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Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma
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Reviews & Ratings for
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom More at IMDbPro »Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (original title)

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695 out of 797 people found the following review useful:

Don't judge this film too quickly.

Author: Marcus Fjellström ( from Sweden
30 April 1999

It appears most people find this movie to be sick, pointless, and without substance. That's unfair.

This is the strongest movie I've ever seen, and it made an IMPORTANT impression on me, a big horrorflick-devotee. It made me question a lot of things about former favourite films, and made me realize how sick it is to make horror and violence into entertainment. The problem with most movies is that violence is not portrayed violent enough, horror isn't portrayed horrible enough. Most 'thriller' films have these ingredients softened so that people can enjoy it, and THAT'S sick. This movie is SANE. It shows horror and violence as it IS - totally revolting and disgusting.

I sat as on needles for 1 hour 40 minutes, and felt really bad watching this film. It grossed me out, but I understood why this film is both good and important. It gives a sane perspective on violence, as opposed to SICK, SICK Hollywood-action where people get killed by 'heroes' and nobody raises an eyebrow.

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343 out of 392 people found the following review useful:

One of the most gruelling films ever made

Author: world_of_weird from England
17 January 2005

Pier Paolo Pasolini, as is well known, was murdered not long after he finished work on this, his most audacious and confrontational film, yet even the most casual viewing of SALO begs the question - had he not been murdered, would he have taken his own life anyway? Every sequence, every shot and practically every moment of this film is so burdened with despair, barely concealed rage and a towering disgust with the human race, one gets the impression that Pasolini was barely hanging onto life - and any attendant shreds of hope - by his fingernails. Although ostensibly an adaptation of one of DeSade's most depraved works channeled through the horrifying excesses of the Second World War with the Fascist ruling classes as its (authentically vile) villains, SALO also contains a lot of contemporary criticism - Pasolini hated the modern world, and explained the stomach-churning 'banquet of s**t' as a none-too-subtle attack on the encroaching global domination of the fast food chains. (The scenes of sexual excess can similarly be read as a despairing attack on the permissive society - those who come to SALO expecting titillation or B-movie sleaze will be sorely disappointed.) Beyond the nihilistic content, which has been well documented elsewhere, the film has an overall mood that seems to have been engineered to make the viewer thoroughly depressed. Shot on washed-out, faded film stock using primarily static cameras, long shots, choppy editing and very few cutaways, SALO has a visual style reminiscent of cinema-verite documentary. Add to this the unnerving use of big band music, piano dirges and the (intentionally?) scrappy post-dubbed dialogue, and the distancing effect on the viewer is complete. SALO comes across as one long primal scream of rage, designed to shake the viewer out of his complacency, and in this respect, the film succeeds unequivocally. Whether or not you would care to watch this more than once, or indeed for 'entertainment', is another matter, but SALO is an important film that demands a careful viewing ONLY by those prepared for it.

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216 out of 270 people found the following review useful:

Did Pasolini really "wallow in his own sensationalism"?

Author: Renelson Antonius Morelos ( from Manila, Philippines
19 April 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salo," the long-disputed issue of the extent to which a filmmaker can interpret a story on screen has been put to the ultimate test.And when "extreme" cases do happen, do the censors become "morally" justified in interfering with the filmmaker's "creative freedom"?

There are a good number of films that can be used to illustrate the issues raised:Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre" can be a case in point regarding the subject of violence and gore (a mentally-disturbed serial murderer and his domineering mother, with surreal images and subtle attacks on the Catholic faith),while Nagisa Oshima's "In the Realm of the Senses" can be a point of reference regarding the subject of sex and nudity (a couple---a geisha and a tradesman---who has practically made sexual intercourse the be-all and end-all of their lives, to the point of obsession and possessiveness).

On the other hand, Pasolini's film shows both "flesh and blood."

The opening credits, with the accompaniment of a soft-sounding music, and the opening shot of a calm body of water, with a palace (turns out to belong to the high officials) viewed from afar, are deceiving:what follows from thereon is definitely not soothing to one's senses.Set in World War II Italy, where Benito Mussolini's Nazi-Fascist regime is very much in power, the film depicts the ways in which the dictator's high-standing minions are capable of degrading and brutalizing the citizens,particularly the youth, just to satisfy some perverted and homo-erotic desires.

The film is divided in four parts (or "chapters," if one may call them so, since the film, it's significant to say, is based on a novel by Marquis de Sade, a controversial and provocative man of letters during his time),where each one represents the stages in which the young, innocent and gentle are deliberately and systematically corrupted and destroyed by the supposed-to-be leaders and guardians of the state---it's like hungry wolves feeding on gentle lambs.

"Antechamber of Hell" shows how a number of young people, most of them beautiful and fresh, are rounded up, brought to the palace and oriented with the "rules and regulations" that are to govern their existence within the chamber of power---upon hearing them, one gets the impression that this might just be what hell really is.

"Circle of Obsessions" has the state officials weaving tales of eroticism and sensuality to arouse themselves and the youth into making some of the most perverted sexual acts---unabashed nudity, autoeroticism, hedonism, lasciviousness and homoeroticism are strewn all over.

"Circle of Shit" illustrates a further debasement:feeding on others' and one's own excrement (there's even a scene where one of the officials lets a young woman urinate right into his mouth) as, if I understand it right, a gesture of wholly accepting the "evil" in all of us---the "stench," to be taken literally and figuratively.The images may truly repel the viewers:a graphic act of defecation, close-up shots of feces (and what a heap!) and the notoriously unforgettable mock wedding reception.

Finally, "Circle of Blood" takes the viewers to "salo"---the punishing ground, where the young boys and girls who broke some of the "rules and regulations" are "taught their lesson" by the men in power.Again, this part is excruciating to watch, for the viewers become witness to some of the most brutally painful acts of punishment:how about an eye being removed, just to give a sample?

Now, was Pasolini "guilty" of, to use film critic Leonard Maltin's words, "wallowing in his own sensationalism"? I've yet to read the book on which the film is based, but someone told me that the Italian filmmaker was just being faithful to De Sade's work.Meaning to say, Pasolini tried as much as possible to express visually what the French novelist expressed in words.True, "Salo" in its entirety is an extremely offensive and shocking film, the kind to which the moviegoing adage "Just sit back and relax" won't definitely apply.But then, isn't that the kind of response that the film's theme and images should elicit from the viewers in the first place?

Not to be disoriented and enraged by the lowest depths into which man's (ab)use of power and satisfaction of primitive cravings and desires can plunge is one of the most absurd things that can ever happen.We should really appreciate artists (directors, novelists, poets, etc.) who have the courage and commitment (an abundance of them, it must be) to explore "extreme possiblities" inherent in human life.Life isn't always like "a box full of chocolates"---sweet and comforting---is it?

If it ever happens that "the people concerned" get alarmed, raise concerns about a film and eventually mangle, if not ban, it, it may only prove that the film hits right where it should.

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220 out of 287 people found the following review useful:

A necessary evil

Author: (dennis70) from Trieste
16 March 2005

This is a tough one. Pasolini was a very complicated man. He was murdered in still-unexplained circumstances shortly after the film was completed. I was 10 years old when this movie was finished, but I only saw it now. Despite being almost 30 years old, Salo is probably the most cruel and repulsive film ever made, not just here in Italy but in the whole world. It depicts the worse atrocities inflicted to humans by humans. The true dark side of human nature: When evil is born out of simple boredom, when it comes naturally. It is a film that I don't want to see ever again, but at the same time I'm glad it was made. I thought hated it at first, but I now I realized is not true. Of course I don't love it either. I can't decide how to judge it. I don't like the cinematography or the acting. But it was definitely one of the most profound emotional experiences of revulsion I've had in a film. It is a necessary evil if you can endure it.

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156 out of 186 people found the following review useful:

One of the roughest films you'll ever see.

Author: ( from Ronn Ives/FUTURES Antiques, Norfolk, VA.
6 June 2005

"Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom" (1975): Be prepared for one of the roughest films you'll ever see. This was Pasolini's last, and going by what I've seen, his vision only became bleaker and more disturbed as the years clawed along. Using the Marquis de Sade's ideas on the decadence of 18th century France, Pasolini represents Fascist Italy (1944-45). We are shown the upper class – always removed and protected from the outer world – as predators of the poor, weak, young, and less educated. A group of wealthy adults shop amongst the kidnapped older children of bourgeoisie. They choose eighteen, and steal them away to a hidden mansion, where there is no escape. There, the adults live out every twisted fantasy they've ever had or can now muster, while demeaning, raping, and torturing the youngsters. The teens react in many ways, none of which are "pretty". This entire film experience MUST be viewed as a symbolic, emotional "explanation" of what it was like to live under Nazi/Fascist rule (in this case), and how an otherwise normal, decent society could be turned into lunatics and sub-animals. Although made 30 years ago (with the usual weaker production qualities of that era), I cannot think of another work which so blatantly and painfully illustrates what those in power are capable of doing when boredom gives rein to impulse. In comparison, "Lord of the Flies" barely lights upon these issues, "Pink Flamingos" was but a tiny, kitschy springboard, and "Schindler's List" described a much narrower range of degradation. To this day, "Salo: …" is banned in some countries. This is NOT a film about acting, lighting, sound, camera work, etc.. This is a film about states of mind – theirs then, ours now. P.S.: If you are interested in set design, this one is FILLED with original Cubist/Bauhaus/Futurist/Moderne furnishings, murals, and art. Spectacular. Those styles were not yet being reproduced, so Pasolini used the real thing. There is also an interesting use of a Charles Rennie MacIntosh chair…which will alter how you see this design from here on out.

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122 out of 149 people found the following review useful:

A film of true power.

Author: Ky-D from Hawaii, USA
26 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Given the depraved nature of this film, a 10 rating may seem a touch high. To be certain, the film has it's share of disgusting moments, yet those are not the core of the film. The central soul of this movie is the over-riding sense of hopelessness. I would call it Schiendler's List's evil little brother. But where as Spielbergs film was about the triumph of the human spirit under horrible conditions, Paolini's vision looks at the bottomless depths that the human creature can fall.

Set during Fascist era Italy, a group of wealthy party members gather up a collection of young men and women to use as entertainment. Taking advice from an aging former madam, they re-enact her most debauched stories of perversion in an amplified manner. Things move in a down-ward spiral until the inevitable breaking point: a girl is caught breaking the rules of behavior and in an effort to lighten her punishment, turns in another rule-breaker, who in turn does the same and so on and such forth.

Despite the films reputation, it isn't particularly graphic. While there is an abundance of nudity there is little of no "normal" sex. There are some scenes of bloody violence, but those happen mostly near the end. What makes this film so disturbing isn't what you see so much as what you feel. There is no hope for these poor people, neither the Facists nor their prisoners; every one is doomed to madness or death. The final shot of the movie is really the most uncomfortable of the whole film, yet it is so mundane, just a simple shot of two boys practicing dancing and asking each other about their girlfriends. To understand why that is so unnerving, you have to see it in context.

This is definitely not a film for everyone, or even most people. I consider myself pretty jaded to disturbing cinema and I still walked away with an uneasy feeling, akin to losing all faith in humanity. There is nothing cheesy nor fun about the happenings here.

A film I am glad to have seen once, but hope to never watch again.


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95 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

A Film of Rage and Sadness

Author: BackFire83 from United States
29 May 2007

Salo, the final film by Pasolini, is far and away the most affecting film I've ever seen of it's type. The images that it shows will stay with every viewer forever, they are unforgettable. Yet, you will wish you could forget them.

The film is about a group of rich Fascists during WWII-Nazi Occupied Italy, where they kidnap a group of 18 youngsters, allowing only physically perfect specimins to stay, and subject them to various forms of mental, physical and sexual torture over the next 120 Days. The torture starts off in a sexual nature--Sodomy, rape, humiliation and so on-- and slowly degrades and descends into mental and physical torture. Just when you think what you are seeing can't get worse, it does, ten-fold.

What makes Salo so brutally shocking and disturbing is its uncompromised and blunt way of showing the acts of horror. It is a very quiet and slow film, mostly shot using static and still cameras, it feels more like a documentary than a fictional film. It's clear upon viewing, that Pasolini wanted to remind us all that violence should not be entertainment. As such, every act of violence and degredation is drained of all its possible energy and excitement, and shown in a sad, painful light. Nothing is sugar coated, nothing is softened. This film is an attack on our desensitized feelings towards violence. Yet, at the same time, the film purposely desensitizes us to certain acts -- Such as rape. We see it so much during the film that it becomes "normality" to us, we barely raise an eyebrow. Upon realizing this, one also realizes how the horrible acts shown in the film are possible, and it's a terrible realization.

Salo continues to descend until at the end, when we are taken to the punishing grounds, where various rule breakers are tortured and murdered. This final sequence is the most harrowing and effective I've ever seen in a film. As the victims are tortured and murdered, each one of the fascist rulers take turns as voyer, watching from a second story window, far enough away to not hear the screams of terror and pain. And we watch with him. The film attempts to equate our viewing of this film to their viewing of the executions, after all, we're watching these acts for "entertainment", just as he is. And we distance ourselves from the acts in order to enjoy them, as he does by watching through binoculars far away. It's a savage and truthful attack, one that is impossible to deny.

Also incredibly unsettling is the inherent joy that the villains (Heroes?) feel at their victims pain, sadness and discomfort. Sometimes even to the point of sexual arousal. There is a scene where a girl is crying because her mother died trying to save her from these people. She is completely naked as she weeps, to us, she's the picture of vulnerability and sadness, to the fascists, it's the most exciting thing they've seen all day. The fascists all stand and watch her weep with the utmost sexualexcitement. It is terrifying. It's scenes like these that set Salo apart from other "gross out" movies. Some of the most affecting and frightening scenes are ones where there is quiet, watching the expressions and reactions of people to the various horrible acts.

Salo is a film of rage and sadness. It is a film that asks you to hate humanity, to hate what we're capable of; to look in the mirror and hate yourself. Then weep because nothing can be done about it. Nothing will ever change..

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148 out of 223 people found the following review useful:

Salo is now, Gladio is real

Author: Matthew Janovic ( from United States
25 December 2005

So you say you've seen nearly-every major Italian-giallo? You've seen Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Michele Soavi, and even all the "classics" of Italian-film? Leone, Fellini, DeSicca, Bertolucci, Martino, and even most of the "world-classics"? By this point, you've probably seen-it-all, and you think there is no film that will shock you? If you haven't seen Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salo", you are wrong. Pasolini didn't even live to see the film widely-released--he was murdered by a male-hustler (or so the official-story plays). Pier Pasolini was the most-important post-war intellectual in Italy, period. Like a Renaissance polymath, he was adept at journalism, the novel, poetry, screen writing, directing motion-pictures, and more. His revolutionary-philosophy was against fascism and communism, and he had many enemies in the political-arena, as well as the religious. All-said, however, it's likely that Pier Pasolini was murdered by a right-wing assassination-team under the aegis of "gladio", a NATO program of secret-armies through Western Europe. Gladio began, ostensibly, as a defense-against a hypothetical Soviet-invasion of Europe, but was used to attack legitimate Leftist political-parties and groups. The Red Brigade bombings in the 1970s were even instigated-by gladio-operatives to justify a law-and-order crackdown of the Italian Communist Party--it is a mystery as to how-much CIA-influence this all had. The P-2 conspiracy (oddly, involving the Vatican, the CIA, KGB, and renegade Freemasons!) had yet-to-break. There were dozens of politically-motivated killings in 1970s-Italy, and Pasolini's was one-of-many. One has to wonder how-much involvement the Vatican had in his murder, as well.

And so, "Salo" enters this bloody-fray. It could not be any more controversial on all-fronts, and is a shout-of-rage against how little we all care about human-life itself. Pasolini was outraged and disappointed with the human-condition, and Italian politics had become chaos--leading Sergio Leone to remark at the time that, "Italian politics have become ridiculous." The scenario of Salo is fairly-simple: a group of Italian-fascists retreat to a palace in Northern Italy (where there was a great-deal of support for Italian fascism and the Monarch) with a group of sixteen boys and girls. It is the short-lived Republic of Salo, hence the title that any Italian of the 1970s would recognize. For 120-days, they degrade them in almost every-imaginable-way. Gay-rape, buggery, forcing people to eat-excrement, and finally, death. Of course, it's all based-loosely on DeSade's tale and stays pretty-closely to the text's themes and scenarios. He "chapters" each section with some of the structure of Dante's "Inferno", which is genius. To say this film is merely a statement on fascism would be wrong, it is a manifesto on what cruelty rests within all human-hearts. Pasolini understood that, under the right-circumstances, we are all capable of these depredations. Some reviewers have stated they didn't find the film shocking--they should check-themselves into a clinic somewhere. I've noticed that even friends who are into such directors as Takashi Miike, respect the power of this film. Miike has some similarities-in-style with Pasolini, but goes for a more genre, stylized-look. Even John Waters lists this film as sicker than his worst-offenders! To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

Besides being pretty sick, this film looks pretty-good. The late Tonnino Colli's (who also worked-for Fellini and Leone) photography lends the film a look that could be hung in the Louvre, and it gives the film a greater subversive-edge. It should be noted that the film is not "legitimately-available" in the United State for copyright reasons. However, there are very-good copies out-there since it is not in-print. I found one that is an exact-duplicate of the original US-edition for a decent-price, so it is out there, with some searching. The Criterion edition is reportedly the most-expensive DVD in the world, going for as-much as $600.00 USD. Criterion's is the best-transfer we have to-date. I've got a few Ken Russell DVDs ("Salome's Last Dance")that are worth as-much as $300.00 USD, so this is a shocker! It's funny to see used DVDs of the big Hollywood-fare at $3.99 USD, while these are in-the-hundreds! It says-a-lot about what is lasting and meaningful to people, and it ain't blockbuster movies. A company called "Water Bearer" has sets of Pasolini's other works, but I have it on good-word that they are inferior-quality. It would be nice if Criterion did a Pasolini Box that included a newer-transfer of "Salo" with restoration. It is one of the most-important films ever made. We all stand-accused, even the filmmaker, and that's the point. Be warned: not for children or adults who fear soul-searing, raw-existentialism.

NOTE: The "ass-judging-scene" is similar to photos of the "flesh-pyramid" at Abu-Ghraib.

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122 out of 172 people found the following review useful:

Fascism via De Sade

Author: Ponyboy Curtis from United States
22 November 2005

I'm going to keep this short. If you want to see Salo simply to see what all the hype is about, keep your $600. Or rent it. If you can find it. I happen to own the Criterion release that is now being ripped and sold on Ebay for $400-600 bucks. Is it worth it? No. Is any film? No. Is it an excellent film? Absolutely.

Try not to think of Pasolini's masterpiece as a shock-for-shock's sake project and you'll truly understand the horror that is Salo. While the depiction of violence, sodomy, corpophagia, eye-gouging, scalping, nipple burning with candles, etc. etc. is horrific it is Pasolini's treatment of the boys and girls that is much more horrifying.

The monsters that occupy this small space of two hours, the fascists, are more human that their victims. We are given no insight into the lives of these children, while we are shown at great length the heads of state personal histories and sadistic proclivities.

Salo has stood the test of time because of it's unflinching portrayal of human violence and idealism, and the fact that, as the Criterion collection states: "Moral redemption may be nothing but a myth." Be warned: for many, Salo is a film not easily shaken off after a single viewing.

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162 out of 261 people found the following review useful:

This film is a political act. Don't buy the lies.

Author: Mattydee74 from Sydney, Australia
29 May 2001

It is pointless, insulting, and redundant to buy into the defence/condemnation dynamic that Pier Paolo Pasolini's testament so snidely provokes and invites. In making what will remain one of the darkest and most vicious films ever made, Pasolini's bleak vision at the time of this films production in 1975 wanted to make the point that we are not free. We are limited by social restraints and political conditioning which makes us no better than the victims in this powerful, shattering cinema experience. That Pasolini was murdered by a male hustler in JFK-worthy circumstances - before he had time to utterly complete and polish the film - is an apt reminder of the forces of censorship and their merciless, cruel satisfaction in maintaining blank and reprehensible silences.

I refuse to join in the disinfecting and antiseptic treatments that people calling themselves supporters have applied to this film. There are moments of eroticism, beauty and even dark humour in this film and those who seek to castrate and deny Pasolini his humanity and complexity by pretending otherwise are naive if not duplicitous with those who placed this film in the category of "banned" in Australia. To deny Pasolini the distinction of having created a multiple, difficult film with various levels of engagement is to reduce his profound legacy.

Pasolini made this film to make people think hard and harshly and to contemplate themselves. The darkness of the cinema is part of that indictment and denying Pasolini this space for his film is pure evil. He was a disgusted and angry man and this film shares the passions, disapointments and loves of Pasolini. He wanted to change things. To help people. To provoke and make us ponder and contemplate ideas and arguments. That some will not is no revelation. But this is not some far off distant story - Salo is a political electric shock treatment as relevant today and tommorrow as upon its initial release (or non-release as may be the case). Its his most lavish and grand film and also his most personal. Throughout the film we are reminded that this microcosm of society implicates us - our surveillance of the events in this film is an act of violence and violation. Words are weapons wielded by the Duke and his merry bandits as they systematically annihilate the young people under their pointless control.

Pasolini is throwing Salo at us with the pride and courage of a protestor throwing excrement at a politician. This film is a political act. Australia is as dangerous a country as those demonised "foreign" countries with more extreme , exploitable examples of political censorship. Thankfully this film is available in Australia from certain sources but it remains denied its rightful place in the cinema theatre and general, legal release. But at least it can still be seen. The resistance continues. Like the young man who raises his arm in salute against his captors in Salo in the most dire and deadly circumstances. I do the same to Pasolini in less deadly but no less dire circumstance. To one of our greatest modern philosophers and visionaries, Pier Paolo Pasolini, we should be truly thankful.

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