the films of pier paolo pasolini

salo, or the 120 days of sodom salò o le 120 giornate di sodoma
1975 — 112 minutes, color, aspect ratio 1.85:1 — Drama

Essential Pasolini. Salo, Pasolini's dramatic and stylistic masterpiece, explores the darkest connections between politics, sexuality, and power.
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Review Crew & Cast DVD Pasolini Homepage / GLBT Cinema

Pasolini's final work, Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, is one of the most controversial films ever made, and it remains banned in several countries. But it is the opposite of an exploitation film, let alone prurience: it's a profound exploration of fascism, an ideology that remains sickeningly alive in today's world, and the psychological and socioeconomic conditions that spawn it. Salo is also Pasolini's ultimate work of art and, for reasons I'll share below, one of cinema's masterpieces. The Criterion Collection's new two-disc release is exceptional in every way, from the quality of the transfer, the inclusion of both the original Italian and English dubbed soundtracks, to the wealth of supplemental materials, with several revealing documentaries a book-length collection of essays, and a detailed on-the-set diary kept by a friends of Pasolini's (he even shares the secret recipe for the main course at the impossible-to-forget banquet scene). As demanded by the theme, there is an escalation of horror in this film that many viewers, and I, find viscerally shocking. But the film also offers unique rewards, both as political analysis and cinema. The first Village Voice Critics' Poll, whose 50 participants included Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell, lists it at number 89 among the 100 Best Films of the 20th Century, while Time Out's 2006 book, 1,000 Films That Changed Your Life, ranks it as the most controversial film of all time. Salo is NOT a film meant for all audiences.

ABOUT THIS REVIEW: Although you will not find any lurid images from Salo or graphic language (I draw the arbitrary line at the term "excrement"), there is a no-holds-barred examination of the film and its ideas. I focus first on the picture's major connections with history, literature, philosophy, and cinema, then look at what makes it tick (visual, aural, and kinetic form), and finally speculate about what it might have meant for audiences at the time of its premiere in the mid-'70s, and what significance

it might have for us today (a lot). In an instance of tragic irony, Pasolini was murdered after completing the film but before its polarizing release. Although Pasolini's film is vastly more complex, and rewarding, than its insufferable source, the Marquis de Sade's 1785 novelThe 120 Days of Sodom, both works share the same essential story and characters. Four powerful men, seemingly the pillars of their community — allegorically representing the aristocracy, religion, law, and finance — hole up in a hermetically sealed environment with young captives whom they systematically debauch, then murder. In Sade the locale is the Chateau de Silling, a remote Gothic castle (based on one owned by his family, near Lacoste) perched on a snowy peak in the Black Forest, around the time of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648); in Pasolini it's a lavish villa in the Nazibacked Republic of Salo, headquartered in the northern Italian town of that name, during the Mussolini regime's last gasp in 1944–45. Salo is worthy of serious attention — as opposed to the trash can — for two reasons: Pasolini's aesthetic mastery of cinema, from design to photography, and because it remains film's most rigorous psychological and socioeconomic examination of what makes such self-proclaimed "moral leaders" capable of the most despicable violence. As Pasolini knew, until we understand the nature of such traditional evil, we can never cast it out, or even keep it in check. Before dissecting Salo, let's glance at the major artistic and philosophical traditions behind it, that Pasolini uses to give it form.

You can jump directly to an analysis of the film, or read the following background information, presented in chronological order, that briefly covers — as in whirlwind tour! — Salo's connections to: 1) Pasolini's life and thought, 2) Dante's Inferno, 3) the Marquis de Sade, 4) Buñuel's film L'Âge d'Or, 5) Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, 6) postwar literary theorists on Sade, and 7) violence in cinema, focusing on trends begun in the 1960s. The analysis section will draw on the material introduced here.

to ensnare the populace. but soon his passion for Dante — and the links he saw between Dante and Sade — entered the picture." Pasolini's next flash of inspiration came when he realized that Sade's text could be updated to a time and place of great personal significance: Mussolinii's Salo.Since Salo is arguably Pasolini's greatest film. Pasolini considered Italy's dominant Christian Democrat party to be worse than the fascists. was in failing health. But when the project fell through." how Sade's masochism "reduces the human body to a commodity" (a concept that Pasolini pointedly compares to '70s Italy) and. that Avati may have pointed out. in archival footage in the documentary "Salo: Yesterday and Today. he was helping his friend and frequent actor Sergio Citti. He knew the beautiful pre-Il Duce region first-hand from his youth. that Citti was slated to direct. Salo was produced by Alberto Grimaldi (Fellini Satyricon. whether or not this affected. who played the title roles in Accattoneand Oedipus Rex." how sex can be "a metaphor for the relationship between power and its subjects. Pasolini's imagination had been initially fired up by Baudelaire and Sade connections. Pasolini's Trilogy of Life. In more universal terms. Scorsese's Gangs of New York). it's ironic that at first he was only peripherally involved. and lovin' in. In the mid-1970s. by all accounts a loving and religiously devout woman. Now. Pasolini was primed to explore perhaps the . and in Rome on soundstages at Italy's premiere studio. fundamentally. Pasolini shot the picture in the spring of 1975 both on location outside of Mantua. Personally. Pasolini wanted to explore such interconnected themes as how "sadomasochism is an eternal part of man. the horrific extent of "the anarchy of power." Salo was his way of exposing the bases of both "classical" fascism and latter-day neo-fascism. the artist's worldview can only be conjectured. In other words. Alberto De Stefanis (casting director for The Decameron). and Antonio Girasante. Last Tango in Paris. another friend and uncredited co-writer. the mid'70s were a difficult time for Pasolini since his beloved mother Susanna. inspired Pasolini to make the film himself. But there is no doubt that politically he saw how he could reinterpret the novel to explore themes much on his mind. Mincing no words. Pupi Avati (as he noted in the documentary "The End of Salo"). As Pasolini says. with a screenplay based on Sade's novel. because of how they used the narcotizing power not only of right-wing political and religious indoctrination but of consumerism." that wants to end history and dominate nature. and his beloved younger brother Guido was killed near there in 1945 fighting the Nazis and fascists. and darkened. founded by Mussolini in 1937 as a propaganda factory)." "I gave the screenplay a kind of Dante-esque verticality and order. "children of Mussolini and Coca-Cola. Pasolini saw everywhere (if I may paraphrase a line from his friend Jean-Luc Godard's Masculine Feminine) the debased. Cinecittà (ironically.

Sade's intended finale. holds Satan. all who enter here. a massive three-faced beast imprisoned in ice. but it never quite manages to balance its politicized themes and too-convoluted form — while Salo shows Pasolini at the height of his genius on every level. In Dante." Both The 120 Days of Sodom and Salo are structured after Dante's allegorical circles that lead ever deeper into increasingly vile torments for increasingly damned souls. including Italy's rural people — of course. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). The Pasolini film that is closest to this one is Porcile (aka Pigsty). if stomach-churning.central theme of twentieth century politics and art: the problematic relationship between the individual. Since the medieval epic poem. the Ninth Circle. whose entrance motto could equally well serve that 18th century novel or 20th century film: "Abandon hope. power. In his twin role as social philosopher and artist. instance — that also shows how Pasolini was thinking as much about 1975 as Sade and Dante — was the banquet of excrement. destroying indigenous cultures. who literally eats traitors and spits them out. let's enter Salo by way of hell — Dante's Inferno. that he intended to symbolize the rotten 1970's "fast food" culture that he saw engulfing the world. was a direct inspiration for both Sade and Pasolini. He also liked the challenge of turning those ideas into drama and imagery. One prime. society. and freedom. we all know who came out on top. with . some might even see Pasolini as a kind of latter-day Dante. but scales back. increasingly sketchy. from complexity of thought to cinematic mastery. show the ever-downward spiral in which his tale was headed. the very bottom of hell. Sade never came near to finishing his magnum opus but his notes. Pasolini fleshes out.

the murderers and bandits. both literally and metaphorically. to what Pasolini saw as the end product of a capitalism's unfettered consumerism) and 4) "The Circle of Blood" (in the Inferno's Seventh Circle. Pasolini knew Dante's works well. souls of people who in life did nothing. and — in a subtle jab at his own society — Italy's preferred forms of capital punishment (now completely abolished): hanging. Flatterers are mired in their own waste — in Salo the "excrement" refers. Canterbury Tales (from Chaucer's 1390 Canterbury ." while Pasolini includes title cards that are specifically related to Dante: 1) "Antechamber of Hell" (in the Inferno's Antechamber. complex. For Salo. the "obsessive" sin is lust: "damned because they sinned within the flesh. garroting. in a no-man's land where they now eternally run after a banner. Outer Ring. let alone its conclusion in Paradise. while various insects sting them and drink their tears and blood. whose circular 'walkabout' structure is notably Dantesque. where soldiers round up the victims. are perpetually drowned in a river of blood — in Salo's apocalyptic final scene. consisting of adaptations of The Decameron (from Boccaccio's 1350 The Decameron).the climactic torture/murder of the remaining victims. while basically focusing on three or four stories from each of the novel's four parts that were centered on increasingly terrible "passions. reminiscent of both those meted out by the Catholic Church's Inquisition. Sade. No character in either Sade or Pasolini could even aspire to reaching that central part of The Divine Comedy." Sade names them "simple. that lasted from about 1232 BCE until the 19th century. 3) "The Circle of Excrement" (in the Inferno's Eighth Circle. since this circle is ruled by the monster Minos. Pasolini also saw links between Dante./ subjecting reason to the rule of lust" (canto 5. perpetrators of Violence. seven boys — in Salo the most terrible obsession is lust for power). once a mythical king who demanded an annual sacrifice of fourteen youths: seven girls. neither for good nor evil. beyond the villa. and electrocution). and homicidal passions. symbolizing their pangs of conscience and sin's repulsiveness — in Salo. the celebratory Trilogy of Life — a critical and financial hit. Pasolini accentuated the Dantesque elements that were already in The 120 Days of Sodom. and his own previous work. including a few new recruits for their own ranks). before entering hell proper. 2) "The Circle of Obsessions" (in the Inferno's Second Circle.38–39): Pasolini also would have seen the parallel with Sade's and Salo's structure. the "Antechamber" is the eerily deserted Italian village. shooting. Dante sees the Opportunists. Second Bolgia [a "ditch" or sub-circle]. the victims who did not strictly obey the masters' petty rules meet a no less horrific fate through a nauseating series of different punishments. and drew inspiration from the less visceral Purgatory for his political farce Hawks and Sparrows. criminal.

He began his lifelong ways as a libertine in his youth. not least The Thousand and One Nights: Antoine Galland's still-used French translation appeared in 1704.) Sade may have been influenced by all of these works. He wrote his novels in jail. since his stories are fatally boring. At its end. he wrote: "This entire great roll was begun the 22nd of October. to spend some time — as little as possible — getting to know Sade. he wouldn't have lasted even one night. in which a single 'outer shell' drama enables characters to recount many different tales whose themes are related. 1785. Donatien Alphonse François.000 virgins but then has each one executed the morning after their nuptials so that she can never cheat on him (!). (One outstanding example of a frame story film is the 1945 British fantasy anthology. Dead of Night. Now let's leave Dante and the authors behind Pasolini's Trilogy of Life. of course. All of those literary landmarks are so-called frame stories. and Arabian Nights (from The Thousand and One Nights. and married a fabulously wealthy woman who indulged him in every possible way — including his maniacal trysts with members of both sexes. Comte de Sade (1740– 1814) exhibited a violent temper from childhood. Consider its basic frame story in relation to Sade: in ancient Persia." that he marries a succession of 3. um. in Sade that's the main. finally. One suspects that if Sade had been placed in Scheherazade's position. whose six linked segments are by Basil Dearden and three other directors. including those of Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor. His mother-in-law was less accommodating: in 1778. with The 120 Days of Sodom scribbled in minuscule handwriting to fit on a massive 12-meter-long scroll. the story-starved king will never know what happens next. the ingenious Scheherazade keeps her head by telling the king riveting stories. she had him legally imprisoned for life. and while there is no description in The Thousand and One Nights of either the wives' deflowerings or executions. however loosely. with fully 90 of the intended 120 days merely sketched in outline. although it didn't stop him from getting a plum post as a royal cavalry officer. who was this man who literally became synonymous with sadism? Born into a privileged family. first published around 900 BCE). but stopping each night at a new cliffhanger: if she dies. on the eve of the French Revolution. So. Sade creates an infernal inversion: the victims of 120 Days must remain totally silent (unlike Scheherazade). stories collected over centuries from many Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. King Shahryar is so obsessed with his wife remaining "faithful.Tales). and finished in thirty-seven days" — but the novel is nowhere near completed. but the later works offer more developed internal mininarratives. The Divine Comedy is also a frame story. to the overall work. Sade believed that the work was lost during the . attraction. the infamous Bastille.

His works remained out of print for a century. whose avatars revelled in his mind-boggling excesses. Napoleon was so scandalized by the explicit novel Justine that he ordered the anonymous author found.. the now obese marquis found that his wife had left him for good. they are obsessed with gratifying their insatiable urges for cruelty. if you break any of those rules. the Bishop (l’Évêque). The four masters create an unyielding hierarchy. death.") The masters. while in Salo they call themselves "the four friends. effete and short (instead of this character type. dank cell. based on their own number." represent the four main branches of societal power — aristocracy. the monsters. for his focus on sexual pathology as a compulsive force. Freed during the chaos in 1790. with his entire society collapsing around him. that his son burned. above all. until the Sade revival in prewar France. while having an affair with a worker's young daughter.storming of the Bastille on July 14. One can speculate about the irony. law.. finance/politics. The foursome includes the Duke (Duc de Blangis). 53. Pasolini has a President). but he hid it better than he knew. power. (I refer to them as the masters. whether in Sade's own life it's the French Revolution. In The 120 Days of Sodom. It was not published until 1904. or Salo's disintegrating fascist regime. of Sade fantasizing about (what he conceived as) absolute freedom while locked in a small. These four wannabe gods — whose fear of their own inner weakness is more apparent to us than to them." and even surrealism. the novel's Thirty Years War. existentialism. 1789. and then banned in many countries. for his radical depiction of "freedom. religion. There Sade continued dashing off novels and plays. with themselves lording it over the four faded harlots turned storytellers. and. eight "studs" (in Pasolini. right down to the number symbolism (everything in multiples of four). described as "lawless and without religion. a literally dirty 60 year old who enjoys sentencing innocent people to death (Pasolini cleans up his exterior. a 50-year-old nobleman who acquired his wealth by poisoning his mother. and the Banker named Durcet. He left scores of unpublished manuscripts. until his death. the Duke's 45-year-old brother with a "nasty mouth. or perhaps Sade — surround themselves with a universe of their own design: it's as rigidly designed. if nothing else). others call them the libertines. lust and." theMagistrate (Curval). he divides this group into four fascist collaborators . as the world outside is chaotic. and even less flattering names. the four masters' daughters (the men marry them off to each other in a mechanical rotation). and confined to the mental asylum at Charenton. He was seen as a harbinger of at least three key movements: psychoanalysis. the mania of the four alpha males — and perhaps of Sade himself — for (fascistic) order is seen in how dictatorially they structure every aspect of life. or is it motive.

This excerpt comes from near the end of the chapter "The Twenty-Seventh Day. To give you a brief but representative taste of both Sade's turgid prose and ideology. eight each of "physically perfect" youths and maidens. and as a single PDF download at the Marquis de Sade Electronic Library. are finished off. almost legalistic. and servants (numbering five in Pasolini. Rousseau. in which they expose the fetishes of their most notable clients.. whose full title is The 120 Days of Sodom or the School of Licentiousness (Les 120 journées de Sodome ou l'école du libertinage). and numbingly tedious — it's available in both the original French at fr. The masters are the only ones allowed to suspend their own rules long enough to do with the victims what they will during. sophistry. um." February climaxes with the "homicidal" (the masters murder even their own daughters/wives — although Pasolini spares us this). then comes the coda of March. who gets to break Sade's tetramania). November through February.. to listening to the storyteller (some of whom go on and on and." January is "criminal. With ritualistic regularity. and anti-human worldview. Looked at another way. there is a built-in frustration. in Sade the act culminates in the expected spasm. this means nothing more than that penetration is avoided). The raconteuses take turns telling five stories each night. Notably. ADVISORY: Sade's unabridged novel. the shortest. story time. here is a key passage — without explicit imagery or language (which immediately follows this excerpt). .and four guards).org and in English translation: chapter by chapter atglobusz. cruelest month — and the thinnest of Sade's outlines — victims. style of argumentation made point by point — and Sade's inability to control his bombast." when the Magistrate tells his peers: "Voilà comme il faut penser sur les "It is truly incredible the way man. much more so than the film. is freely available online butPLEASE NOTE that it is extraordinarily graphic.).com.wikisource. during which time the storytellers' concupiscent recitations "inflame" the four masters. each night's conclave runs from precisely 6:00 till 10:00 PM. the action is spread over four months. Note the tension between that stylistic hallmark of Age of Enlightenment prose (as in Diderot. Jefferson) — a rational. to finally indulging themselves with the victims. December is "complex passions. the total of 600 stories would have put his opus midway between the 100 novellas in The Decameron and The Thousand and One Nights). including children. In Sade. Each month's theme is dedicated to an increasingly violent "passion:" November is for "simple passions" (in the masters' novel definition. but in Pasolini the masters invariably fizzle out. (Had Sade finished all 150 tales for each month. as the masters move from announcing the passion they are exploiting.

dans toutes ses facultés. où celui qui érige le meurtre en crime a limité toutes ses délices. and nihilistic." Sade has constructed a fictive — and unlivable — universe of monumental. mes amis. he has deprived himself of a hundred joys. plus délicieux les uns que les autres. par exemple.. by daring to adopt the odious illusion which founds that particular nonsense. each more delicious than the other. vingt. What the devil difference can it make to Nature whether there are one. I tell you frankly that I tremble. mais je frémis quand j'entends des sots oser me dire que c'est là la loi de la nature. [ellipsis in original text] Merciful Heaven! all athirst for crimes and murders. I groan when I hear fools dare to tell me that such is the law of Nature. in all his faculties. 'tis to see to it they are committed. dix. as we'll see in a moment. heroes. Il est incroyable à quel point l'homme. . self-deception: at least there is a reward for getting through the deadly dull 500 pages. Juste ciel! avide de meurtres et de crimes. ten. On n'imagine point. my friends. il s'est privé de cent plaisirs. while Pasolini is society's gadfly. seeks further to narrow the scope of his existence through his contemptible prejudices. je ne vous le cache pas.. After World War II. cinq cents hommes de plus ou de moins dans le monde? Les conquérants.plaisirs. . and the one commandment she graves deep in our hearts is to satisfy ourselves at no matter whose expense. c'est à les faire commettre et à les inspirer que la nature met sa loi. For example. Sade received critical attention from many of France's intellectual luminaries. les héros. it is not commonly suspected what limitations he who has raised up murder as a crime has imposed upon all his delights. déjà resserré dans tous ses amusements. to inspire them Nature has wrought her law.. ." already restricted in all his amusements. et la seule qu'elle imprime au fond de nos cœurs est de nous satisfaire n'importe aux dépens de qui. tyrants — do they inhibit themselves by that absurd law? Do you hear them saying that we ought not do unto others that which onto ourselves we would not have done? Forsooth. five hundred more or fewer human beings on earth? Conquerors. cherche à restreindre encore les bornes de son existence par ses indignes préjugés. Et que diable peut faire à la nature un. You might say that Sade is nihilism's pimp.. les tyrans s'imposent-ils cette loi absurde de ne pas oser faire aux autres ce que nous ne voulons pas qui nous soit fait? En vérité. et sa philosophie me plaît infiniment.. There have been over two . twenty.. etc. and it is a fuller appreciation of Pasolini's masterpiece. etc. en osant adopter la chimère odieuse de ce préjugé-là.

. then tacks on an original tour de force ending unlike any other. Let's take a quick look at Buñuel's ending. Then a terrified young woman runs out. leading her back inside the castle.. then announces that the orgies' survivors are about to emerge.. bedecked with women's scalps blowing in the wind. and pictures. First up is the ringleader..dozen film adaptations of his works. that at its premiere inspired fascists to toss ink at the screen. in the traditional depiction with beard. he looks exactly like Jesus Christ. L'Âge d'Or is available complete and free online. the hyper-condensed Sade adaptation begins at about 58:40 (you can move the slider to that point).' 1930). and attack audience members. the sadist of sadists. along with reminding us of the infamous eyeball and razor image from "Un Chien Andalou" ('Andalusian Dog. the film lays the blame for monstrous behavior on societal repression. a giant crooked cross. novels. shows us how those scalps might have been obtained. Of all the many films related to Sade. the most radical isn't Salo: it's Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's incendiary L'Âge d'Or ('The Golden Age. SPOILER ALERT for L'Âge d'Or virgins: Buñuel summarizes the whole of Sade's tome in just one intertitle. who slowly pushes open a massive wooden door and.' 1928). ranging from horror movies like cinematographer/director Freddie Francis's The Skull (1965). the Duc de Blangis. whose climactic sequence. The End. who act like saintly disciples.. . Pasolini also explores that theme. but subtly. and heavenly demeanor!! (more than two exclamation marks may be called for). Peppy music comes up (there is no dialogue). He's followed by the three other libertines. What was so shocking. at least to social conservatives? Basically. destroy art works in the lobby by Dalí. The door closes. The film's wealthy backer was so outraged that he confiscated the film. long robes. The Duc seems to comfort her. to Philip Kaufman's biopic Quills(2000). that manages to condense all of The 120 Days of Sodom into four minutes. to dramatist Peter Weiss and director Peter Brook's avante-garde Marat/Sade (stage 1963. and he's been fictionalized in dozens of plays. very much including the church — as we'll see. keeping it locked up for almost a half century. Man Ray and other surrealist titans. film 1967). and we cut to. but not of Buñuel's influence on Salo.. and much more. in its visceral surreal horror.

while outside the world erupts in revolution. Antonin Artaud (1896–1948.) While Artaud provided a key inspiration for Pasolini's dramatic approach — with its emphasis on ritual. His concept of the Theatre of Cruelty remains influential even after 70 years. and who ended his days writing and directing plays within an insane asylum — whose works were coming back in print during Artaud's formative years." To accomplish that. (Artaud's theories are most widely known through the 1963 play and film that embody its principles. that he admired for its exacting physicality. power and sadomasochism set inside a brothel. "lies like a shroud over our perceptions. wanted to cut through the audience's smug complacency that. 1989 film The Mahabharata). aspects of Sade — whose fiction is notably theatrical. formalism. and even nihilistic. a sometimes violent but always highly ritualized dramatic form. But perhaps he was also influenced by the ritualistc. like Pasolini in Salo. and violence to shock the audience awake — many of the ideas that run below the (Artaudian) surface of Salo are laid bare by the recommended reading list that Pasolini presents .Another key inspiration for Salo is the theatrical director and theorist." Artaud's theories were inspired by theatrical Balinese dance. to shock the audience awake "through the skin. another Artaud-inspired work that may have been on Pasolini's mind is Jean Genet's 1956 play The Balcony. Artaud. he also acted in Gance's 1927 Napoleon playing Marat. a psychodrama about politics. he created the Theatre of Cruelty. dramatist Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade — its tortuous full title is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade — directed as both a play and film by Peter Brook (1963 film Lord of the Flies. and the 1985 stage. and in Dreyer's 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc — the greatest film I've seen — as the monk Massieu). as he said in his book The Theatre and Its Double (1938).

I decided these eminent critics deserved equal attention. is fascinated by Sade for his (pun intended) tortured stance on the relationship between . Pierre Klossowski. Sade. since these works constitute an ongoing dialogue. Maurice Blanchot. Sontag and others. As of September 2008. as a way to try to understand why reason and morality — the foundations of an enlightened civilization — had been shattered during World War II. After suffering through reading Sade for this essay. several of these works are freely available in English translation at Google Books — although they may be removed or further truncated at any time. in part. Yet it's more than just a gimmick. and in Bresson's extraordinary "donkey film" Au hasard Balthazar (1966). author of the feminist classic The Second Sex (1949). and perhaps remains. My Neighbor (1947 — excerpts) The philosopher Klossowski began the reevaluation of Sade.. Simone de Beauvoir. He also pinpointed what makes Sade so horrifying: he is. as the title reveals. the "moral nihilism. "Must We Burn Sade?" excerpt (1953) Philosopher and novelist Beauvoir. our "neighbor. at every moment. Following is Pasolini's complete. Derrida. unique in cinema. and who seek satisfaction in every way possible. he played the tight-fisted. five-title Essential Bibliography. as well as Bataille. including the four other critics listed by Pasolini. Klossowski sees Sade as a sort of equal-time nihilist. Lautréamont and Sade (1949 — the chapter "Sade's Reason" excerpts) Blanchot uses his review of Klossowski's Sade.. anarchy and destruction. of complete egoism" when he writes about his view of life — does this also bring to mind a fundamental concept of today's Neoconservatism? — "Sadean humanity is essentially composed of a small number of allpowerful men. and put the list — that Pasolini arranged alphabetically — into chronological order. 1. Lacan. Klossowski saw Sade as a harbinger of the cruelty.." unleashed by fascism. his theoretical ideas release the irrational forces that are bound up with them." Blanchot penetrates even further into why Sade leaves the reader uneasy on so many levels. depending on your perspective) postwar French literary the opening credits." Touché. who feel naturally worthy because of the deviations nature created in them. (Trivia buffs take note: Klossowski was the older brother of the artist known as Balthus. lecherous miller. but seems at the mercy of something unsaid [that] is also again buried within the obscurity of unreflective thought and unformulatable moments.. Sade's "primary and main peculiarity [is] that. as he calls it in the opening credits. I've added both the original publication dates and links.. in widescreen and his beloved Bodoni typeface: this "homework assignment" was. My Neighbor to analyze Sade's corrosive — and inherently contradictory — form of "reason" as a contrast to the two main intellectual currents of postwar France that Sade. who had the will to raise themselves above laws.. The results is that everything said is clear. their fortune.. [T]hey take advantage of their status. Blanchot gets at the dark heart of Sade's "philosophy. 3.) 2.. attacking both Christian religiosity and Enlightenment materialism.... These are five rigorous theoretical works about Sade. inspired: surrealism and existentialism.. the impunity that their situation assures them [including even] implacable despotism. Deleuze. by some of the most renowned (or torturous." Klossowski inspired all later writers on Sade.

" 5. of all stripes. For Barthes. after using Nature to refute God.. they also summon up other relevant authors that these postwar critics analyzed in connection to Sade. this is a rare form of pleasure." seems oblivious to what psychosexual Pandora's box he's opening) — are integrated into the dramatic structure (as we'll see in the analysis section below). Sade... founders of language" whom he analyzes. despite the radically different subject matter of each of the three "Logothetes. Sollers distrusts what he sees as the arbitrary nature of "reality. although one that is realistically impossible to live. to be forever shaken and undermined. surely it is this: the rejection of all causality which." Yet for that very reason.. including Baudelaire.. Beauvoir also acknowledges Sade's unprecedented "transgressiveness." that is merely an ideological construct imposed by the dominant class.eroticism and ethics. and the torturers in their frenzies. and not just sexually. Phillipe Sollers. Barthes sees Sade. it is "a rare. Loyola (1971 — Barthes's brief Life of Sade. Joris-Karl Huysmans.) In Pasolini's film. for the support of the natural.. (One wonders what religious fanatics. Sade's text.. Fourier.. which are both apparent and self-conscious — unlike in Sade (who despite his feeble attempts at ironic humor. Instead of giving them lifelike density. If there is a burning center of Sadean writing. courageous utopia because it appears to believe in the possibility of a subject-less" state. Beauvoir never condones Sade's violence or all-consuming egoism. and hence no emotional connection. for the first time in the history of ideas. and especially Nietzsche. might make of Barthes's ideas — their affinity for a literalistic use of Sade is well known. Barthes is fascinated by what it means to live "unglued" in an unreal universe created entirely from language. utopian economist. continually unmask[s] the foundations of our knowledge. stating that Nature "is a hallucination of culture. . and norm. While it's anachronistic to have the masters in 1945 quoting Klossowski and. extracted from the book. Proust. to which Sade seems oblivious. "the evil writer. The victims are frozen in their tearful abjection." a quality that at its best — clearly not in Sade — can offer personal liberation. immolates Nature in a ceaseless movement of words.. Roland Barthes. but — what is more serious — no living people are brought into play. these ideas. He sees each of them as the creator of a unique. all-encompassing linguistic system that can separate the individual from the everyday world. between the participants in the acts that he describes in endless variations on his narrow theme. subversive nature of Sade." 4. Barthes. Sollers comments on Sade's writing are provocative: "What appears beneath the savage mask of Perversion is the exact inverse of the Neurosis instituted by a civilization based on the deification of speech. flat. Writing and the Experience of Limits (1968 — including the essay "Sade in the Text") Critic and experimental novelist Sollers is fascinated by how Sade subverts the traditional relationship between nature and culture. and Jesuit saint. Beauvoir also notes the vague. "perhaps the causes do not determine the effects. is available via theMarquis de Sade Electronic Library) Barthes reveals a provocative connection between the seemingly disparate foundational sadist. about the limits of human sexuality crossed with unbridled power. three decades early." Sollers celebrates the culturally. She pinpoints his failure in the fact. autonomous. If perhaps a bit stylistically overripe.. such as calling us readers his "dear friends. that there is no reciprocity. Sade merely daydreams about them. and sickly would-be literary quality of Sade: "Not only do the orgies to which he invites us take place in no particular time or locality. [S]ays Sade [in Justine].." as the mastermind of a language of erotic freedom. not least because of how it "exhaust[s] the combinative of units. but she appreciates what he reveals....

if abhorent. More important than it's novelty is that it helps to makes Pasolini's aesthetic and political intentions clear. and high-grossing contemporary torture-fests like Takashi Miike's Audition (1999). knew the effectiveness of putting philosophical arguments in the mouths of credible human beings. Pasolini took his cinematic license to kill. Of course.) There is a (necessarily) visceral impact of seeing these ideas depicted onscreen — Artaud. He was also disturbed by . Friday the Thirteenth (1980). Hostel (2005) and their many knock-offs: a defining difference between Salo and these movies is that the latter are about sensationalism and boffo box office. violence has been a ticket-selling part of movies from the beginning. In Pasolini. from this tradition of cinematic violence. to the slasher flicks of the 1970s and '80s like Mario Bava's 1971 Twitch of the Death Nerve and its American rip-off. Besides philosophical theories. in terms of movie history. cartoons like Bugs Bunny. the newly ramped up tradition of violence in cinema is another notable part of Salo's background. à la the snuff-movie crowd — it was to show the consequences of fascism in action: Pasolini never got over the murder of his brother by the fascists and Nazis. for one. homage. to classic Warner Bros. than showing extremities of violence. characters. probing degradation instead of love. Of course. and torture. unsettling counterpoint between what the characters say and do. what gives the ideas maximum impact is how he embodies them in psychologically complex. Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969).As the undoubtedly grinning Pasolini knew. both Sade's novel and Pasolini's film are like an antiSymposium. to such landmark films as Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Later developments include the 1980s and '90s 'bullet ballets' of Hong Kong filmmakers like John Woo in The Killer (1989). and our perceptions of them as being sickeningly disconnected from their actions. untouched by philosophical/political ambitions — and there are certainly no reading lists anywhere in the credits. the ideas are literally made flesh (or chocolate and marmalade. Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971). presenting this erudite bibliography is even more radical. and there is a constant. two and a half millennia earlier. Ken Russell's The Devils (1971). (Plato. er. in one instance). but his aim wasn't just increased realism — and it absolutely was not prurient titillation. and then letting the emotional fireworks of their interactions reveal the psychological underpinning of the ideas: in a way. its expansive tradition encompassing silent Keystone Cops shorts a century ago. to endless war movies and Westerns and thrillers. would have applauded.

with a moustache) / Umberto Paolo Quintavalle (he was an author. The Conformist (1970. and sound — to explore his themes. and death. Jarmusch's Night on Earth. Lucien (1974 — about a sympatheticallydrawn Vichy country bumpkin who happens to fall in with the Nazis). and resonant. Pasolini uses every element — narrative. Pasolini also felt that even Bertolucci's masterpiece. but it is riveting. Mission: Impossible III). The Magistrate (graying brown hair. even as creates a uniquely original work of art. his men and their boy toys slaughtered — would certainly have topped the four masters' video playlist). did not go far enough in dissecting and damning fascism. Analysis In Salo. even as Pasolini uses it to analyze the complexly intertwined ideas. several have distinguished filmographies. Visconti's glossy The Damned (1969 — the sequence depicting the Night of the Long Knives in July 1934 — when Hitler had his homosexual paramilitary SA leader. so many diverse inspirations. visual. The narrative form holds every aspect together. cinema. these performers bring the drama and themes to life. This is by no stretch an "entertaining" picture. to expose the social forces that unleash the horrors of Salo. although I disagree. Of the eight principal actors... and provocative in the extreme. editorial. is perfect for the role of a decadent intellectual"). The Bishop (cleanshaven and black-haired) / Giorgio Cataldi (only other film appearance was 1976's Ragazza alla pari). The four masters are: The Duke (the bearded leader of the pack) / Paolo Bonacelli (the 1979 Caligula. The President (a cross-eyed redhead — this character was the . a light. one of Pasolini's closest friends). Now let's see how Pasolini brings together. not to mention the Boy Scout-like singing Nazi — "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" — in Robert Wise's The Sound of Music (1965). let's take a moment to honor Pasolini's largely non-professional cast. That picture — about the selfdestruction of a latent homosexual who tries to "save" himself by becoming an assassin for Mussolini — seems the other most penetrating film about fascism. including Louis Malle's Lacombe. and make them into dramatically compelling. But before exploring that. whom Pasolini cast because "your physical aspect. as noted at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)..recent films that cast fascism in too pretty. Ernst Röhm. and transcends.. from the 1951 novel by Alberto Moravia. and many more instances of cinema 'going soft' on fascism. or even sentimental.

although both Franco Merli (who wins the 'beautiful buttocks' competition) and Ines Pellegrini (the African maidservant) had recently co-starred in Pasolini's Arabian Nights. "I wondered how we'd made something so awful without realizing it. they didn't see what was coming. whether a professional actor or some kid off the street." that for large scenes Pasolini had four cameras running simultaneously. an almost unheard of feat. he told the non-professionals only what they needed to know. and to his credit. Damiano Damiani's I Am Afraid). Claude Berri's Hunting and Gathering). Merchant/Ivory's Le Divorce. While Pasolini rehearsed his professional actors more than usual. the crew and actors (whose actual first names are used) emphasized. she said that." Of course. The four women "entertainers" are: Signora Castelli / Caterina Boratto (Fellini's 8-1/2 as the Mysterious Lady. Set designer Dante Ferretti noted the momentum that Pasolini sustained. like this film. Actress Hélène Surgère recalls. and each appeared in a few additional pictures. Signora Vaccari / Hélène Surgère (Raoul Ruiz's Time Regained and That Day. Bava's Diabolik.Banker in Sade) / Aldo Valletti (Frankenstein: Italian Style. how kind and attentive Pasolini was. like us in the audience. Despite the pace of filming. Some of their shocked reactions are spontaneous because.. condensed milk. When Surgère finally saw the finished film. because of the film's precise stylistic requirements. A running joke was getting backstage visitors to try the delicious confection — made of Swiss chocolate. "awful" can mean disgusting as well as filling one with awe. then immediately shot the scene. . in the documentary "Salo: Yesterday and Today. Of the three dozen additional performers. in interviews. Signora Maggi / Elsa De Giorgi (Pasolini's "La Ricotta" as the producer's wife). Pasolini had turned the production into a supportive and happy anti-Salo. mini-series The Far Pavilions). Juliet of the Spirits. The Pianist / Sonia Saviange (previously co-starred with Hélène Surgère in Paul Vecchiali's 1974 Femmes femmes). Apparently the major problem was getting the young non-professional actors to stop cracking up about the atrocities they were play-enacting. based on one key quality: their ability to deliver what he called "that moment of truth" on camera. In striking contrast to the horrors onscreen. Let's see how Pasolini uses narrative form as a key element in his paradoxical creation.. few did any other films. Pasolini always cast performers. sometimes completing a hundred shots in a day. and orange marmalade — and then reveal that it was the main course at the banquet of excrement: gag — in both senses of the word. broken cookies (biscuits).

joyless. Salo's narrative is even more disturbing for what it lacks. adds fairy tales to the mix. Signora Vacari. with each of its four parts being the same length. in this fable about fascism. But Pasolini fragments the classical narrative with the storytellers' tedious would-be erotic tales that become increasingly violent. It moves from exposition (Antechamber of Hell). is even dressed in a flouncy gown that's like a parody of the good witch Glinda's in The Wizard of Oz. Perhaps surprisingly. from the purposeful stiffness of the acting (the masters' inflexible body language reveals more than they know). you could add that Pasolini definitely got movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn's memo: "If you want to send a message. exploitative world where discharge clearly is not relief. ritualistic pacing. one by one. making both their listeners and us feel more trapped than ever in a loveless. where they are subjected to clearlydefined trials and tribulations. four masters'. the script employs conventional dramatic form. or the self-destroying masters. you're going to have to do it yourself which.Perhaps the most striking formal aspect of the film. to the obsessively balanced and static compositions. especially Dante and Sade. interpreting Salo is no picnic. considering that it weighs nothing less than the underlying assumptions of our civilization. But talk about Grimm. But significantly. to rising action in the first two Circles. In the background section we looked at the eclectic literary sources that Pasolini draws on. among other things. is exactly the point. even the characters and dramatic structure are locked into hierarchical units of four. in every frame: the process of ferreting them out forces us to examine the nature of the masters' twisted world. call Western Union" — with its meaning hidden. surprisingly. just sorry people who are either the young victims. namely a protagonist we can admire in any way. to the sombre. they do the opposite. On a lighter note. If you want a hero/ine. and neither should it be. even as they make the masters feel increasingly frustrated at their own impotence. the primary storyteller. as we'll see. but he also. Instead of expanding the reach of the narrative. inflect the story as if it were a fairy tale. secret lair. As noted above. if you must). There is no hero or heroine. albeit in plain sight. there is no trail of bread crumbs to show the victims the way out — although Pasolni's does leave markers for us. . as in Pasolini's Trilogy of Life. By having pared down the narrative — focusing on only four of Sade's mercifully never-finished 120 days — Pasolini can. their captivity in the wicked witch's. about a half hour. as we'll see as we peel back its layers. the self-debasing guards. is how rigid everything is. to climax (supply your own pun. in broad strokes we have — as in "Hansel and Gretel" and countless other fairy or folk tale — the capture of children. er. even on a first viewing.

in a conventional 'rising action' manner. 1945: shot. partly because of what we see and experience emotionally. That stateliness also contrasts with the bursts of violence. Pasolini analyzes what he finds through every dramatic and visual/aural element. Although Pasolini was murdered before the premiere. (Of course. like the victims. that Pasolini called "typical Fascist music" (in the 30 years since Salo. while below their friends routinely murder the "disobedient" prisoners. and like the masters. all we can do. Nino . guns blazing. to mow down the monstrous masters and free the remaining nubile victims.) But rather than gaping. it is spring 1945 and soon the "four friends" may end up as Mussolini did on April 28. to understand its sources that obviously extend far beyond Mussolini's Italy. The film is deliberately slow. more importantly. ends with a cascade of torture/murders. that we'll get to in time. at times overwhelmingly so. to its climax. we hear only a rip-roaring musical excerpt (the "Primo vere" / "Spring" movement) from Carl Orff's 1937 dramatic cantata. this cue has become perhaps the most frequently used classical piece in trailers for action films without their own finished scores — where was Die Hard's Bruce Willis when these victims needed rescuing?).. but the resolution ends (as Eliot put it in "The Hollow Men") "Not with a bang. to achieve precisely the rhythm he wanted — with his long-time editor. maybe even filmgoers — is stare. whose gaping internal emptiness has created this Dantesque/ Sadean/ fascist hell on earth. Not even the previously favored victims are spared in this penultimate scene. Dramatically. Pasolini has made us feel even more trapped and helpless now than before. But at the end ofSalo. but with a whimper. yet riveting. and stoned by his own people. it could hardly be flatter: debauched middle-aged men taking turns sitting in a big chair and peering through binoculars. With that knowledge we. He wants to make us aware not only that there is horror in the world — as if we needed reminding — but.. And that's the point. for which Pasolini strips away all ambident sound. as seen both in performance and editing. The film. Carmina Burana." The Allies never charge in. Instead. hung upside down on a meat hook. he had completely finished the final cut — having trimmed 20 minutes. One of Pasolini's strategic elements is pacing. not unlike the masters — and voyeurs. Although it seems distant. the resolution could hardly be more problematic. like Sade's book. making the effect even more powerful. there's still the final scene. unlike the victims. Pasolini — like Artaud with his Theatre of Cruelty — wants our eyes wide open. most notably the victims' screams and the laughter of the masters.In terms of structure. but beyond the atrocities we see there is a secondary level of dis-ease generated by the narrative form itself. The narrative has been building. might have a fighting chance.

ceremony at its most benign can give comfort to people. forces. In the opening moments of Salo. the ritualism is primarily an anti-human constraint — a reflection of the masters' (self-)destructive manias — rather than communion with anything spiritual.") More than the sanctity of holy matrimony is parodied in this film. and economics. but then Pasolini cuts to a close-up of their bulging rule book — their bible of regulations and rituals — whose cover is the same color as the uniforms of Nazi Brownshirts. even reinventing two of them in his films Oedipus Rex and Medea. We end in a shrunken parody of Sade's apocalyptic. as we'll see. we are introduced to the four masters sitting around a table in deep shadow.500 years ago: Pasolini loved the ancient Greek tragedies. that first appeared millennia ago. The most overtly "liturgical" moment is also the film's most blatantly parodic: the Monsignor — flanked by an eager-to-please altar boy who will never bring a lawsuit — "marries" the other three masters. as an in-joke. is intended to control natural. he forces us to confront the nature and sometimes destructively . law (that rule book). is as prescribed as a (pitch-black) mass. even as it binds a group together. But here. It's as if Pasolini has taken in all of the foundations of Western society. while using an invisible holy book. The rigidly prescribed order and symbolic value of ritual. and others). and excrement. it also connects the film to ritual. for all of its misplaced exuberance. chewed them up. all in haute couture drag (the only time they cross-dress).Baragli (who did most of Pasolini and Sergio Leone's pictures. with Satan frozen except for his mouth that eagerly chews up and spits out traitors. and Artaud based his Theatre of Cruelty on Balinese ceremonies. Sade's novel. Of course. religion. or even supernatural. to three macho guards. and massive ram's horns — another of the masters' unconscious reminders of their own phallic shortcomings — that must have weighed a ton. The world depicted in Salo is like some bureaucratic mash-up of Sade and Dante — but nobody is laughing. bloodbath. then excreted them in ironic form with vastly more insight than Sade: sexuality. But Pasolini is not just an off-the-cuff ironist. it recalls the over-the-top headgear worn by Pasolini when he played a high priest in Oedipus Rex. By pushing to extremes. Pasolini's vision is even farther removed than Sade from the frigid justice of the ninth circle of Dante's Inferno. And it's out of sacred ritual that all drama evolved 2. Fellini's Intervista. (One wonders if some "traditionalist" group has ever used this grotesque image to showcase the "horrors of same-sex marriage. leaves. Also notable is his enormous pagan headdress bedecked in mirrors. The meticulous use of pacing connects the film's narrative to its visual and sound aspects. and literal. family. politics.

Perhaps the most wry instance exposes the intellectual pretensions. and clearly . If I can do this to them. then the President chimes in: No — Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. The masters are profoundly uncomfortable in their own skin. This is perhaps surprising in a work about the nature of atrocity. they are terrified of mortality. it's as if they are trying to prove the belief that. Bad Conscience. of the masters — who can't even get their own pretentious intellectual genealogy right. While the Monsignor is off in an adjoining room pondering "a question of taste and delicacy. like latter-day neoconservatives-in-training. now the Magistrate changes his mind: No— "St." the Duke: No — Dada. Victims of their own twisted logic." But this is not just a harmless little pastime: they use that "bloodshed" idea as a foundation for unleashing pain. is the necessity of bloodshed. is based on the vulnerability of the human animal: as if we need to be reminded that there are countless ways we can be hurt and killed. Minutes after a girl has either committed suicide or been murdered for praying at (literally closeted) holy shrine. the four men lounge around and shoot the bull. finally cutting off this debate (that could have been resolved by just looking up the blasted quotation) by humming "dadadadadadada. when the Mussolini regime is defeated. Pasolini brillinatly accentuates the horror by periodically contrasting it with bursts of humor. which is why Salo is as horrific as it is ironic. like torture. that exposes the foundation of their worldview. they'll learn otherwise. "Guilt. They try to impress each other with their spurious erudition. in the world they control: ideas do determine actions. Their topic. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. horror to shock us into a fuller personal and political awareness. except that many of the gags are more subtle than the mock "wedding" described above. then I'm more powerful than death. (It turns out that the President came closest: in Nietzsche's 1887 Genealogy of Morals — that attempts to deconstruct conventional notions of right and wrong — the Second Essay." the other three masters are lobbing footnotes. foolishly believing that they can transcend it by torturing and murdering others. His parodies implicitly contain analyses of the profound socioeconomic inequalities that only exacerbate the feelings of helplessness that thrive not only in the victims but also in the masters. and dangers. Horror. and Related Matters. I'm a superman. Pasolini uses human. And as only death-dealing "masters" can be. so they flay it off others — all the time wearing perfectly pressed suits like talismans against chaos." has passages that are close in meaning. as opposed to Dante's supernatural. Not long after the final reel. In a dizzying whirl — unwittingly proving the truth of Alexander Pope's line that "A little learning is a dangerous thing" — the Magistrate claims that the necessity of shedding blood for greatness was said by Baudelaire. and death.repressive limitations of those institutions. beyond law and tenuous life.

The first two of the three "Circles" sections begins with one of the storytellers narcissistically preening in a mirror: do they really think it will help? And their attempts to hide their shortcomings behind elaborate gowns meets with the success you'd expect. death by torture. these women — who take the world's oldest profession to new depths. for "gods" like them every rule is sacred and must be obeyed to the letter) — stops being funny when we see that the punishment." Before leaving this yuck-y theme. let's take a closer look at the most redolent example of humor: the storytellers.") Humor also takes visual form. They are emblems of sterility and powerlessness." . instead she accompanies the others on the piano. Let's be blunt: they all look funny — not because they're middle-aged at best.relevant to Salo: "When the human being considered it necessary to make a memory for himself. in Italian. Pasolini gets a great deal of thematic mileage out of the storytellers. but fail pitiably. "[T]his world deep down has never again been completely free of a certain smell of blood and torture. but with so many pulchritudinous lads and lasses. martyrs. Countless times throughout the film. The humor that Pasolini spins around the storytellers is unsettling at best: we laugh at them. but because they tart themselves up. yet more ironic reminders of the masters' impotence. Like Sade.." later adding. Their wannabe bawdy stories may be duds.. trying to shave off 20 years. by providing "entertainment" for wealthy rapists and murderers — all but hurl themselves at the masters. sporting Perrault/Doré fairy princess regalia in creamy white — her name. the most repulsive self-mutilations (for example. The film's main running joke — that big book in which the masters write down every last petty infraction (of course. it never happened without blood. never with them. like the enormous — but fake — organs that the guards wear during the final torture/murders. They are also a painful reminder of the ravages of time — that unseen enemy that implicitly terrifies the masters." is Signora Vacari. the raconteuses come up as empty as their imaginations. not to mention bad story-telling. but their structural and thematic uses are a howl. refers to "cow. the most terrible sacrifices and pledges (among them the sacrifice of the first born). First up. but one of them never tells a tale. castration). the cruelest forms of ritual in all the religious cults (and all religions are in their deepest foundations systems of cruelty). who can't say no. both in obvious elements like the President's cross-eyes (that little red-headed Rumpelstiltskin clone is one of the creepiest villains in any film) and others that require a bit of behind-thescenes knowledge. does not fit the "crimes. Pasolini has four storytellers. and sacrifices. in the "Circle of Manias.

beginning at the first of the two banquets (the one with the better menu). Not only are they figures of distorted "fun. and is the Duke . gently caressing and kissing him. Maggi as (Fascist) Italian. That's one way that Pasolini suggests that under the floorboards of this renamed Hall of Orgies lies rancid puritanism that can never let the masters — or anyone — find pleasure or connection. It's no surprise that these women for hire would jump at the chance to combine business and "pleasure" by working for the masters. A little later. maybe November). frozen in the bottom-most pit of hell. making each one a national stereotype that indicates the Axis' reach: Vacari reads as (Vichy) French (played by the Gallic Hélène Surgère). with (Sadean) tales of mutilation. So perhaps the situation here is not so unlike Dante's Inferno after all. as even the masters carp. some of the victims begin cuddling up with the masters. Even worse. as with the sweet-faced boy who's all over the Duke. reveals their lack of joy in sex. Next is the "Circle of Excrement. You can see it in their faces. singing a heartfelt patriotic song (the Italian equivalent of Cabaret's "Tomorrow Belongs to Me"). but then incrementally. and sickens everyone else. the victims accommodate themselves to life in thrall. that at first are blank with shock and fear. Then everyone joins together." they remind us of the glitzy artifice that's meant to cover the foul depths of fascism. But you have to wonder. dressed all in black — the same color as the material for her coprophiliac stories — who has clearly spent too much time in cabarets. that destructive repression is coupled with godlike dreams of omnipotence. violence and lies. generating enough frustration to destroy a world. let alone love. is the youth just trying to stay alive — or is he using his captivity to discover an aspect of himself. and Castella — the worst for last — as (Nazi) German (she sometimes even lapses into her native tongue). Pasolini also milks the storytellers for historical/ political humor. even smiling. through intercourse. but one of the film's most disturbing insights comes in how. a fat. The final "Circle of Blood" is the domain of Signora Castella." represented by Signora Maggi. ironic (her age is closer to October. about young girls forcibly trained to service rich old men. mannish icy gray-blond — dressed in white but with furs — who regales the masters. and a sly joke on her capacious girth. The fact that they can't generate any real erotic juice in their stories. destined for slaughter after they are no longer any good for "milking" — a variation on that hand action is the seed of all this raconteuse's tales. to say the least. the father of frigidity. that culminates in Satan. you see them loosening up. little by little.Those are creatures bent to man's will. her name in Italian means the month of May. her name literally means "castle" — a subtle reminder that this fortified villa is escape-proof (although the Allies will eventually prove that it's not impregnable). and it is.

then another. curly dark-haired Claudio. one can't say — that there's a long pause before they open fire. but with Pasolini there's almost always a "but. Nude. along with the victims proper. have created a suggestively complex character that also serves the crucial thematic function of showing that corruption and weakness are not necessarily universal. tries to console her by saying that they were ordered to do that. involving one of the four young men whom Pasolini labels as a "collaborator" in the credits. The four masters are so stunned — whether by his defiance or beauty or both. with the chiseled body of a Greek — or Roman. prisoners who police their own fellow prisoners in exchange for special privileges and (pseudo-)freedom. With just over two minutes of highlighted screen time. or Anglo-American — god. When the Monsignor threatens punishment for an infraction.actually expressing for the one and only time — although only the boy and the camera can see this private moment — affection? Isn't he supposed to be just some old perverted monster — of course. Pasolini and performer Ezio Manni (this is his only film). Ezio makes the film's sole gesture of resistance. throughout the picture. some victims become ever more desperate to please. for having sex with a maidservant. The four youths run the gamut from the scowling... he gives the left-armed Communist salute.. the blond and almost angelic Ezio.. In the prologue. a less sanguine reading of Ezio would emphasize racial aspects of his relationship with a black woman — professional actress Ines Pellegrin was born in Italy." As the film winds towards its end. who in the prologue all but slaps his mother away (she tried to give him a scarf) when the stormtroopers march him off (one can only imagine what his home life had been like). he unleashes a long chain of boys and girls ratting each other out. or Teutonic. These collaborators are like the privileged Kapos in Nazi concentration camps. then a lesbian couple is caught being tender and rather than die they lead the masters to an even more "terrible" crime: what the masters call "normal" heterosexual intercourse. Ezio. comes across as the film's least reprehensible character. But. and who later spits on one of the masters' daughters — while another collaborator.. despite his impressed service as a collaborator. and who in striking contrast to her role here starred as Princess Zumurrud inArabian Nights — and opine that we have a white man "colonizing" an "African" — perhaps meant to recall Mussolini's conquest of Ethiopia in 1936. Such a reading might also question the ratio of genuine love to "animal" sexual gratification in Ezio's possibly "exploitative" . we saw them captured by soldiers.. As the masters are about to shoot him. one on another.

Personally. I prefer a more exemplary reading of Ezio — but one of Pasolini's defining strengths is the complex. heterosexual or otherwise. considering how the masters are still very much among us. as a servant. It's not just the characters that disturb us: there's also something wrong with time. and Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone. . For those viewers familiar with the centuries of works that Pasolini incorporates. in the entire film — with a woman who. if you wish to discover them — of course.. you might begin to wonder if we're watching ghosts: we begin in an empty. and set decorator Osvaldo Desideri (The Night Porter. let alone whether it's day or night. Sade's French Revolution. and beyond. its claustrophobic confinement to the villa.relationship — the only normative one. how you choose to interpret those elements will reveal as much about you as the artist. 1975.. Also. where the restless wraiths reenact the same rituals over and over. (To indulge in an excessively speculative reading. and all of cinema's visual and aural resources. both of which may have left their stylistic mark on Pasolini." there are several aspects that distort our temporal sense. that was Sade's main title. Although the film begins with a title card specifying "1944–45 Northern Italy during the Nazi-Fascist Occupation. we know from Pasolini's subtitle. and such exceptional post-Salo ghost pictures as Kubrick's The Shining.) Pasolini uses not only time but space. including designer Danilo Donati (many Pasolini and Fellini films includingAmarcord. many pictures for Fellini and Scorsese including The Aviator. More immediately. and the unvarying flat lighting break down our sense of time passing. To see them shot down at the end would be redundant: they're all already dead. Alejandro Amenábar's The Others. Rossellini's Messiah). had not choice but to submit. Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd). production designer Dante Ferretti (most of Pasolini's works. then proceed to an eerie old mansion. One of the pleasures of Pasolini is that his work is essentially inexhaustible. layers of interpretation that he allows us in even minor details: there are countless more such paradoxes throughout his body of work. and life. haunted landscape. He worked with an exceptionally accomplished production team. there's a constant queasy shift between Dante's medievalism. as if we've been lost in an eternal ghastly present. and sometimes contradictory. to develop his themes. that the action occurs during 120 days — but it all seems like one endless night. This fanciful misreading comes from having seen Mizoguchi's Ugetsu and Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad. the film's languorous rhythms. Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet).

in the just-concluded Trilogy of Life. and philosopher. novelist. Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1934). Wertmüller'sSeven Beauties. In the archival interview in "Salo: Yesterday and Today. the action. there was a wonderful — both literal and spiritual — luminous quality that.. Malle's Lacombe Lucien. that was in the style of the period. the light is as uniform and dim as the masters' self-awareness. But here in Salo. and reveal. Beyond the physical location.. Leone's Once Upon a Time in America. "We began stripping everything" so that the sets "could reflect what Pasolini wanted. Pasolini uses light itself to define. and many more). or a primitive monarchy. Ferretti also helped select or paint the artwork. including the tube-like abstractions of Fernand Léger. Fascist style. on top of Renaissance models (as in the opening of Momma Roma. although by contrast. Those views are reminiscent of the eerie paintings of Giorgio De Chirico. Notably. Salo also reveals Pasolini's mastery of composition that is even more remarkable considering that he came to filmmaking relatively late." I'd add that it also makes us feel like we're inside some monstrous. such as 1911's "Enigma of the Hour. Ferretti points out that Pasolini wanted a lot of what he called "Fascist red." Pasolini summarizes his visual approach. literary theorist. [We brought in] furniture of the '30s and '40s. He again worked with cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli (who shot most of his earlier films. and Italian knock-off Bauhaus — is in striking contrast to the prologue's beautiful yet strangely empty landscapes and town." Ferretti also said that Pasolini wanted "a whole series of images one on top of another" — and we can see barbaric modernity.." That emptiness also brings to mind. as poet. the Nazis were running Salo for Mussolini. including the huge frescoes. mirrors and chandeliers. Italian and even French in style. after critical and popular literary success. Pasolini ironically stages Salo's banquet scenes to recall Leonardo's "Last Supper"). carpets had to be recreated. from the Dark Ages to ancient Rome. As Ferretti notes in the documentary about his contributions. who believed that not people but "the object [is the] main character. with its "obsessive use of shot / reverse . the architecture of Salo is monumental — dwarfing the people. rigidly balanced.. Most ancient of all is the climactic courtyard that could fit into almost any era. was inviting. Deco style.Ferretti helped Pasolini find the physical space he wanted for the main location. As in that template for all propaganda films.. despite the periodic irruption of violence.." That highly stylized period architecture — Art Deco.. In terms of color. although the louche villa was in fact a large farmhouse outside of Mantua. fleshy body.. and fascist: after all.

contrasting close-ups. airless way. that subliminally makes us twitch. When it does move. . We only see this image for a moment. Throughout. No safety in numbers here. of using a handheld camera (the Steadicam was a year away). quotes Pasolini as saying that he never uses a "normal" 50mm lens. grandeur. looking out at the actual town of Salo's harbor. In the opening minutes. Pasolini also remarked that he didn't mind the shaky results.. most of all absence of sequence shots. no matter which way the camera pans. as the camera pans left. the compositions of Salo are uniformly balanced in a rigid. but there in the foreground — shadowy. complete absence of characters who leave and enter the shot.shot. do these characters ever need a warning light!). Even when everyone is assembled in the Hall of Orgies or other huge chambers. it tends to pan laterally." He adds that Salo is like his earlier films "but more so.. throwing the "neat" composition out of whack. they are framed to appear as small as possible against the looming walls and vast empty spaces — all this while the camera obsessively maintains symmetrical framing. Yet. all it shows is broad empty spaces. that runs throughout the film. As noted above in other contexts. and staircases — that suggest a labyrinth — compress them even further. strange and ominous — is a looming bent tree trunk. a little off. the countless narrow doorways. sometimes with tiny figures in the distance. and it's balanced perfectly on the right by a spit of land. in his on-set diary. in a few shots. Pasolini's style meshes perfectly with his theme: that this is the utterly closed world that the masters want. the would-be symmetry cannot hold: there's always something out of place. but from the first second it sets up the dis-ease with which Pasolini purposefully infects every element of the film: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' [masters]" can't help but go awry. it just makes us feel more trapped. the camera — often in long shot — as fixed as the masters' stares. medieval to modernist. The vast majority of shots reflect that crushing stolidity by being static. is the spatial contrast between the victims and guards. off to the right. absence of over-the-shoulder shots. In fact. as in the prologue. In the very first shot. invariably Nazi soldiers waiting to round up the victims. instead favoring the distortions (that I would add are both emotional and symbolic) that come with using either a wide angle or a zoom lens. that quivering effect works as another subtle reinforcement of the tensions that define this world. with each group squeezed into its own collective mass. off in the distance on the left is a lighthouse (oh. no less prison-like for its jumbled. Another example." His friend Gideon Bachmann. halls. Rather than suggesting an expansive world beyond the frame — as in pictures from filmmakers as diverse as Jean Renoir and Robert Altman — here.

The most important use of sound. At one point. mouth harp. the Duke turns the binoculars around to get a "funny" myopically distorted view (the symbolism is clear). Malick's Days of Heaven. despite its dozens of victims. Sergio Leone's Westerns like The Good. Also significant. and what it might mean. in expanding the action beyond the final frame. when Senora Maggi is so disturbed by the sounds of fighter planes overhead. although it never becomes more prominent than as background noise. and female chorus). Ennio Morricone. Ezra Pound reading from his maddeningly distended Cantos. and if so to what degree. is for you to decide: my response is working through the film. and The Ugly(who can forget that unique scoring for bells. and most prolific. who did so love the fascists. in this essay. that she goes to look out the window. and other masters. Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. meaning that the twilight of these self-styled gods is coming soon. disturbing on yet another level is when they turn the binoculars directly at the camera. Pasolini worked again with his longtime collaborator. but the angle tells us that Pasolini has us voyeurs in the audience in his sights." but his original contributions are minimal. we hear the planes getting ever louder. The reverse shot tells us they're gazing at the carnage below. Increasingly throughout the rest of the film. yet subtle. Music is also integral. visual device for the climax. one of cinema's greatest. and climaxing in the Circle of Blood section. composers. Before turning to some overall thoughts on the picture. But what makes the close-ups of the Duke. are the radio broadcasts that Pasolini uses. or pain. from 1959 to today. harmonica. Note the echoes that haunt the villa reminding us of how vast and empty the place is. But the most unnerving sounds that we hear at various points.Pasolini saves the most astonishing. including Hitler's bombastic speeches and the American poet. are the moans: are they cries of pleasure. guards. and finally dissonant modern works — that the fourth entertainer plays while the three storytellers do their thing. including a progression of piano pieces — pop tunes of the period. His 500 scores. we have one more key element to explore: sound. or both? — one thing you can be sure if. The Bad. as they sit in a threadbare throne peering down through binoculars — an ironic twist on Hitchcock's Rear Window— while the others get their hands dirty gleefully performing the tortures and murders. Instead he helped Pasolini put together the musical soundtrack. and overlords. begins at the start of the Circle of Excrement. The masters take turns watching the horrors unfold in the courtyard below. they are never sounds of love. it doesn't take much of a symbolic stretch to see a comparison with the hollow masters. The lilting music stands in increasingly . include many for Pasolini. He receives credit on Salo as "musical coordinator. to Romantic pieces including Chopin's Preludes in C minor and E minor. Whether or not watching Salo somehow makes us complicit.

it became a number one hit in the US.. Oh. is a light romantic version of the sociopathic drives behind the four masters. as we'll see. as they move from eroticism to. atrocities that are even more horrific than what we see onscreen during the next minutes. let's look at how all of the film's constituent parts relate to Pasolini's overarching — timeless yet all too timely — insights into the heart of darkness. A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces. But the seminal piece used in the film is a popular British song composed within a year of Orff's perennial favorite: "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" provides yet another circle in the film.. And still my heart has wings. Now. that it both opens and closes. sickeningly.marked. will you never let me be. An airline ticket to romantic places. was written for the 1935 London stage revue Spread It Around. These foolish things remind me of you. That bring me happiness or pain. Although Pasolini used an instrumental version. you can't help but experience it viscerally. The song. with words and music by Harry Link. In summer 1936. which is the same as in today's achybreaky-heart songs and those of the troubadours a millennium ago. and ironic (isn't this salon music?). visual and sound elements both expose and reinforce Pasolini's theme. contrast to the oral tales.. The obsession in this pop paen. moving from social respectability to politics to powerlust and. but taken together they also recreate in us viewers the trapped. as noted above. And still those little things remain. will you never set me free. Salo is so powerful because you don't just watch it.. the masters too. We've seen how all of the film's dramatic. The most prominent use of music is.. although the jazzed Benny Goodman version comes closest to (presumably) Morricone's arrangement. The ties that bound us are still around us. the original lyric — about "no escape" from an emotional obsession — fits Salo like a chanteuse's glove: Oh. with no fewer than nine separate recordings. it . sickening feeling of the victims — and. although they refuse to admit it. In a way. and Jack Strachey. beyond.. with Signora Castella at the end. Holt Marvell (real name: Eric Maschwitz). Pasolini's deployment of Carmina Burana in the climactic sequence — in which it both undercuts (with its melodiousness) and reinforces (with its stark driving rhythms) the horror.. There's no escape that I can see.

"All things are good when carried to excess. is in such stark contrast to their own deteriorating flesh. shrieking for the boy to be "punished severely") or they have one of the victims do something to them. but how could Salo be a work to "inflame" red-blooded passions.functions as a torture chamber intended for us — but we're lucky. from the family to politics and law. Salo is the opposite of a turn-on. when the masters don't feel they need to hide their manias behind a curtain any longer. Note that although the masters are running the show. either they wail that their partner isn't up to snuff (as the Monsignor does early on." Pasolini. intellectual. could not disagree more strongly. and — in every way: physical. and the future. yet he uses the masters' own devotion to "excess" to expose their monstrous self-loathing and its resulting destructiveness. We've looked at the wickedly humorous inversions of social institutions.) But in Salo's world. those erstwhile paragons of traditional civic morality — representing wealth. spiritual — their impotence. Not to sound naive. and God. freedom. law. and what they fear. (Fascism is God-fearing while Communism is God-less. and hence the most significant change that Pasolini made to his source. You can be certain that during their heyday the masters said all of the right platitudes about country. we find that Pasolini — using every cinematic element to flesh out his analysis — has already revealed these sanctimonious men in their true colors: drab gray. but in the end Pasolini is not laughing — he's laying bare. That's why this film must be so "excessive" in its revelations about what goes on behind the closed doors of power. after the rules have been rewritten to favor the worst extremes of the rulers. to stop the masters of today. although the former has had centuries longer to refine its grip. as a means for the masters to lord it over the young people whose beauty. implicitly. as Pasolini does. when sexuality is used never for love but only for degradation. since Pasolini's intentions are the opposite of the masters'. since their Nazi-Fascist regime is crumbling. it's a call for action made to each of us. when the Duke says. but both can produce totalitarianism. Their tragedy is that they never understand that. at heart it is an analysis and a warning — and. splattered with blood. more disturbingly. how we belong to the same species. The sequestered world the masters create reveals everything about who they are. The masters set out their plan in the picture's first words. not only about what the masters are but. like any humane person. not one of them ever takes a leading role (as it were) in sex. and at first innocence. politics and religion — who were kept in power by the parents of the victims they now degrade and destroy. . This is in staggering contrast to Sade's sexual super-athletes. He wants to shock us into a more comprehensive awareness not only of the nature of evil but of its roots.

who refer to themselves as "fathers:" women are always seen as grossly subordinate. and strengthening the bonds between themselves. their "ideal" of the total "anarchy of power" is founded on a wimpering lie of catastrophic proportions. Pasolini doesn't just tart up the platitude. because her mother died trying to save her: "Your tears are the most exciting thing I've ever heard. Who and what are these masters. along with the boys. in utter contrast to Pasolini's film. As Pasolini reveals." But in Salo. and so on (full list below in the Cast section). he probes long and hard beneath its well-groomed surface. as the tale-spinning mistreses of eroticism. as party dolls. the Duke announces that only copulation "like brute animals. and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The murder of the coupled collaborator and maid wasn't the exception. yet paradoxically their mania for control produces the opposite effect: not only . is that it glorifies the masters as superpotent demigods. Perhaps the most sickening aspect of Sade's novel. Salo shows the darkest opposite view: intimacy is always. that they are no different in kind from their fellow human animals to whom they desperately want to feel superior — and as a result. They become no better than the female victims. whorish commodities. over-the-hill raconteuses in over-the-top gowns. The masters complete their degeneration of women by hiring. trumped by powerlust. adultery. by marrying each other's daughters: the Duke marries off his two daughters to his brother the Monsignor and the Magistrate. and sodomy" are allowed. while taking the Magistrate's daughter as his bride. Pasolini in the Trilogy of Life celebrated the connections that can come from sexuality. it was literally the rule: the first morning at the villa.Look at what happens to familial roles under the masters. but more importantly it allows Pasolini to expose a key element of the master's collective psyche: fear of weakness. perhaps divine. these men know that they are as empty as their cavernous villa. instead of exposing them for the dangerous hollow men they are. incest. who can indulge themselves over and over. and in Teorema bisexuality was presented as a force that was redemptive. they merely degrade their daughters — even having their collaborator Claudio spit on them — and turn them into exchangeable. who are treated. even when they are their own wives or children." then hurts her some more.. But instead. Obviously this shows his lack of humanity. Fascists — by any name — want order and mastery at any cost.. at once punctilious and nihilistic? As Lord Action famously put it. Consider the implications of what the Duke tells the blond girl who's crying piteously. Unconsciously. through every shot in the film. "Power tends to corrupt. they are scared to death. They think they are redefining the family. and in the worst way. who can't begin to compete with a fabulous drag queen in the glamour department.

But these men are the opposite of atheists. policed thoughts. they have utterly internalized the self-hatred that comes from being reared to despise yourself as part of some "higher' plan — major parts of which includes despising sexuality as pleasure. when they have "absolute power. and perhaps self-fulfilling. This is what social philosopher Herbert Marcuse. elected). often arbitrary rules (including strict codes for everything from hairdos to sexual positions). a blind obedience to authority — the four masters especially like that last part. They put up a self-blinding smokescreen. troubling to some is that its roots may be embedded in ultra-conservative traditionalism. but not surprising. it's a fundamental cause. calls "surplus repression. Caged animals have always been the most deadly. or rationalist humanists. action. underpinned by a "God-given" belief in the inherently "sinful" nature of man. But ongoing studies by neuroscients have some good news: it seems that basic fairness is part of our. domination-centered family structure. they were in a position to show just how sinfully bad they really are. So escalating levels of repression isn't the solution to this nightmare. So is it any wonder that the first things these "atheists" do." is debase sex and set themselves up as gods? It's shocking. he contrasts it with "basic repression." self-evidently necessary for any society to exist. rule-lessness) but total disconnection both between people and within themselves — the unmooring of thought. if not knowingly." used by power elites — for their own aggrandizement — to manipulate the general population. . and above all else. from the time of their infancy). and humane emotion. why does fascism exist in the first place? Studies like Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) and Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996) show that there are many factors that feed it.anarchy (by definition. Look at fascists' rigidly hierarchical. genetic makeup. It makes you wonder if the masters were acting out the view of themselves that had been forced on them. the extent to which people who have been so crushed down by rules will want to smash them as soon as they have power. and many other animals' (including the bonobos). saying that any reference to religion will result in immediate execution. even if we never crack open any "infallible" ancient rule book. in Eros and Civilization (1955). thanks to their top-of-the-heap position in a totalitarian regime (that the people had willingly. So. and prostrating yourself before an omnipotent infallible deity (like Father. founded on an ugly. during the initial reading of their rule book to their assembled underlings. that includes self-control and consideration for others. from birth: that they are bad to bone — and now. and their parents and ancestors. view of bestial human nature that must be harshly reined in.

Seriously. let alone the masters' villa. Were they critical cinephiles. And that makes Salo the most nauseating — yet affirmative — work of Art I know.. or persons seeking to rationalize their appetite for sexual degradation by having it stamped as an Art Film. politics. of hell. godhead — they are somehow "liberating" themselves from human limitations. sanctimoniousness. within circles. to protect the "bestial" masses from themselves.. and that just keeps the whole sick system grinding forward. is not only livable but liberating in the true sense. genuine freedom. get professional help now. . Those freedoms are as lacking under fascist rule.. Like Artaud writ large. Talk about circles.The masters delude themselves. instead of humility. it frightens the population into crying for its opposite — supposedly what the "supermen" are fighting against. encouraging freedom of thought and speech — even when a book is as foul as Sade's or as superficially decadent as Salo — and the freedom to question any and all authority. nothing is further from the truth.00 or more on eBay for a (likely pirated) copy of Salo when for years it was out of print. Pasolini never for a frame glorifies the inherent evil of fascim. debauchery. Salo is yet another test — some might say a trap — for the viewer: If you are excited by the torture and murder. a better place: Pasolini lays out the problem. The masters are unaware that the extremity of their nihilistic "lifestyle" renders it. Of course. students of Pasolini. to say the least. On its slyest level. but we must generate the solution. when such a boundless depiction of" freedom" is made public. whether secular (Stalinism) or sectarian (conservative religions of all stripes). it's a technique that uses repulsion to encourage the insight needed to make ourselves. seemingly in complete opposition to the ones they were raised under — instead of puritanism. and our world. Ironically. as opposed to the mere word brandished by fascist politicians (whose name is legion). as they are in Sade's castle. rather he exposes the interconnected economics. trying to fool themselves that it's OK to get off on the (make-believe) pain of others while missing the fact that Pasolini's film is a mirror to show them as little masters in training. But as Pasolini wants us to see. And so comes not only artistic censorship ("Ban SaloNow!!" crusades) but the ever more stifling repression of personal and social freedoms. unsustainable. with a little help from Nietzsche or Sade. One can't help but wonder what the motive was for those people bidding $500. into thinking that by writing their own rules.. and psychology of evil that authoritariansim generates as surely as the human body processes food into excrement.

. are relaxing." set to Orff. just going with the flow of history.. one of the boys asks the other if he'd like to dance. "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You). Quintavalle as "His Excellency" the Magistrate Aldo Valletti as the President Caterina Boratto as Signora Castelli Elsa De Giorgi as Signora Maggi Hélène Surgère as Signora Vaccari Sonia Saviange as the Pianist Sergio Fascetti as a Male Victim     Written and Directed by Pier Paolo  Pasolini  Produced by Alberto Grimaldi. with the strains of that haunting '30s pop tune. The first guard will teach him. the the modernist paintings are equally ambiguous: their geometries want to impose order on the world but their energy and strangeness feel liberating. who have helped prop up the masters' mini-hell. but he says he doesn't know how. there's a little bit more. hang on to the good human impulse to connect with someone else and. ignoring the horrors still going on down in the courtyard. with Tatiana Casini Morigi and Enzo Ocone  Sets by Dante Ferretti  ." Behind them. crew   cast Paolo Bonacelli as the Duke Giorgio Cataldi as the Bishop (the Duke's brother) Umberto P. tentatively and tenderly. And so they do. Giggling a little. In the quiet final scene. and Mussolini-approved. with Alberto De Stefanis & Antonio  Girasante Musical Coordinator Ennio Morricone  Director of Photography Tonino Delli  Colli  Edited by Nino Baragli. or are they expressing resilience. the picture ends. for worse or possibly better. while reassuring each other of their mainstream. dance with them too? It's a brilliantly ambiguous ending that can be read in many different ways — as Pasolini intended — reminding us that. Salo will go on. or might they possibly be able to transcend them. What are these young men revealing about themselves." Two of the guards. sexual orientation: "What's your girlfriend's name?" "Margareta. maybe even suggesting some (untraditional) hope for humanity? Have they become numb to the horrors. After the literally stomach-churning "finale.But wait. and how their experiences in the villa have changed them — or have they been changed? Is Pasolini implying that basically they're the same as they ever were — and does that mean that they are oblivious. as it began in the opening credits. literally and symbolically. Pasolini creates not only one of cinema's most unexpected — and unforgettable — endings but yet another challenge to us.

& Carlo Tafan  Giuliana Orlandi as the Duke's Pianist: Arnaldo Graziosi Daughter (married to Bishop)  Liana Acquaviva as the Duke's Daughter (married to Magistrate)  Rinaldo Missaglia as a Guard  Giuseppe Patruno as a Guard  Guido Galletti as a Guard  Efisio Etzi as a Guard  Claudio Troccoli as a Collaborator  Fabrizio Menichini as a Collaborator  Maurizio Valaguzza as a Collaborator  Ezio Manni as a Collaborator  Paola Pieracci as a Wife  Carla Terlizzi as a Wife  Anna Maria Dossena as a Wife  Anna Recchimuzzi as a Wife  Ines Pellegrini as the African Maidservant Uncredited   Marco Lucantoni as the First Male Victim Marco Bellocchio — voice dubbing for Aldo Valletti . & Giuseppina  Benedetta Gaetani as a Female Victim Sagliano  Olga Andreis as a Female Victim Special Effects by Alfredo Tiberi  Tatiana Mogilansky as the Magistrate's Camera & Electrical Department: Daughter (married to President) Sandro Battaglia.  Dorit Henke as a Female Victim Giorgio Loviscek. Domenico  Antiniska Nemour as a Female Victim Pasquadibisceglie. Emilio Bestetti.           Costumes by Danilo Donati  Bruno Musso as a Male Victim Screenplay Collaboration with Sergio  Antonio Orlando as a Male Victim Citti  Claudio Cicchetti as a Male Victim Makeup by Osvaldo Desideri & Alfredo  Franco Merli as a Male Victim Tiberi  Umberto Chessari as a Male Victim Hair Stylist: Giusy Bovino  Lamberto Book as a Male Victim Special Wigs by Carboni & Rocchetti Gaspare Di Jenno as a Male Victim Production Managers: Renzo David &  Giuliana Melis as a Female Victim Alessandro Mattei  Faridah Malik as a Female Victim Assistant Directors: Umberto  Graziella Aniceto as a Female Victim Angelucci & Fiorella Infascelli  Renata Moar as a Female Victim Sound Department: Fausto Ancillai. Giancarlo Daughter (married to the Duke) Granatelli. Deborah Imogen  Susanna Radaelli as the Magistrate's Beer.

as outlined below. and excerpts from Gideon Bachmann's on-set diary Reviewed August 26. better than any that of any thearical screening I've seen. 2008 .  Laura Betti — voice dubbing for Hélène Surgère Giorgio Caproni — voice dubbing for Giorgio Cataldi dvd The Criterion Collection's two-disc special edition features excellent image and sound quality. actor-filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette. the set contains perhaps the best Pasolini documentaries of any release. and Gary Indiana. and John Maybury. restored high-definition digital transfer Aspect ratio of 1. and Pasolini friend Nineto Davoli "Fade to Black". DVD Details           Special Edition double-disc set New. a 23-minute documentary featuring directors Bernardo Bertolucci. Sam Rohdie. 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 A booklet featuring new essays by Neil Bartlett. Roberto Chiesi. anamorphic "Salo: Yesterday and Today. Besides an exceptional transfer of the film. featuring both the original Italian and optional English dubbed soundtracks. Naomi Greene. Catherine Breillat.85:1. Catherine Breillat." a 33-minute documentary featuring interviews with Pasolini. as well as scholar David Forgacs "The End of Salo".

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