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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

entry arrow9:49 AM | Watching Salo

Last night, I finally got to watch Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò o le centoventi giornate di Sodoma (or just Salò). I wanted to see it, partly because, as a cineast, one has to see these things as part of one's film education, and partly because, well, I'm a pervert. (Actually, that last one was Mark's smirk-with-raised-eyebrows no-bullshit assessment, which made me guffaw.)

And partly because it's still banned in the Philippines, I think. (Other countries have banned it as well.)

My dearest Francois has always told me to avoid this film like a banquet of shit. "It's utterly demeaning," he said, "and has no intrinsic human value." Which, of course, made the movie for me. How demeaning? Here's a partial list of things you will see in this movie: rape and humiliation, sodomy, and assorted torture by fire-branding, eye-gouging, tongue-cutting, and scalping. You will see penises and breasts being consumed by fire, and see one young woman forced to eat bread with nails inside. In one famous scene, a girl is forced to eat fresh shit, and the scene segues to a banquet where the main course, of course, is shit.

This is a shot from the gruesome finale:

IMDB gives a plot summary of the film: "Set in the Nazi-controlled, northern Italian state of Salò in 1944, four dignitaries [called Masters, and variously a Duke, Bishop, Magistrate, and President] round up sixteen perfect specimens of youth and take them together with guards, servants and studs to a palace near Marzabotto. In addition, there are four middle-aged women: three of whom recount arousing stories whilst the fourth accompanies on the piano. The story is largely taken up with their recounting the stories of Dante and De Sade: the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Shit and the Circle of Blood. Following this, the youths are executed whilst each libertine takes his turn as voyeur."

Bill Mousoulis, in Sense of Cinema, tries to situate Salò in the pantheon on film classics, and says: "The film stands on its own as an anti-fascist and anti-power statement, if a somewhat raw and confronting one. Never have abusive power and bourgeois decadence been given such full reign within a single film. The question is: how do you attack fascism? By being against it, or by showing it in all its "glory"? In this sense, Salò is a clear precursor to serial-killer-study films such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1986) and Sombre (Philippe Grandrieux, 1998) in the way its gaze at its subject is unflinching and detailed."

(You can read the rest of his article here.)

But maybe the fact that I knew that that huge platter of shit was actually made from chocolate and diced orange peelings somehow spared me from some extreme (read: nauseous) reactions to the film. Or maybe my expectations of Salò's debauchery was just a little too high. Or maybe, after a recent glut of extreme films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the remake) Turistas and Hostel and Korea's The Audition and The Isle that took torture and mayhem beyond Pasolini and De Sade, I've just become (horrifyingly) innured to shock.

One must take note that Pasolini -- otherwise a genius of the cinematic arts who directed such films as The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Hawks and the Sparrows, Love and Anger, The Decameron, and The Canterbury Tales -- was murdered after completing Salò. A just end? "It is," I remember Francois telling me.

That said, I don't recommend anyone watching Salo. It's deadening cinema.

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