Pier Paolo Paosolini cult masterpiece “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom”
Salò: A Necessary Evil
The 60’s and 70’s were prodigal in experimental European cinema that touched, and not just slightly, new grounds of controversy, that lead to censorship. Many of those movies later turned into a genre that we call “cult”, a highly regarded status for cinema fans and movies itself. Based on Marquis De Sade 1785 written novel “The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinage” and directed by acclaimed Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” is one of those movies, and do we call it now a “cult movie” because it didn’t really had a genre to associate with in first place? Drama can be found there, and so is eroticism, history, porn and even horror, all culminating in tragedy. It is not an easy movie to digest, and hasn’t get any easier over the years, maybe even less than it was before, it is violent physically and psychologically, that leaves absolutely no one indifferent, and needs to be watched with an open mind. Some years ago “A Serbian Film” left audiences shocked and was considered to be part of a new shock cinema, but it’s whole story line made it somehow easier to watch it because audiences knew what was coming as they watched the story developing. It lead to a moment that everyone was expecting even if as shocking as it was. Major difference between “A Serbian Film” and “Salò” is that you don’t know where the movie leads you, there is an idea, there are suppositions but somehow you keep roughing to not go that way because it’s too much. It can be regarded as part of a trilogy that includes 1969 Fellini’s “Satyricon” and 1979 Tino Brass’s “Caligula”, caught perfectly in the middle is “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom”, all tales of debauchery, tragedy about the human condition put in film during a golden era of new cinema that escaped the gates of conventional.
The Circles of Human Condition
“Salò” takes place during the Second World War in Italy, then a fascist regime similar to the Nazi one in Germany. A group of libertines,four powerful wealthy men that are The Duke performed by Paolo Bonacelli, The Bishop, performed by Giorgio Cataldi, The Magistrate performed by Umberto Paolo Quintavalle and The President performed by Aldo Valletti picks a group of young teenage boys and girls, 9 of each, mostly war orphans, to stay in a house guarded by military soldiers for 120 days. Together with them will be other people such as a four middle age prostitutes, that through out the movie tell in a theatrical fashion their sordid, depraved sexual life story tales to the libertines and teenagers on a beautiful background of piano classical pieces played by one of the women. The sordid tales are only the tip of the iceberg for the twisted intentions of the 4 men, which are really to test and experience the limits of depravity, evil and how low can a human being be for satisfying their sexual lust and fantasies to a culminating final act. There are three acts to be “performed”, The Circle of Manias, The Circle of Shit and The Circle of Blood, and all are carefully put in scene with every detail by the libertines.
A Slap In The Face
To talk about “Salo” in 2017 it’s as controversial, risky and sensitive as always has been, you just have to find the right words to describe your feelings about the movie without running the risk of being misunderstood in a world that has now been exposed daily to so much more than back in 1975. Starting by the simple and obvious, it is beautifully shot in location, the main cast acting is superior, it was the final movie that Pasolini completed, he was murdered just shortly before it’s release, a murder that remains also a mystery, one of the theories is that he went alone to rescue some of the film that had been stolen by the Italian mafia.
Pasolini didn’t had the time, years, to reflect on the finished movie and through out the decades it has been subject of speculation on what the real message behind it is. From a cinematic experience, as I saw “Salò” I was fascinated by some things, the beautiful location, including the insides of the old house, the rawness that transpires from the cast nudity, the prostitutes tales that forwards you to our days of internet pornography, meaning that,is now actual possible to assist literally to some of the sexual acts and fetishes that they describe in their tales and just by one click away, but how they describe it just by words is more intriguing and mind triggering than any rough pornography you’ll ever watch,Pasolini challenges on purpose the viewers by using a explicitly very young cast as the libertine’s sexual slaves and it makes you feel uncomfortable at first, however, it is a necessary evil for the movie to reach it’s potential and goal. One of the messages might very well be that inside of us there is a darkness that we find it hard to live with, or to admit it, Pasolini triggers it, he wants us to face these sides of life we keep running away from, we can giggle or laugh about one or two moments during the movie, not because it’s comical but because of the ridicule, and people always loved to laugh about the ridicule, however, immediately the ridicule turns into horror and tragedy and it’s no longer funny, it’s something we regret having laughed at, and that is when Pasolini slaps us in the face.
“Salò” it’s a movie essential to be watched, it’s part of the cinema history, a milestone that is now highly regarded by some, and still considered to be a piece of trash by others. Watch it with an open mind and don’t be afraid of what you will see or feel, let the movie trigger feelings on you, being of hate or love.
Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti, Caterina Boratto, Elsa De Giorgi, Hélène Surgère, Sonia Saviange, Franco Merli
Watch the trailer for “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” bellow. NSF.
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