Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) Poster


The bibliography given on the opening title is: Roland Barthes, "Sade, Fourier, Loyola" (1971); Maurice Blanchot, "Lautréamont et Sade" (1949); Pierre Klossowski, "Sade, mon prochain" (1947); Philippe Sollers, "L'écriture et l'experience del limites" (1968); Simone de Beauvoir, "Faut-il brûler Sade" (1955).
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Despite the grim subject throughout the film, in an interview on the second disc of the Criterion Collection box set, actress Hélène Surgère claimed the mood was actually rather jovial on the set and that none of the teenage actors were actually harmed or traumatized. She said the abundance of teenagers who had never acted before led the mood to be happy and at times, even fun, with the cast often playing practical jokes on each other. She also said that the movie was literally "made" in the editing room and the filmmakers had no idea how grim a movie it was until they saw the finished product at the premiere.
Salo is a town in northern Italy which Benito Mussolini's Fascist government effectively made their capital from 1943 until they fell from power in 1945. The place had particular relevance for Pier Paolo Pasolini because his brother was killed there.
Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered before the film's release. A 17 year-old hustler, Giuseppe "Pino" Pelosi, was arrested when he was found with Pasolini's car. He admitted running over Pasolini several times with the car after an argument, and end up convicted of the crime. Many years later, he denied participating in it, claiming that three mysterious men were involved. The case remains unsolved.
When the movie premiered in West Germany in February 1976 it was confiscated by the state attorney in order to ban it. The district court of Stuttgart classified it as pornographic and violence-praising. A few days later, though, that ruling was reversed and the film was allowed to be distributed nationwide.
Roger Ebert owned the film on LaserDisc for years after the film's release, but never watched it because he was intimidated by the graphic content. He supposedly died without ever watching it.
Unsure how to bring his film to a proper conclusion, Pier Paolo Pasolini shot 4 different endings.
The film had an extremely limited release worldwide, and was banned in many countries. It got a wide release in Sweden in 1976, and sold 125,000 tickets, meaning 1.5% of all Swedes saw the movie. It also grossed more than The Omen.
Ennio Morricone, who composed the jazzy soundtrack, said he was very uncomfortable watching the movie. He only agreed to score the film due to being friends with Pasolini.
An attempt by Sky TV to televise the full uncut version in 1991 was vetoed by the BBFC. It thus became the only film to be rejected for TV screening amongst the works submitted by Sky.
First part of Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Trilogy of Death". The subsequent two parts were never filmed because Pasolini was murdered a few months after he had finished this movie. The trilogy was intended to complement the previous "Trilogy of Life", including The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974).
"Salò", in the title, refers to a town in Lake Garda where the film is set. Italians think of Salò as a reminder of the horrors of Benito Mussolini and his fascist regime.
Even now, some 40 years after its release, the film remains banned in some countries.
One of the favorite films of Austrian director Michael Haneke. John Waters is also a fan.
The notorious scene where a young woman is forced to eat excrement was intended by Pier Paolo Pasolini as a metaphor for consumer capitalism and the rise of the junk food culture.
The British Board of Film Classification rejected the film in 1975, making it technically illegal to show in the UK. When an arthouse cinema in London showed it, the film was confiscated in a police raid. In 2000, the BBFC revised its opinion and gave it an "18" certificate, for adults only.
When Pier Paolo Pasolini was asked who is the film's audience, he said, "It's for everyone. For people like me."
The story is divided in an "Antinferno" (Hell's vestibule) and three "Gironi" (Hell's circles). This structure is a reference to Dante Alighieri's "Inferno".
The film only earned proper censorship approval from the Australian authorities in 2010.
The original August 1998 Criterion Collection DVD was removed from the market due to copyright problems, allegedly concerning a dispute with Pier Paolo Pasolini's estate. This version of the DVD with the "white ring" around the spindle hole was known to sell for $600 (US) or more in good or new condition during the early 2000s. This makes it one of, if not the most, valuable DVDs in the world. However, selling prices on eBay as of 2013 are greatly reduced, due to Criterion re-releasing the film in new DVD and Blu-Ray editions. Bootlegs are still common due to the original printing's value, and research should be done before purchasing.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Several books are quoted throughout the movie, including Friedrich Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morality" (1887), Ezra Pound's "Cantos" (1922-1962), Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" (1913-1927), and a poem by Gottfried Benn.
The song sung at the meal is "Sul ponte di Perati" ("On the Bridge of Perati"). This is an Italian Second World War song, based on a First World War song ("Sul ponte di Bassano"). It commemorates a battle involving the 3rd Alpini Division Julia, of Italy's alpine mountain infantry corps. It commemorates the major battle at the Perati Bridge between Greece and Albania, involving Greek and Italian troops.
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In 1994, an undercover police officer in Cincinnati, Ohio, rented the film from a local gay bookstore, then later arrested the owners for "pandering". A large group of scholars and artists, including Martin Scorsese and Alec Baldwin, signed a legal brief arguing the film's artistic merit. The court dismissed the case because the police violated the owners' Fourth Amendment rights, without addressing the question of whether the film was obscene.
One of the top ten favorite films of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
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In at least three scenes, when the four "villains" enter a room, they walk over a beam of light that's coming from outside.
Maurizio Costanzo worked on an early version of the script.
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Pupi Avati made some uncredited contributions to the script.
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Screened at Locarno International Film Festival in 1976 in the "Programme principal / Longs métrages Hors compétition" section. It won the International Critics Special Award.
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One of actor David Cross' favorite movies
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The opening title include an "essential bibliography" compiled by director Pier Paolo Pasolini: -Roland Barthes. "Sade/Fourier/Loyola," 1971. Trans. Richard Miller. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; -Maurice Blanchot. "Lautréamont and Sade," 1949. Trans. Stuart Kendell and Michelle Kendell. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2004; -Simone de Beauvoir. "Must We Burn Sade?" 1955. Trans. Annette Michelson, in "The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings". New York, New York: Grove Press, 1966; -Pierre Klossowski. "Sade my Neighbor," 1950. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1991; -Philippe Sollers. "Writing and the Experience of Limits," 1971. Trans. and eds. Philip Bernard and David Hayman. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The "excrement" in the coprophagia scenes was a mixture of chocolate, orange marmalade, and some other clashing ingredients. The disgusted reactions were real.
The Japanese Region 2 DVD, released in 2002, contains several production photos not seen in any version of the film, including a girl strapped into an electric chair (presumably during the final scene), and the victims' bodies arranged in two rows, some covered with sheets, in the courtyard.

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