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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2008
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 for us lucky Brits - The BBFC has passed the uncut edition since the Halcyon Days of 2000, when I was lucky enough to view it on Film4 late at night. Make no mistakes, if any film has the ability to transform you into a gibbering, crying mess, it's this one.

Not for the Faint-Hearted? You'd better believe it.

And thus, it's hard to really "recommend" this film to anyone, as you wouldn't really "recommend" divorce - But it's a life experience you can gain valuable knowledge from. The film takes it's inspiration / Modus Operandi from the Marquis De Sade's notorious novel "The 120 Days of Sodom" , which, if you have read it, you will know perfectly well what you can expect from the film. Transporting the setting to Mussolini-Era Fascist Italy, four Aristocratic Libertines subject their young subjects to Sexual Manipulation and Torture, both physical and psychological. Pasolini does not shun from showing these in all their brightest colours, and considering that the great man was murdered mere months after the film's premiere, it can be surmised that it raised much anger amongst those artistically inclined. Watch at your peril, without Mother and Children preferably.

Notes on the 2-Disc BFI edition itself - The film has been released before, on Criterion and BFI in the '90s. Both were of poor quality and, thanks to Pasolini's estate revoking Criterion's rights to sell the film, made this edition the rarest / most expensive in the World; well, no longer a problem. The BFI has ported over the Criterion release mainly (Here's hoping it isn't a direct NTSC-to-PAL port, the quality will suffer), apart from one particular bonus: a 25-second sequence that has never been released before showing a reading of a Gottfried Benn poem. Nothing remarkable, but it's something.

It's been said before that for Art to be effective, it must be dangerous. "Salò" is more dangerous than Ebola.
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on 16 July 2007
This is a version of the Marquis de Sade's story, The 120 Days of Sodom, a story about four powerful men who enslave two dozen teenagers and torture them repeatedly. Unlike the book the film is set in the Salò Republic, the Nazi puppet state in northern Italy, in the year 1944. Pier Paolo Pasolini directs his final film. The four powerful men in the story are referred to as the Duke, the Magistrate, the President and the Bishop. To kick things off they marry each other's daughters and then begin to have young males and females kidnapped (18 in all, 9 of each gender). They also have four older prostitutes join in and this whole multitude marches over to some palace. Mind you, the time period means that the Nazi occupied Salò Republic is on its last legs and on the cusp of being crippled by the Allied forces. So the setting gives us sort of an end of days feeling right from the get-go. The content and commentary certainly continue with that subject matter throughout.

The film is set up in four stages, the first being the ante-inferno, which refers to those who are not quite condemned to hell but also not allowed into heaven either. The film's setting is meant to feel like a brief moment in purgatory with its isolated party of characters doing unspeakable things before judgment, and then it all must end. The second stage is the circle of manias, or obsession, where we see the sexual humiliation of the film manifest itself further. The third stage is the circle of excrement, which is where we see the characters consume feces. Pasolini has used this as a metaphor broadly for the perverse level of consumption depicted in the film overall, and directly as a commentary on mass-produced foods and consumerism. The fourth stage is the circle of blood, this is where those who do not partake in this bizarre corruption are brutally murdered in various ways. The stages bring us further and further downward into degeneracy, which Pasolini has applied strongly as a denunciation against capitalism and fascism.

If you found any interest in the above commentary, then I assume Salò may be just the film for you, but I assure you that the film is definitely not for everyone. It is up front with its content. It's controversial for many different reasons, but primarily it is the visual content that turns people away. Yes, it's not as violent as Saw and the nudity is not quite as pretty as it is in some movies, but Salò is anything other than an exploitation film. One may even argue that it is the exact opposite of exploitation. Perhaps it is Salò's censure of exploitation that makes it truly disturbing as a modern social commentary.
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VINE VOICEon 22 January 2007
In this film Pasolini gives us an exploration of the nature of fascism via a story of a group of youths captured and imprisoned in a villa in the fascist republic of Salo in Italy in 1944.These youths are then subjected to an orgy of sexual degradation and humiliation - including being made to eat their own faeces -before some of them are finally tortured and executed in the most barbaric manner,which we view from a distance as the fascist guards discuss trivia while dancing and watching the horrendous scene.Not only does this film see Pasolini use de Sade's novel as an allegory for fascism,but he himself was moved to make this film by the wave of reaction sweeping Italy in the 1970s,which was not to be seen again until the vicious repression we saw in Genoa in 2002.This film is not to be viewed as entertainment.It is true art, and as such is challenging in the extreme.I saw this film at the ICA as part of the discussion on the relaxation of Britain's antiquated censorship regime.I recall walking home from the viewing feeling genuinely disturbed and soiled,which is exactly what a portrait of the fascist mind should do.As one of the protagonists says: 'we fascists are the true anarchists',and in Salo we see a protrait of a world with no values and no humanity.
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on 28 February 2002
'Salo' is one of the few films I've seen that on one hand is compulsive (in a rubbernecking kinda way) and repulsive. The tone is probably the darkest I've ever seen in a film- which itself is more disturbing than the violence- which is sickening (by design) but not throwaway nihilistic like Tarantino, Arnie or 'Black Hawk Down'...Viewing is aided by the excellent '120 Days of Sodom' and the accompanying essays (some reccomended in the title sequence here). But don't worry- this film says very little- over and over again. Which is its message...Pasolini places a Dantean-triptych onto Sade's text, reducing the 120 days to 3 (which feel like forever)and setting it to the fascist backdrop of Salo during World War II. Not that this is a historical film- the comment on the allure of Fascism to Italy is one that recurs. Here Pasolini dispenses with the celebration of life offerred in films like 'Medea', 'The Decameron' & 'The Canterbury Tales'. This is like 'Porcille' magnified or the design of 'Theorum' applied to the horrors of fascism in practice...The film begins with the sole beautiful shot of a harbour-which could have come from Antonioni or Bertolucci. Then the libertines marry each others daughters, kidnap (?) the peasants who will become the ****ers (though we think they are to be the victims.), audition their victims and transplant them to the hell of an unseen machine-like world. This is where the rape and torture and ****eating begins (though Pasolini puts the latter down to a comment on fast-food consumption). There are lots of scenes of sexual depravity, prosthetic-penises and an oblique reference to Communism. Then, the Circle of Blood- which is horror in its truest sense. The black-comic punchline of the two dancing f***ers asking about each others girlfriend makes this film all the more horrifying...That said, because a film's subject is abhorrent should not mean you can dismiss this major work. I feel it is all the more pertinent when we consider such events as Pinochet's Chile, the atrocities in the Balkans and the backward-spectre of the Holocaust. This film depicts the philosophy of power in its most dominant, vile sense. It is unsuprising that this was Pasolini's final film- he would be murdered in suspicious circumstances (see 'Whoever Speaks the Truth Shall Die')and this is an assault on the world he lived in. Along with 'Accatone','The Gospel According to St Matthew', 'La Ricotta','Mamma Roma' and 'Theorum' this is one of Pasolini's major works. And one that people should watch to see the true power of cinema.
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on 21 May 2014
I have finally gotten round to watching this and I'm glad I did. Do not approach this film with excitement, this film does not provide an enjoyable experience, but there is no doubt that this is an experience. This shocking, controversial film will anger and sicken you. I watched this on a Friday night and was left speechless, and that is a rare feeling. This film burrows under your skin and stays there, it will leave you thinking long after it has finished. I would recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of Extreme Cinema. Approach with an open mind and become absorbed in this isolated world of torture and humiliation and you will have an unforgettable experience watching this film. Also, I may add that the quality of this film is outstanding! The Blu-Ray copy of this film is of the highest quality.
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2008
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 for us lucky Brits - The BBFC has passed the uncut edition since the Halcyon Days of 2000, when I was lucky enough to view it on Film4 late at night. Make no mistakes, if any film has the ability to transform you into a gibbering, crying mess, it's this one.

Not for the Faint-Hearted? You'd better believe it.

And thus, it's hard to really "recommend" this film to anyone, as you wouldn't really "recommend" divorce - But it's a life experience you can gain valuable knowledge from. The film takes it's inspiration / Modus Operandi from the Marquis De Sade's notorious novel "The 120 Days of Sodom" , which, if you have read it, you will know perfectly well what you can expect from the film. Transporting the setting to Mussolini-Era Fascist Italy, four Aristocratic Libertines subject their young subjects to Sexual Manipulation and Torture, both physical and psychological. Pasolini does not shun from showing these in all their brightest colours, and considering that the great man was murdered mere months after the film's premiere, it can be surmised that it raised much anger amongst those artistically inclined. Watch at your peril, without Mother and Children preferably.

Notes on the 2-Disc BFI edition itself - The film has been released before, on Criterion and BFI in the '90s. Both were of poor quality and, thanks to Pasolini's estate revoking Criterion's rights to sell the film, made this edition the rarest / most expensive in the World; well, no longer a problem. The BFI has ported over the Criterion release mainly (Here's hoping it isn't a direct NTSC-to-PAL port, the quality will suffer), apart from one particular bonus: a 25-second sequence that has never been released before showing a reading of a Gottfried Benn poem. Nothing remarkable, but it's something. And, lest we forget, we now are the recipients of BFI's first-ever Blu-Ray release; along with Criterion (Who have now announced they will soon be releasing Blu-Rays themselves) and Eureka's "Masters of Cinema" label, it's a Godsend to see Art-House in HD.

It's been said before that for Art to be effective, it must be dangerous. "Salò" is more dangerous than Ebola.
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on 22 February 2001
(I should say first off, that I haven't yet seen the DVD/Video versions due out next month so the following is based upon viewing the movie.)
Demonised by many and made more notorious by being largely removed from public viewing for many years, "Salo" has managed to build up a reputation, depending on who is supplying the description, as a sexually perverted film, a graphically violent film, an overly fascistic film or a combination of all three and more. In truth, though it is at time, difficult to watch, it is actually a superb and effective comment upon man's capacity to degrade and cheapen the value of human life and in doing so, destroy the essence of our own humanity. Ostensibly the story of a group of Italin fascists who spend 3 months raping, torturing and degrading a group of young people within an isolated country house, and loosley based upo the writings of De Sade, amongst others, Pasolini manages to work across a wide variety of provocative, challenging and uncomfortable ideas based on what we actually do to, and think about our fellow man. Over 25 years after its' making, and having seen ethnic cleansing, paedophile rings, economic sanctions and countless unwarranted invasions, it seems more pertinent than ever to really make you think about how we treat each other and how much we really value human life.
It's NOT for the faint of heart or squeamish and it will make you feel very uncomfortable indeed...which is the whole point. It's a film for adults, and as such, should be viewed with respect...and a little caution.It will be good to see it rescued from memebers only screenings in art-houses or dodgy bootleg tapes, and I await the articles in the Daily mail with a little sadness. I am sure the BFI will take a hammering for releasing it, as will the censors. Don't be fooled: if it's gore you want, try "Cannibal Holocaust" If you want sexually graphic scenes, then "Romance" is the film for you.This film stays with you.
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e Sade's satire of pre revolutionary France has always been shorn of its malevolent intent. This was to expose, ridicule and create a simmering anger directed at the occupants of the ancien regime. De Sade brimmed with vitriolic fury.

There is a reason the books antagonists are not carpenters, masons, footsoldiers and beggars. Instead they are its epitome, its social aristocracy, its elite. These are the people De Sade was aiming his burning frothing ire at.They have happily deflected the critique with a "celebration" of the book as a form of liberating sexuality, hence the term Sadism, the enjoyment of inflicting pain to cause suffering and cruelty. Sadism preceded De Sade and was not invented by him, ask the victims of the Inquisition?

Passolini took the essence of his book and explored its metaphorical parameters using celluloid during an open window in culture when such things could be examined. It is surprising many people read the book as titillation porn, or as a catalyst for killing children? (the Ian Brady defence). This speaks volumes about the psyche of the reader.

The 20th C paternalist censorship kept the book hidden from the working classes. It was thought it would invoke repressed instinctual drives to suddenly explode. Hence the need for more punishment by social superiors to assist with this repression. The De Sade defence is used to keep the people away.
Sobibor, Treblinka, Joy Division, Srebenica, Rwanda, Algeria, My Lai, Sarajevo, Drancy, Mosul were all seen as aberrant acts not part of a continuum. Passolini uses De Sade to make power visible, the hidden world now becomes apparent. Whilst people recline in safe European homes and bat on about horror films and tut tut about the savages of Eastern Europe, Africa, Nazis, Fascists and Communists, they neglect to consider the hidden worlds they sit upon. What exactly did happen in the Children's Homes in the UK, the forced emigration of orphans to Australia and the swish of cane and vaseline in boarding schools. Unfortunately the horror is much closer than simply pointing to- over there.

The plastic world where people bumble along to the Sound of Music on planet naivety is rendered transparent by Pasolini. This film is probably one of the greatest ever made. Could it ever have been filmed in Hollywood, well how would they have tacked on the happy ending to ensure the people of Kansas were sent to their beds feeling happy and secure?

The only way to watch this film is with eyes wide open, the pacing is exact, it matches the mundanity of inflicted horror. It is not a film instantly forgettable, the opening of a portal to an inner world, usually hidden, especially from the self.

This is why it resonates. Those who express tedium are dead already, those who are revolted feel its full effect. It is made to cause a revolt.
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on 26 May 2010
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.
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on 16 May 2010
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.
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