Monday, November 16, 2015

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

On 11/12/2015 Craig got to introduce a screening of this film at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana. Here's what he said.
Movies like this are both easy and difficult to discuss. They're easy in that there is an unending amount of fertile topics to explore. They're difficult in that by limiting yourself to one or two, you are inevitably leaving dozens more un-addressed. When The Criterion Collection put this film out on home video a few years back, rather than the traditional single essay for the booklet, they included six different essays and the topic overlap was next to nil. But I'm sure even that tactic left some stones un-turned.

Understandably, the two most popular topics of discussion after a Salò screening are politics and censorship. When the film in question is based on the Marquis de Sade's most notorious work and it features promising young boys and girls being tortured by fascists, how can you possibly avoid those topics? But my personal favorite angle on this film is less intellectual and more emotional in nature.

Though he does not appear in Salò, the presence of actor Ninetto Davoli can still be felt in every frame. This is because in addition to appearing in seven of Pasolini's films, Davoli was also the director's "long term companion" for nearly a decade. So of course Pier Paolo chose to tackle a story about torture as his first film after Ninetto left him and married a woman. Suddenly, the filmmaker who had just completed a joyously perverse trilogy about all the impulses and bodily functions which unite us as human beings, was gone. Pasolini was no longer interested in life. In his own words he wanted to make a film, "about death".

In pop music, there's this great tradition of albums made after a breakup. Albums like Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Beck's Sea Change are so raw with emotion that listeners cannot help but empathize. If we were to generate a similar canon of great breakup films, Salò would certainly place at or near the top. As revolting as many of the images in this film are, I cannot help but ache for the wounded heart that was compelled to put them on celluloid.

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