in Shocktober

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Fuck all of this. What is this piece of shit? Why are people in this film, EATING SHIT? What kind of demented sadistic sex pervert wanted to make this film? Who was it made for? Why is it in the Criterion Collection? Why did I watch it? I’ve seen gross movies before, but never have I been this insulted. Salò of the 120 Days of Sodom pushes the limits of what’s acceptable. Maybe that’s the idea. I don’t care. I hate it. I’m open to dark movies, but it’s hard when it’s this drawn out. Not to mention Salò is guilty of the worst possible offense a film can be guilty. It’s boring. It’s so fucking boring. Bury me now, please!

Adapted from the novel The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade, a man so twisted his name is the source of the word “sadism”—Which I have already used, without even thinking about that connection—Salò is about four fascist libertines living on an estate in 1944 Italy (it was 18th-Century France in the original novel). They recruit a group of teenage boys and girls with the plan to exploit them mentally, physically and sexually for a period of time to explore the concept of debauchery. What kind of debauchery? Let’s see, fondling, groping, raping, treating them like dogs, cutting them, and of course, making them eat human shit. Why anyone would want to make this movie is beyond me, but there was one man, and it may have ended up getting him killed.

Pier Paolo Pasolini was an Italian director infamous throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s for his overtly sexual work. Notably, he adapted versions of The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and A Thousand and One Nights that he infused with his own off-brand use of abundant nudity and sex mixed with slapstick humor. He was an eccentric, who lived to push the envelope in his work.

Take for instance this film. Reportedly, the mood on set was jovial and immature with soccer games, big meals, and laughs. Yet it’s one of the most upsetting films I’ve ever seen. What kind of guy can go back and forth like that tonally when dealing with such a disturbing subject matter? We’ll never know because not long after the film Pasolini was run over by his own car at the beach. Made to look like an accident, it’s believed Pasolini’s death was a mafia-style killing due to his notoriety as a cultural Provocateur and rumors of him being a communist.

The film isn’t a good time, but that’s not to say it has no redeeming qualities. The music by legendary composer Ennio Morricone is a posh and stylish throwback to the European string music of yesteryear. Of course, it’s often forgotten due to the horrendous images on the screen, but that doesn’t make the music any less good. Also, the cinematography, although stark, provides a series of wide, well-framed images that evoke the precision of perfectionists like Wes Anderson. Though again, I don’t care for the images within the frame 80% of the time.

I hated, hated, hated, this movie. The only reason I’m not bumping its rating down to zero stars is one, I don’t believe in giving a film a zero rating and two, for its technical achievements. This is a well-made film. But again that begs the question “Who invested in this? Who supported this being made?” There are sick people out there and in 1975 they all got together and made a film. Watch it if you dare.

Just no.