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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2005 8:39 am 
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Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

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Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious final film, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been called nauseating, shocking, depraved, pornographic . . . it’s also a masterpiece. The controversial poet, novelist, and filmmaker’s transposition of the Marquis de Sade’s 18th-century opus of torture and degradation to 1944 Fascist Italy remains one of the most passionately debated films of all time, a thought-provoking inquiry into the political, social, and sexual dynamics that define the world we live in.

SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET:

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Salò: Yesterday and Today, a 33-minute documentary featuring interviews with director Pier Paolo Pasolini, actor-filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette, and Pasolini friend Nineto Davoli
- Fade to Black, a 23-minute documentary featuring directors Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, and John Maybury, as well as scholar David Forgacs
- The End of "Salò", a 40-minute documentary about the film’s production
- New interviews with set designer Dante Ferretti and director and film scholar Jean-Pierre Gorin
- Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by Neil Bartlett, Catherine Breillat, Naomi Greene, Sam Rohdie, Roberto Chiesi, and Gary Indiana, and excerpts from Gideon Bachmann’s on-set diary

Original DVD:
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New DVD:
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 8:07 am 

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colinr0380 wrote:
My previous post from the old forum:

One of the disturbing things about the final torture sequence was how much the guards seemed involved. The holding down and performing of some of the acts of torture. Is it just following orders or actively participating? How far will 'normal' people go when a society creates the conditions (or rules) in which they are free to, encouraged (or forced?) to accept the values of the society which they are now part of? How culpable are people who do no wrong themselves but allow these actions to go on in their midst? Perhaps the relatively passive way of how some of the victims are taken away at the beginning of the film reflects how people may 'go with the flow' of the policital events that shape their lives, leaving larger issues to others to decide for them. The mother running after the son (with I think the scarf to put round his neck), reminds me a lot of a kind of 'son going off to war' type scene (although as well there is a certain noose-like feel to the way it is thrown round the boy's neck). The final farewell before being faced with your part in the theatre of war. I felt rather disturbed by the victims being seemingly 'imprisoned without charge'. The society of the Church and Government being able to choose how long they are there - who is allowed to leave and who will die. I found the earlier post about the Ouroboros interesting: "Ouroboros, the mythical snake that is shown eating its own tail to sustain its life. . .This process is symbolic of cyclical nature of existence, the patterns of life and death, creation and destruction, all at once. This is perhaps also symbolic of their lives hanging in the balance; they are constantly forced to decide to either continue the torturous process or to be killed." Could this be similar to the early scene of each of the four marrying each others daughters in describing the inward looking and controlling nature of a totalitarian society - what could be more insular than marrying within your group or eating your excrement? It also adds to the atmosphere of limbo that the events are taking place where little sense of the outside world penetrates, nothing to distract from the planned course of events, nothing to make the torturers aware of how extreme their behaviour is, or to rule of law to punish them for it. They seem to be above what laws there are, since they are representatives of the official bodies that made them. They exist where have no recourse to anyone but themselves. In this sense the film asks the audience to question the rules of society, as rules of law, morality and religion are created by those with the same human frailties as anyone else.

And then perhaps even more degrading than eating faeces is how instead of turning on their captors, the victims turn on each other - revealing petty indiscretions, each adding anothers name to the list marked for death in a vain attempt to save their own lives. Perhaps it is a comment on how people turn on each other or the lesser members of their society when they feel unable to question those above them - and it could be seen as growing from their passive acceptance of the situation in which they find themselves. The victims have internalised the values of their new society.

I think a lot of the power of the film derives not only from its shock value, but also from its being Pasolini's last film. It is one of the most haunting final films that I'm aware of, partly because I cannot see where Pasolini would have gone on in his career. Any future film he made would, whatever the subject, have modified the view with which Salo would have been seen and thereby its impact. Would he have made more humanistic work dealing with the problems he raises in Salo, or would he have stayed pessimistic? This truly is a 'final' film in so many respects it seems appropriately nihilistic that Pasolini's career ended with it.

I get the feeling that someone with a background in Sociology would be able to understand and appreciate this film in a much deeper and more logical way than me, and this kind of reading on a commentary track as well as a discussion of Pasolini's career and reaction to the film are things that are sorely missing from the current DVD releases (including the OOP Criterion). Some films can be spoiled by too concrete an interpretation being placed on them, but in the case of Salo, a commentary or documentary would prevent it simply being dismissed as violent porn and force consideration of the issues around it. However, I think it was good that Pasolini left it open to a 'violent porn' interpretation, letting the viewer make up their own mind about the film and their reaction to it. I think once having seen it, it is impossible not to think of it in relation to any number of real life events in the "state hegemony vs individual" mould such as Milosevic, Guantanamo Bay, the "disappeared" in Argentina, Mugabe, Abu Ghraib, the Israel-Palestine issue, even the idea of state getting more involved in privacy of the individual.

For those of you in New York jonesing to see Salo on the big screen, it's showing at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens tomorrow. Showtimes are 2 and 430, and it will be introduced by Nathan Lee, "fearless chief film critic of The New York Sun."


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 8:30 am 
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I was wondering if anyone could provide more information on Pasolini's 'trilogy of life' of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974). It does seem like Salo should be seen in context with these films as it is both another literary adaptation and also seems to be a reaction against the previous trilogy. In the Senses of Cinema article In the Extreme: Pasolini's Salo there is an interesting discussion of the differences:

Quote:
As a filmmaker, like Rossellini, Pasolini started off in contemporary neo-realist mode, then went satirical, then ethnographic (both made trips to India), before settling on a historical mode. For Rossellini, this meant studies of important historical figures (Louis XIV, Descartes, Pascal, etc.). Pasolini adapted a couple of Greek tragedies, and then made his commercially-successful La trilogia della vita (The Trilogy of Life) comprising Il Decamerone (The Decameron, 1971), I racconti di Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales, 1972) and Il fiore delle mille e una notte (Arabian Nights, 1974). This Trilogy is full of a thousand and one stories, and it is so different to the rest of Pasolini's work: excessive, rich, funny, joyful, fast, casual.

Sal� too is structured around the notion of 'stories', but, in this case, the telling of them, not the blissful cinematic realisation of them. (If Pasolini had attempted such, the film wouldn't've made production stage, let alone banning stage.) Thus, even this age-old human device of using stories as life-enriching tonics is subverted by Pasolini in Sal�. So familiar with the power and life-energy of 'stories', because of his Trilogy, Pasolini gave this power its negative or inverse coefficient in Sal�, simply because he knew that evil, too, feeds off stories.

But it is crucial that it is the telling of stories that exists in the film, and not their realisation. This is the ghostly side of stories - that they are told after the event. It ties in with the way the word 'fantasy' sometimes connotes a negative state. The Masters in Sal� in fact need stories because they are dead. They have transgressed humanity to the point where they're out of touch with their own stories. They are divorced from life.

And there is a very interesting take on Canterbury Tales

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. . .Pasolini would vigorously maintain that, easy as they were on the eye, the films of the Trilogy were, in a sense, the most "ideological" of his career. (1) For the guiding principle of the Trilogy, he claimed, was the celebration of Life in all its physicality and carnality, an exaltation which the films carried out through a sort of carnival of the primitive, desiring human body as it instinctually contested and joyously transgressed the repressive limits imposed by religious and bourgeois morality.

A morality that he shows reigning in urges in Salo, allowing them only for those in positions of power?

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. . .whatever provocation or challenge to bourgeois morality Pasolini may have originally intended in the Trilogy's paean to sexuality and the naked body, was soon effectively neutralised by both the films' overwhelming popularity at the box-office and by the dozens of cheap soft-porn imitations spawned by their success. By 1975, profoundly disillusioned by the realisation of the impossibility of any effective way of resisting the spread of what he called cultural "massification" � and already at work on Sal� o le giornate di Sodoma where the human body far from being "celebrated" is put quite literally on the rack � Pasolini issued a recantation of the Trilogy and of its "ideology." He didn't regret having tried to represent what he believed was the reality of innocent bodies in their most authentic sexual being, he declared, but at this point, given the way in which even explicit depictions of sexuality had become appropriated and integrated into mainstream consumer culture, he had to admit defeat and thus "abjure" his earlier position.

Senses of Cinema also has this article: Salo: 15 Years of Vision

It does seem interesting that a mediation on life and sexuality is followed by an exploration of death and sexuality.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 10:48 am 

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We did a feature on the Trilogy of Life at notcoming.com a while back. You can find it here.

I also wrote a much longer version of this to get into grad school, so if you want more in-depth, academic sources, I can provide those too. Particularly helpful is Patrick Rumble's essay, “Stylistic Contamination in the Trilogia della vita,” in Pier Paolo Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Rumble and Bart Testa, as well as Pasolini's contemporary writings.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 12:25 pm 
A friend of mine came to visit me yesterday evening, and upon seeing the Salo jewel case (Gaumont version) he got very curious and wanted to see it right away. Now this dude is not a film buff at all, not even familiar with new releases like Ray or The Aviator, and he had never heard the name of Pasolini. I have to admit, Salo isn't exactly the right film for the uninitiated of Pasolini films, but then again, no other Pasolini film is LOL,

We watched the movie together and he was always going, "Argh, these people are sick" and "Who would make such a film anyway?"

Those are valid questions, and exactly the ones that Pasolini was aiming to get. He really wanted to disgust us and if we feel ready to vomit then he would have done his job well (compare John Waters).

I also told my friend that Pasolini once made "The Gospel of St. Matthew" but he didn't seem to be interested. Which only proves that people are more interested in controversial films than "normal" films.

Nowadays there seem to be a lot of mainstream (meaning not by the porn industry) films made with lots of sex and violence in it for the sake of selling the movie and nothing else. Baise-moi jumps to mind. But fortunately there are also other films that are great and just happen to have sex and violence to make a point, for example Irreversible or films by Takeshi Miike.

In that regard I guess that Pasolini was some kind of a role model for people like Miike and Gaspard Noe, who are working to push the envelope in the indie movie community. And in my book, pushing the envelope is always good.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 1:36 pm 
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I can see talking about Gaspar Noe in relation to Pasolini's Salo. In that regard, Noe, as Pasolini, has some claim that the explicitness of the violence and degradation in their films has some point. But I don't see Miike falling into the same category. Mind you I've only seen the Dead or Alive Trilogy, but judging Miike's work on that, the violence is a cartoon...something akin to Roadrunner and Coyote. Don't get me wrong, I happen to like Dead or Alive (nowithstanding that as films they leave a lot to be desired), but I don't see Miike's work as the basis of any grand project of his similar to what Pasolini or Noe could claim.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 2:21 pm 
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He really wanted to disgust us and if we feel ready to vomit then he would have done his job well

That is a completely wrong approch to both Pasolini and Salo. The purpose of degration is to exemplify a superior class and and a class of slaves, and the reason Pasolini goes to such extremes is to stress that absolute power corrupts absolute.

The perhaps central sequence towards how corrupted the ruling class is, is when they are eating feces, even discussing various types of feces and how to produce it.

When approaching Pasolini, one has to bear in mind, that he is a scholar of semiotics, and constructs his mise-en-scene accordingly. Pasolini and Eco had a long discussion about what Pasolini called Cinemes, which Eco argued wasn't a Phonem, but a semen. What if all comes down to is, that each element presented by Pasolini is a symbol, where the combinations of symbols represent a larger unit, like money on a bed represents prostitution.

It is also wrong to compare both Noe and Miike to Pasolini. Noe is a sensationalist, depending on shock value, and Miike uses violence simply because its cool and fun and extreme, but only a portion of Miike's work is grotesque mangaesque violent, an equal portion is gentle and poetic. But since Miike mainly was marketed to the west thru his most extreme work, casual viewers never realise neither the greatness of Miike nor his gentle side.

It is also wrong to suggest that Breillat belongs to here. She uses the human body and explicit sexual depictions via a sort of lacanian / surreal symbolisme to exemplify her auteur vision and policy.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 3:02 pm 
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That is a completely wrong approch ...

It is also wrong to compare both Noe and Miike to Pasolini ...

It is also wrong to suggest that Breillat belongs to here

You're hilarious. I love it when you take someones opinion or ideas and tell them they're wrong. Genius.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 3:37 pm 
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When it comes to Pasolini, I would defer to Henrik's views. Whether one agrees with what Pasolini was trying to do, or whether or not one agrees that Pasolini in fact succeeded at what he was trying to do, it is indeed factual to say that Pasolini's work is steeped in semiotics. I doubt very much that one can say the same for Noe, or Miike, for that matter.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 4:35 pm 
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I don't really understand what's wrong with comparing Pasolini to Noe and Miike (and Breillat), considering all three depict violence on-screen in their films as a cinematic technique. They may all have different approaches, and it might be wrong to say their methods and objectives are similar just because they all use violence as a technique, but I still think a comparison is valid. I'd have to side with Henrik's view that what they accomplish by using violence is pretty different and divergent, but comparing them is the only way to realize the similarities and differences.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 6:34 pm 
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It's wrong to say that Pasolini only disgusts for the sake of making people feeling sick, because it reduces complex political (also ideological or religious) semiotics to a single lowest denominator, i.e. nauseous emotional response only.

Comparing violence isolated serves no purpose. One must ask, why depict violence, what means does it serves, what does the violence represent and so forth. To compare Pasolini, Miike and Noe, by their use of violence, is only the very first step in approaching them. To stop here and leave it at that, would be the same as to say, that westerns and gangsters films are the same, because in both films they wear hats.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 7:09 pm 
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but i think that's what andre (and probably everyone else) meant and realizes, that it is a beginning point for comparison/discussion.

also, i would assume that umgekehrt was implying that we are supposed to be revolted by what pasolini depicts, not just for what is shown, but also what it means.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:04 pm 
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.

Although I don't know this for sure (and I think it is also hard to corroborate), I think that Pasolini himself might have been involved in this kind of activity, whether passively or actively. And he found this idea fascinating. This is an honest representation of the human being. 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.

Gaspar Noe is probably a sensationalist, but I'm sure Pasolini was fully conscious about the effect his film would have on society. More so in 1976 than now, I would guess. So in that regard, I don't think we could say that he wasn't a sensationalist either.

Just some side comment, it's interesting that someone also mentioned Breillat here. She appeared in a short documentary about Salo with Noe and Claire Denis and Bernard Bonello titled "Enfants de Salo".


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 10:26 pm 
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To consider Salo fully you have also to have some idea of the Sadean discourse in the unfinished manuscript that is "the 120 Days of Sodom." Ironically all of Sade's texts turn on the power of "liberated" individauls such as Justine, Juliette or the "pillars of Society" in the 120 days to carry out the atheist's experiment of freedom from constraint and defiance of nature's tyranny in these texts. Undoubtedly while appreciating the purposes of Sade's texts as revolutionary I am sure Pasolini made Salo for other reasons entirely ,and this is perhaps why I have so much difficulty with it in the context of his work which, while becoming sexually direct in the Tales trilogy largely eschews violence. I am not certain to this day WHY Pasolini made Salo, and for those of us around at the time it was first released and then banned almost everywhere, followed shortly by his murder by a street hustler, thoughts of complete despair (perhaps at the state of mankind) are what always come to mind. The most formally and thematically interesting scenes in Salo for me are the sequences of the Prostitutes telling the tales, entirely verbal scenes, and the suicide of the pianist towards the end.
As for comparison with Noe, I couldn't agree with DVDDane more - he is merely a sensationalist.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 12:17 am 

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flixyflox wrote:
... and this is perhaps why I have so much difficulty with it in the context of his work which, while becoming sexually direct in the Tales trilogy largely eschews violence. I am not certain to this day WHY Pasolini made Salo.... The most formally and thematically interesting scenes in Salo for me are the sequences of the Prostitutes telling the tales, entirely verbal scenes, and the suicide of the pianist towards the end.
As for comparison with Noe, I couldn't agree with DVDDane more - he is merely a sensationalist.

Salò is the complete inversion of the "Trilogy of Life". Whereas the three preceding films assert a view of sexuality (and morality in general) that is expansive, generous and deeply nostalgic (esp. pre-modern), Salò is hermetic, prescriptive. Arabian Nights in particular is about the infinite unfolding of narrative, storytelling as perpetual procreation; Salò is about classification, delimitation and regimentation of appetites. The latter film represents a complete refutation of the themes of the earlier trilogy and, as such, is Pasolini's complete renunciation in his earlier faith in pre-modern, subproletarian innocence.

It's a bit late and I may not be writing this out very clearly, but if you're really puzzled about why Pasolini made Salò (and care enough to find out), his contemporary writings on his last four films are fairly easy to find and quite explicit.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 1:08 am 
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Leo, this is certainly a pesuasive reading of Salo. I had in fact done a lot of academic work on Pasolini during the period 1969 to 1972 speciifcally focussing on the films from Teorema/Porcile/Medea (all sexually transgressive) to the start of the Trilogy (affirmative) I subsequently lost both contact and interest in academic writing about the director after 1974 (for many reasons.)
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. You can happily point me in the direction of more recent writing if you wish.
Finally I could accept Salo as an formal entity in itself with all its intended meanings if it weren't for the preceding three films, not to mention the rest of Pasolini's oeuvre. Indeed I can see why much younger viewers than me are looking at it in the context of 90's "transgressive" cinema although I don't share that view.)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 1:40 am 

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For what it's worth, I have almost no interest in Noe, Breillat, etc. But I think a pretty persuasive argument for the social and political value of shock in Pasolini's film can be found in Gary Indiana's monograph on the film (which I'm sure a number of people are aware of). Elsewhere on this site (though for some reason it's eluding the search engine), I recommended Pier Paolo Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. by Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa (University of Toronto Press) which includes an interesting essay by Rumble on the narrative structures in the Trilogy and concludes with a piece by Pasolini (entitled "Tetis"; probably available elsewhere) which lays out quite fully the director's seeming 180 between the Trilogy and Salò. He contextualizes the Trilogy as a sort of marxist tribute to the "free love" of the sixties: modern society, overrun by consumerism, can only find redemption (revolution) in the body, and so "popular corporality has been the protagonist of my films." Thus "the depictions of the sexual organs in detail and in close-up."

Part of Pasolini's eventual disillusion with the Trilogy stems from a realization of the limitations of its (conscious) idealism of the past and an inability of reclaiming a remote, innocent, pre-modern, pre-capitalist (and in the semiotic model, pre-linguistic) world. But as Pasolini describes in "Tetis", he was also disgusted by the fact that, because his films paved the way for a relaxation of Italy's obscenity laws, a number of low-budget copycat porno films were made (some of which were actually based on Boccaccio, Chaucer, and the Arabian Nights). Pasolini saw these not as celebrations of the body and sexuality like his films, but as commodifications of the body, the ultimate degradation and subsumption of humanity into a capitalist and/or fascist order.

(Sorry to get carried away, but I wrote something on this about a year ago and was just thinking about it again recently.)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:10 am 
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Gary many thanks for such a detailed reply. It's far too late into the night for me to reply but I will PM later.

Most of my studemt days were spent worrying about Pasolini's dialectic. ann then he got murdered!

Christ! I meant to call you Leo!!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 6:22 am 
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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).

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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.

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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!


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colinr0380 wrote:
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!)

Actually, as I went to bed last night with visions of coprophagy dancing in my head, this thought occured to me. Pasolini originally wanted to portray the complete degradation of man in the most shocking ways to really rile up the bourgeoisie. And then twenty years later, Criterion comes along and packages and markets it. Then this little consumer product goes out of print, and dvd collectors fetishize it, paying hundreds of dollars for it. (Meanwhile, shock as an aesthetic device manifests in a range of different contexts, from Bronson to Noe to rape anime). So the final irony of Salò is that it too can be commodified and consumed.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 12:35 pm 
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dvdane wrote:
It's wrong to say that Pasolini only disgusts for the sake of making people feeling sick, because it reduces complex political (also ideological or religious) semiotics to a single lowest denominator, i.e. nauseous emotional response only.

Yes, I agree completely.

dvdane wrote:
Comparing violence isolated serves no purpose.

Well, I think it serves some purpose, although it's fairly limited in its scope of interest. Comparing how the acts of violence are depicted is still important. On the most basic level, is the violence actually on-screen or off-screen, and what is the point of choosing to show, or not show, the act itself. Also, duration of the action is probably important, as well as context within the narrative. The aesthetic choices are also important - is the violence realistic, or actually real, or is it presented in a comical manner. Even if we just isolate the violence itself, it still makes for an interesting comparison. There is definitely a difference between Pvt. Pile blowing his head off in Full Metal Jacket and Jerry hammering Tom's big toe in Tom & Jerry cartoons.

dvdane wrote:
One must ask, why depict violence, what means does it serves, what does the violence represent and so forth.

Agreed, yet again.

dvdane wrote:
To compare Pasolini, Miike and Noe, by their use of violence, is only the very first step in approaching them. To stop here and leave it at that, would be the same as to say, that westerns and gangsters films are the same, because in both films they wear hats.

Exactly. As Ben stated, most of us are simply saying the comparison of violence between films is merely a starting off point in a larger discussion of what is accomplished through the depiction of violence on-screen. By stating that their methods and accomplishments in using violence are different, you have essentially engaged in a comparison. While it's probably not correct to say Pasolini's use of violence is similar to Noe, Miike, and Breillet, we can only arrive at that conclusion by engaging in a comparison of their work. That's why I'm saying it's perfectly valid to compare the use of violence by these artists. However, what one concludes from that comparison can be judged by others as correct or incorrect.


Last edited by Andre Jurieu on Thu Feb 03, 2005 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 4:38 pm 
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This is an interesting discussion. I'd be a bit cautious, however, about attributing the character of his works to Pasolini himself (as in: the Trilogy of Life means he has a generally optimistic view of the world; Salo indicates that he's undergone an about-face). It's hard not to have your impressions of his final film tinged by the fact of his death, but had he lived he may have gone on to make his most upbeat film, for all we know. It's not as if the pessimism of Salo was completely new to Pasolini, either. The degeneration of the family in Teorema may be more playful, but it's rather pitiless; Medea culminates (twice) with an even more brutal family holocaust; and there are few films with endings more downbeat than Porcile.

The Trilogy of Life seems to me so much a self-conscious project for Pasolini (as, in its own way, does Salo), and so driven by intellectual concerns, that it's hard for me to consider any of those films as direct personal expressions. I may be in the minority, but, with the exception of Arabian Nights (which has that dazzling play with nested narratives), I don't rank the Trilogy very highly. It seems to me like a diversion within Pasolini's filmography, and I think Salo, for all its extremity, more directly follows on from the aforementioned films and is a better example of what makes Pasolini such a singular director.

Writing this reminds me how horribly overdue we are for good quality English-subtitled DVDs of the complete works.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:32 pm 
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Zedz I never contributed to the Criterion Mamma Roma thread but this and La Commare Secca are both splendid and exemplary transfers and both major works in his canon (even though the latter is directed by Bertolucci, Pasolini's screenplay resonates very strongly.)
I am inclined to agree with you about the "Trilogy" although I think they are uneven in quality (with Canterbury Tales the least successful.) In no sort of order I would rank most highly Accatone, Mamma Roma, la Ricotta, Edipo Re, Commare Secca and Teorema (although I prefer his "novel" of this adapted from the movie.)
A problem with much of Pasolini's work is its very un-cinematicness (to me he was never a "natural" moviemaker, unlike Fassbinder with whom he shares some thematic concerns) but rather a theoretician and so many of his movies depend on textual or non-filmic references to acquire their full intent. (His writings, poetry and work with Friulian dialect etc in the early days are examples of this.)

A further fascinating reflection is that the last four films (my "quadrology" if you like) were produced and - initially - distributed by Alberto Grmialldi and United Artists internationally. (Salo of course was dropped like a hot potato - I remember when you could only see it in Paris in a battered tattered print through the 70s.) Then some years after Pasolini's death Decameron was I believe the first Pasolini to go to home video (it too was the second movie to be released in Australia after the liberalization of censorhip here in 1971. The first, after being originally banned was Teroema!! - the sight of raincoated audiences waiting in vain for glimpses of flesh in this most chaste of movies was very amusing.)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:59 pm 
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Interesting. Of your favourites only Teorema makes my top five (though I like all of the films you cite a lot, except Commare Secca, which I've yet to see), but then one thing I like about Pasolini is the roughness of his technique. A lot of his edits feel like blows, and the seeming clunkiness with which he films fantastic events and landscapes (he really has a nose for amazing landscapes) makes them more compelling and persuasive for me.

I think you're right about his "uncinematicness" - with his best films, I often feel like he's discovering his cinematic technique, or that his footage is like a found object, dug up from some desolate hillside. At the same time, there's a level of extreme deliberation about the style of many of his films (e.g. the rigid symmetry of the modern, verbal story in Porcile and the dogged asymmetry of the compositions in the all-but-wordless 'ancient' story), and somehow he manages to hold those two aspects in balance. Sometimes it doesn't work, and the result is a shambles like Canterbury Tales, which for much of its length feels like an inept stab at a commercial product, but in The Gospel According to Matthew, the simplicity and roughness of the style (as when the camera is amongst the crowd, jostling to see) gives the proceedings a grounding in reality missing from other lives of Christ.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 1:49 am 
I have to agree with Flixyflox's selection with the exception of MAMA ROMA. I just can't watch it without a feeling that something is not quite right. Is it the fact that Magnani wasn't the correct choice for the lead (as critics and the director himself have stated)? I rank TEOREMA, ACCATONE & EDIPE as essential Pasolini. They are all idiosyncratic masterpieces of cinematic art. One as a neo-Godardian 'essay' on class politics, the next as fictional realism (with subdued politics) and the last as a type of transposed classical adaptation where the resulting film becomes something other than just another telling of an already familiar tale. Adding LA RICOTTA, THE GOSPEL & SALO to one's collection wouldn't hurt either.


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