Pier Paolo Pasolini s notorious final film, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been called nauseating, shocking, depraved, pornographic . . . it s also a masterpiece. The controversial poet, novelist, and filmmaker s tran... more »sposition of the Marquis de Sade s 18th-century opus of torture and degradation to 1944 Fascist Italy remains one of the most passionately debated films of all time, a thought-provoking inquiry into the political, social, and sexual dynamics that define the world we live in.« less
Robert G. (rural631) from SPRINGFIELD, MO Reviewed on 4/29/2014...
Well made but hard to watch, the torture and sadism a little too real for me.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jerome G. from LA CRESCENTA, CA Reviewed on 10/18/2011...
Salo: Masterpiece or Obscenity?
This film was made in 1975 and it was considered too shocking and disturbing.(Even for European audiences) It was banned in several countries. I have to say I have never seen a film like this, ever.
It must hold some deep symbolism and message, but I have yet to grasp it. Criterion has the uncut, unrated Italian version. They hold it in high esteem as a very important film.
What I noticed right away was the disturbing scene where the teens are put on leashes and made to eat from dog bowls. This was done in real life in that Iraqi prison and the photos that were leaked to the media. Was this film made as a political statement? You bet. Is this film unflinching and graphic and disturbing? Yes. Not for the fainthearted. I consider it too disturbing for the average American audience. Torture, gay rape, and feces for dinner are just a few of the scenes that will dare you to keep watching this film. I had trouble finishing it, but I knew I was watching something unique and important to film history.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
The most dangerous film of all-time
Brian | NY, NY USA | 11/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is not an exploitation film. Anyone that watches it based on that assumption is missing the whole idea of the movie. Pasolini made this film as an indictment of society, culture, and history. The film is about fascism, neo-fascism, and capitalism, and the images on the screen are not to be taken at face value, but as metaphors for contemporary society and politics. The sexual depravity shown on the screen, the coprophagy, the torture, it is all symbolic. For example, the children in the film are forced to eat excrement becuase Pasolini believed that contemporary culture and society was excrement, and thus was force feeding us, the consumer, with excrement.
The most interesting aspect of this film is that Pasolini, a homosexual, linked homosexuality with death and fascism. Why after portraying homosexuality in a beautiful way in his earlier works did Pasolini change his tune, nobody knows. Some think he lost his mind while making this movie.
Many don't like the film because Pasolini makes the victims out to be emotionless and doesn't allow us to pity them. But thats just what he wanted! By watching the movie, we are like the victims, allowing ourselves to be abused and also being a spectator to abuse. Again, everything in this film is done for a reason.
Before watching this film you should be familiar with de Sade, Dante's Inferno, and have some basic understanding of fascism and its history. If you lack any of these three elements, don't watch the movie because you will not get it at all. Again, don't watch this movie at face value. It is one of the sickest, most disturbing films ever made, and it is that way for a reason. Not for shock value or to get banned in country after country, but to make a statement. This film is so dangerous that it is believed by many that Pasolini was assassinated for making it. If everyone got this movie, the world would be in deep trouble."
?Salo?: A Relentless Allegory
bigsuggs | Boston, MA | 05/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Salo" is most certainly one of the most controversial films of all time. With an eye sensitive to horrific imagery, it is easy to fall into a trap and see the imagery for only what it is, as opposed to what it represents. For, the power of "Salo" is to be seen in the relentless metaphor that it contains. Once one knows a couple of basic hints it becomes far easier to peel off the layers of disgust to reveal the true essence of this powerful film.The basic characters fall into several archetypes:
1) The 4 Men: represent the fascist rule that dominated Italy during the Nazi rule. Given more power than they should have, they are content to savage the people they rule over with no respect for the humanity that they have been given control over.
2) The teens: the victims of this fascist control (the Jews of the Holocaust, the Italian people, etc.) who quickly lose all their dignity and rights under such savage treatment. Escape appears to be only a couple of steps away and seems quite easy; yet, for these individuals, it is impossible.
3) The madams: The politicians that (although not participating directly in most of the exploitation of the populace) provide the direction and desire to commit such crimes to humanity. Easily recognizable, they are just a step below the 4 men in the line of power.
4) The soldiers: the populace of Germany/Italy who allowed these atrocities to go on. Witnessing the entire situation as it escalates (much like it did in Nazi Germany), these people fall under the Nazi spell. For them, it is impossible to sympathize with individuals that have been so debased, so no guilt is felt on their part for the crimes they are involved in.
5) The piano player: the populace of Germany/Italy who allow the atrocities to go on, but eventually become aware of the horrors that they have helped cause. Inevitably, rather than direct their guilt externally to change the system, these individuals internalize it upon themselves.
6) The viewer: as an individual watching this movie, the viewer is being asked by Pasolini what side they are going to fall one: the soldier or the piano player? Are we to feel sympathy for these violated teens or are we to look at their plight with the same detached lack of interest as the soldiers?Thus, Pasolini has created a large allegory that can be seen in today's light, as well as those of WW II. Essentially, these archetypes are applicable to most any situation in the world where individuals are being exploited...and this is Pasolini's message. As individuals outside the loop (viewers) we possess the ability to evaluate the scene and react in a way that can alleviate or enhance the scenario, it is up to us to decide.A word about the imagery: This too is an essential aspect of "Salo;" for, in its relentless onslaught, Pasolini is trying to tell us something. Once upon a time imagery like that of the Holocaust in WWII was capable of shocking the populace of the world (as it was REAL); however, much of humanity has become desensitized to this. Pasolini is trying to offend us with the imagery of this movie in order to parallel how we SHOULD be offended by the imagery of the Holocaust. He is showing us these atrocities without "Hollywoodizing" them (try "Schindler's List" for that)...these are images we cannot deny and they are based on reality. Humanity is capable of tremendous horror and through the imagery of "Salo," Pasolini is forcing us to acknowledge a side of our species that we have lost sight of over time.In this fashion, "Salo" is an exploration on the psychology of mass fascism. Not only are the soldiers placed under the spell due to the debasement of the people that are being exploited, but the exploited individuals are turned against themselves to continue to live (one particular scene is "Salo" articulates this perfectly). Promises of "freedom" that are never delivered also helps to keep these individuals in line. This mass psychology is evident throughout "Salo;" for, there are ample chances to attempt escape, but all are kept in line with minimal effort.Finally, a quick word about the ending (I will keep this vague so as not to spoil it for those that have not seen it): Pasolini is telling us that, in the end, we have become so desensitized to the horrors that surround us that we are all inevitably the soldier archetype. No longer able to see the suffering that surrounds us, we are dancing right along with the 4 Men...although perhaps not directly involved, we see all that is going on and help allow it to happen through our lack of action. Pasolini is describing humanity's fate here and forcing us to confront it so that, perhaps, something can be done to change it.This movie is one that is NOT recommended to potential viewers unless they see this movie for the imagery it represents. Contrary to what many will tell you, this movie is NOT a dark comedy and is, indeed, as dark and relentless as they come. Again, the imagery is RELENTLESS...be prepared if you decide to see this; after all, the imagery is only a fraction as disturbing as what it represents.Hope that helps..."
Devastating, horrifying, bleak, disturbing, even today...a f
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 05/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen. The infamous film, Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been reissued by Criterion in a special 2 disc edition. Criterion initally put out this DVD when they were still doing laserdiscs and DVD simaltaneously (its DVD spine number was 17), and the original DVD was pretty much barebones and not a particularly good transfer of the film (on either the laserdisc version or the DVD version). Now it's being released in a deluxe edition. What about the film itself? Is it worth picking up? Is it truly disturbing? Is it a work of art? Yes, yes, and yes.
Pasolini made this film in 1975 right after his "trilogy of life" films, which included The Decameron, The Cantebury Tales, and Arabian Nights (aka Thousand and One Nights). Those films were very joyful and playful, and did quite well at the box office. Pasolini went into a deep depression afterwards, feeling that all his films were bogus and compromised, and set out to make a film, as he called it, "undigestable". Salo was that film.
It is based on the Marquis de Sade's book, which was written in 1789 but not published until 1935. De Sade's book, while interesting at first, soon becomes boring and repetitive, outlining one sexual abberation after another. It's not erotic, in fact, it's quite disgusting, as most of the sexual behavior concentrates on coprophilia. Pasolini's film is much better than the novel, as Pasolini had much more to say with his film. He changed the original setting from 18th century France to the last days of Mussolini's government, which had set up shop in Salo, an actual province in Italy. Four fascists round up 8 teenage boys and 8 teenage girls, haul them off to a secluded villa, and degrade them and themselves for the duration. Pasolini here used the novel as a exploration of consumer culture, fascism, communism, perversion, torture (many of the scenes in this film have an eerie similarity to the Abu Ghrab prison photos taken a few years ago), and absolute power. Pasolini had said "he wanted to make a film without hope", and he did. Pasolini expounded upon de Sade's ideas and made a startling film, one that has immense power, even today. Pasolini was murdered shortly after completing this film in murky and still controversial circumstances, and somehow, that contributes to the bleakness and opppressiveness of the film.
The film is as cruel, nasty, controversial, and bleak as you've heard. It totally lives up to its reputation. It has graphic scene of sexuality (despite abundant nudity, the film isn't erotic at all, but cold and numb), torture (the final third is entitled the circle of blood), and coprophilia (the middle third is entitled the circle of s***). But it isn't an exploitation film at all. It was made with the best crew in Italy at the time. The film was shot by Tonino Delli Colli, who shot Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. It was produced by Alberto Grimaldi, who also produced Leone's spaghetti westerns and Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris. Ennio Morricone scored it, Danilo Donati did the costumes, and Nino Bargali edited it. It was a legitamite production, and there was quite a lot of press surrounding it at the time of its release, as Pasolini was a huge name in Italy and international cinema at the time. Finding the film in its uncut form has been notoriously difficult over the years. It's been banned in many countries (it's still banned in Australia today), and even the DVD editions aren't complete. The original Criterion version and this version have omitted a scene where one of the fascists reads a poem from Gottfried Benn, which was included in the British Film Institute version. This 25 second scene has been posted on Criterion's website, and having seen it, it doesn't really add anything to the film. For all intended purposes, the version we have here is Pasolini's final cut.
I saw this recently in an extraordinarily sharp print in NYC, and the patrons in the theater didn't say a word. Some left. Most of them stayed, and were truly stunned afterwards. Some tried to laugh this film off at the beginning; by the end of the film, they weren't laughing. They couldn't. This film was made in 1975, and it still has the power to shake you to the core.
The DVD transfer is superb. It's as good as the print I saw at the IFC Theater. The extras are quite extraordinary, especially the documentary Salo: Yesterday and Today. It includes actual footage of Pasolini shooting the final scenes of the film (the torture scenes), and it's actually very difficult to watch this behind the scenes footage. Even though one may think it gives you a sense of relief that "it was all a movie", it doesn't. The footage (which is in grainy black and white, 16mm footage) has a power all its own. There is another documentary called Fade to Black in which Bernardo Bertolucci and Catherine Breillat talk about Salo. Bertolucci's thoughts on the film are particularly striking and poignant, as he was great friends with Pasolini as well as an artistic colloborator. The DVD box has one of the most chilling covers in Criterion history, including a sinister close up on the inside, which is astonishingly creepy. It also contains a 90 page booklet with fascinating essays by the great, brilliant filmmaker Catherine Breillat (who thinks Salo is a masterpiece) and Gary Indiana (who wrote a very well known book about the film). The only thing about this DVD edition that I object to is the fact that Criterion did not include John Powers's excellent essay on the film, which was printed on the laserdisc edition of the film. He said two things about this masterwork that are brilliantly insightful...
"It's the cruelest, most obscene, and most intellectually toxic work ever made by a major director. Once seen, it is forever remembered."
"At a time when movies are routinely called "shocking" and "contro- versial", Salo not only lives up to these words but makes them feel childishly inadequate".
It is one of the most disturbing films ever made, on line with Cannibal Holocaust, Ichi the Killer, In a Glass Cage, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It is worth watching and owning."
Power corrupts: absolute power corrupts absolutely.
D.J.Dunne | london United Kingdom | 10/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though still banned in my native England, tonight I finally got to see "Salo" after 25 years of hearing its fearful and mis-represented reputation. Reading through the reviews on the IMD and here on the Amazon site, it seems clear that for many it is a "Must See Nasty" - A film whose graphic imagery of torture, rape, coprophilia, sexual perversion and murder become an endurance test to rate alongside "I Spit On Your Grave" or "Last House On The Left". The truth is that on a purely visually graphic level, it's violence and rape is outdone by 1000 other films. But the emotional and mental impact of the film, it's messages and what it tells us of Man's inhumanity is practically unrivalled. It's hard to express the film's strength and message without lapsing into pseudo-psychobabble, and the layers of meaning and allegory contained within it are too various to list, but to try to put it simply, by using the extremity of deSade and the awful truth of Fascism in Europe, Pasolini confronts the beast in us all. Having lived in Italy during the time of Mussolini, Pasolini saw at first hand the distortion and debasemant of humanity under Fascism. DeSade in turn, celbrated the fact that man's capacity for atrocity was what made us human and could free us - two sides of one awful coin. Many of the scenes have an awful stillness, presented as full-frame tableaux, with the four main protagonists watching the degradations: Pasolini flips this back on us sat in a movie theatre watching the film... For anyone seeking to ask questions about whether or not Fascism, nazism or pure evil still has the capacity to re-occur, and particularly for those people who pretend "it could never happen here again", this is the film to confront them with. It is a multi layered, disturbing, often strangely beautiful film and one that any real fan of cinema should see, to fully experience the power of film to provoke, stimulate and force the viewer into confronting real, painful aspects of humanity. Sorry to get arty, but this film has had more impact on me than practically any film I have seen in the past 20 years. A masterpiece, for real. With recent events in Eastern Europe still fresh in the mind, this film and what it has to say about Human Beings is especially relevant."
A genuine testimony of (in)humanity
Brian | 06/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Films like "Salo" are never made for the sake of entertainment, but they challenge the viewer's motivations and conceptions of what it means to be human. To watch this film requires to accept the challenge to be confronted with such fundamental questions, and to abandon simplistic and modern preconceptions of what film (and indeed art) "ought to be" for."Salo" is Pasolini's adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's last novel "The 120 days of Sodom", an 18th century catalogue of perversions commited by a group of "libertines" whose view of society is opposite to contemporary philosophical rationalism and optimism of the time. Pasolini transposes the story to fascist Italy at the end of World War 2, in Musolini's "republic" of Salo-a region in which Pasolini had resided, and where he experienced the fascist repression. "Salo" tells the story of 4 fascist "signori", who retreat in a remote and decadently decorated villa to engage in, and act out a complex series of perversions (ranging from sexual violence to torture and murder) and degradation on a group of young civilian victims, and with the help of an equally young militia recruited from the same village.Because of its extreme graphic nature this movie is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The scenes of violence and human degradation are truly shocking. However, what is equally shocking are the dialogues and the many details in the rigorous structure of the story that reveal Pasolini's underlying motivations. "Salo" is a gripping and thought-provoking reflection on power, modernism, decadence, and the limits of human rationality-and in that sense its relevance goes far beyond it being a comment on Sade's novel or on fascism. Few movies in the history of the genre had the power to raise these questions as strongly as Pasolini's "Salo", and it is to be doubted that more ever will.
As much as being a chilling visual representation of human irrationality, Pasolini's "Salo" is a highly intellectual, and a deeply moral and moving reflection on (in)humanity, by means of the urgent and ever so relevant questions it raises. This makes "Salo" compulsory viewing for anyone to whom such questions matter."