he keeps them trousered so that you can only see a form which is not an organ per se. Only one erection is really shown but because it is the slave who has an erection after having given anal sex to his master and torturer turned here into the dominated partner. This erection is not like in all other draped or wrapped up cases the evidence of the pleasure of some men in front of some humiliation imposed to other boys and girls, hence a sadistic though passive pleasure. In this case it is the domination of the master by the slave who could have strangled him in a couple of minutes and didn't because he does not need to rebel : he has already conquered real power over the master for conquering his backside. In other words Pasolini still plays a tremendous lot with our voyeurism by not showing the real thing, but still keeping the act itself covered up, dissimulated, hidden. Note this dimension of seeing the physical excitement of the young boys and girls strutting in front of us in the nude and quasi-nude on the screen is only possible with the boys for very organic reasons. But the second level of the film is the political fable or parable. Yes fascism is tremendously present in our consciousness and life. But probably not this kind of fascism which is to alienate a human being to the point when he has lost all existence in society and thus can become raw material with which you can play at leisure in three stages : passions, excrements and fatal suffering. Note the passions are those of the masters imposed onto the slaves who are shown as mostly moving along and even getting into the game with quite a lot of willingness. There are many slaves who are happy in the society that makes them slaves. Note the excrements can come from anywhere and it is a pleasure for the masters to eat them and to impose their being eaten to the slaves and here again, maybe in a more difficult way, some slaves take to it, clearly this time in some kind of resilient desire to survive if it requires such a drastic diet. It is true that a kiss of two male mouths that have both eaten some feces has some kind of a pungent taste and even attractiveness in its very kinkiness. Note fatal suffering, torturing someone to death is this time definitely one way : the masters are torturing some of the slaves and using the others to help them achieve their pleasure. This time you find out that some will be totally willing to take part in the torture of another one if it enables them to avoid the torture for themselves. This is definitely a heritage from the Shoah and how the Nazis had managed to make prisoners their anciliary servants in the very task of eliminating them all. It is by the way the only reason why there were some survivors. Among slaves there will always be some who will collaborate with the masters even in the torturing and killing of the others provided it protects them from the same fate, or at least pushes that fate slightly forward into the future. There Pasolini becomes prophetic. And when the film stops on two surviving fifteen year old boys dancing together on some American sounding music and exchanging the names of their girlfriends we have a sad gospel about the true nature of humanity. Domination, power, cruelty, brutality are one side of all human beings. This side will be dominant as soon as circumstances permit. Then the majority who will be deprived of this power will divide easily between those who will collaborate to survive a little bit longer and those who will not or will be chosen not to resist at all and will become the raw material of the desires of the powerful. So these boys and girls will not sound or look as what their age should make them sound and look. They will have been transformed in our consciousness into some kind of lurking monsters who are roaming in the back of each man's skull and definitely on the retinas of all our eyes. We are all ready to accept suffering if it means pleasure and we are all ready to inflict suffering and death to others because it will mean pleasure for us. Pasolini had a tremendously sombre vision of humanity and it is a good thing this film has come back to life after nearly thirty years of clandestinity.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University of Paris Dauphine & University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent release of a controversial film,
This review is from: Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
Firstly this is a vast improvement on BFI's original DVD. Some may argue though that the filtering used will detract from the grainy quality that has long been associated with this film. The restored print here reveals far more detail and background than ever before, affording the viewer a greater insight into the techniques on dispay.
Even 35 years after it's completion the film is still challenging to view. It is both visually and emotionally shocking. This film will simply draw you in or leave you completely missing the point, there certainly is no middle ground!
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Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom [DVD + Blu-ray]  by Pier Paolo Pasolini (Blu-ray - 2011)