Anyhow, I have always thought of Salo as, formally at least, the final piece in a quadrology of "Tales" films, hence my interest in the whores' narrative scenes. I still however find this complete u-turn into apparent nihilism jarring, as though Pasolini had completely lost all faith in previous political and social analysis.
That is something I find very interesting comparing the three earlier films with Salo. You might expect a visualisation of the tales as in the previous three films, but in Salo you are trapped in the room with the narrators and the audience. It is very stark, as if those listening cannot disengage from their present environment to visualise the stories, there is no escape into fantasy for the victims and the torturers are listening but using the stories to heighten their sexual urges and are attracted by their power over those in the room perhaps shown by one of the men taking a victim off for sex during one of the stories.
I guess this ties in with the pianist jumping out of the window while the camera watches from inside, witnessing her 'escape', and also how we are literally distanced from the final torture scene. We are the characters watching, and as an audience we get a similar scene to the storytelling, although in this case it is images without words, rather than words without the images. We now have the radio instead of the pianist accompanying the images (perhaps suggesting the mechanistic way the torture is being carried out compared to the lusty stories of humiliation seemingly for the pleasure of both parties that occur in the storytelling scenes).
It is true that Pasolini was trying to show us the adage "power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely", but it doesn't stop there. There are some people out there, who really think that eating faeces is an erotic thing. And the four evil men in the film did not only force that down to the slaves, but they do it themselves, even enjoying it.
I think this is an interesting interpretation, but I would agree with dvdane that I think the main emphasis is on seeing the four men as representatives of aspects of society - law, religion etc as suggested by the way they address each other when they are marrying each other's daughters "Your Excellency", "Minister" etc - rather than as individuals.
Although the individual interpretation is quite interesting. Those in charge and telling the stories undoubtedly find re-enacting some of the events personally exciting and force the victims to enter their fantasies with them. If we think of it as a metaphor for society it opens up ideas of how we are dictated to based on the wants and needs of societal groups, and how individuals are, in a way, made to want what society tells them they want to have, or to aspire to be, rather than deciding freely for themselves. How much are we slaves to the pleasures of society, and those representatives of society, thereby doing things we may not wish to simply for dutiful "the good of Queen and Country"-type reasons? We may not be conciously aware of some of the reasons why societal groups force certain choices upon us, whether through law, religious ritual, peer groups etc, and I think one of the lessons I've taken away from the film through thinking it through is to always question why
something has to be done the way it does. Why, simply because it is something that has existed for a long time, that many people have adhered to, it should be respected without question. A questioning of why something is, is something that is lacking in the victims throughout, but especially as they are being captured at the beginning of the film - the victims seem to feel sad at leaving their families and some attempt to run away, but there is an acceptance there as well, such as the goodbyes of one young man to his friends or the mother giving her son a scarf. I get the impression that when hardly any of the victims return, the families of those who died would be grief-stricken, but accept it as something that had to happen, which is why I kind of think of it as similar to a 'going off to war' situation. Society has killed their children, and as they are part of the society, they accept it as necessary, because they do not know or prevent themselves from knowing that their children's lives were wasted in some sick game.
He was probably bored of lovey-dovey films like Mary Poppins. Not because it's a bad film, but because having only movies like that would give the impression that we are all behaving nice to each other, and evil does not exist in this world.
I sort of agree with you, but I'm not sure he was bored in particular with happy films, he could perhaps see how a 'popular' film could be used to smuggle in societal messages and values, as mentioned before about the Trilogy of Life spawning spin-offs when they were successful. So Salo is a film that is the antithesis of anything that could be commercially successful enough to be part of the society it condemns (although your mentioning that the sex and violence attracts people suggests that even such an extreme film can perhaps be integrated!)
Another interesting idea is how he might have (deliberately?) sabotaged his own message by making a film people could dismiss as disgusting and unwatchable or badly made, thereby limiting the audience. Or was Pasolini using the name he had after the success of the previous trilogy to make an extreme film that people could not dismiss in a way that they might be able to with a less respected filmmaker? In a way he could be preaching to the converted because only people sympathetic to the ideas (or interested in the sex and violence, or De Sade original) would be interested in seeing it. But it is another interesting layer, is it an immoral film or is it outside the bounds of our cultural morality because it is a rejection of society as corrupt? Then again, it is a commercial film that people have to pay to see!