Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Film: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (14/250)
Critics Poll: 202nd
Directors Poll: 75th
First Time/Rewatch: First time (and ONLY time, goddamn)

Mark Twain is supposed to have said “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Pasolini's Salò was my frog. I had to get it over with. We've actually owned this one forever, with Craig jokingly suggesting we watch it every time we were stumped on what to watch that particular evening. "HA!" I said. "I'm never watching that." So when I decided to take on this challenge, I was excited about all the great films I was about to watch. I was copying the list into my phone, delighted with all the titles of films I had always meant to see but hadn't gotten around to. And then there it was. Salò. Goddammit! It was haunting me. I needed to just bite the bullet and do it. With everything I'd heard about it, I half expected it to look like the end of The Blair Witch Project, all black and white and grainy and torture-y. The film started, with a jaunty upbeat score over the opening credits. Was I watching the right movie? Once it got going, oh yes, this was definitely the film I've been avoiding all these years. However, I was surprised with how well this was shot, despite the completely depraved subject matter. This is my first Pasolini film, so I didn't know what to expect. It had a Kubrickian quality to it...the framing felt very deliberate, and even when completely horrible things were happening onscreen, it was compelling all the same. Now, about those horrible things...I can't in good conscience actually recommend this film to anyone. I wish I hadn't seen the rape, nail-eating, human waste eating, scalpings, tongue-cutting, eye-gouging, hanging, genital burning, and all the other awful things I wish I could unsee that happen in this movie. But I survived, and I think I need a freaking shirt or something. Thanks a LOT, Sight & Sound people!

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