Nazi-Fascist Northern Italy, 1943-44. Four senior members of government, aided by henchmen and Nazi soldiers, kidnap a group of young men and women. They hold them for 120 days, subjecting them to all manner of torture, perversion and degradation.Written by
Essential Bibliography: Roland Barthes: 'Sade, Fourier, Loyola' (Editions du Seuil); Maurice Blanchot: "Lautréamont et Sade' (Editions de Minuit; in Italy Dedalo Libri); Simone de Beauvoir: 'Faut-il brûler Sade' (Editions Gaimard); Pierre Klossowski: 'Sade mon prochain, le philosophe scélérat' (Editions du Seuil; in Italy SugarCo Edizioni); Philippe Sollers: 'L'écriture et l'experience des limites' (Editions du Seuil) See more »
Reviews from the original theatrical release mention scenes not present in any currently existant cut of the film. One of these is of a young girl stripped nude with hungry rats tied around her genitals; a production photo of this scene serves as the background for one of the menu screens of the Criterion DVD. See more »
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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