Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom

This is Salo aka the 'most disturbing film ever' but I think it's best to ignore shitty titles and reputations, Salo in my opinion is first and foremost an amazing film. It's damn hard to write about this, there are so many avenues you could take, it would make a good essay in fact. I'll just write why I think it's a great film without attempting to go into a load of other bollocks.

The thing that really strikes me the most is that it really is incredible visually. The colours, architecture, costumes (or lack of ;) ) and designs of the castle rooms are quite splendid. I guess it's not the art-direction that grabs all the attention rather it's the premise and execution of it that has caused so much fuss, which is a shame. It reminds me a lot of A Clockwork Orange, obviously not the castle and Italian architecture but definitely the vibrant colour and Modernist look that it has. The controversy comes from all the sex and violence but Salo isn't some Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS style exploitation it has a genuine message that it's trying to convey. It's a satire of Fascism and the corruption that Fascism has on sexuality on the mind. The visual design play it's part in the satire. The funny thing being that though the castle is classical in it's structure, the walls are covered in Modernist paintings and the furniture that is in the castle is mostly Modernist in design. For example the chair that the Fascists sit on and get aroused while watching events in the courtyard is a Charles Rennie Mackintosh design. Throughout the film it struck me that the Fascists lose sight entirely of what it actually means to be Fascist, their actions are like a parody of Fascism. Would Hitler really approve of copious amounts of gay sex and eating faeces for sexual stimulation?

The main criticism of the film is the amount of needless violence, sex and shit eating that's on display, more so because it's directed towards teenage boys and girls . A fair enough criticism if you ask me, not everyone views these things the same way. For me personally, the explicitness is part it's appeal and it's execution is certainly quite artistic but it's not the main reason I would watch it again. The final courtyard sequence for example is viewed entirely through binoculars which gives it a voyeuristic feel and it makes you feel detached and slightly helpless I'd say. It's uncompromisingly brutal throughout because that's the whole point of the film, the human body is reduced to nothing but a plaything.

I won't call it a masterpiece because that suggests it's Pasolini's best film and this is the only one of his Ive watched and it has its flaws. It's actually fairly boring in places, the story sequences did little for me, the womens stories just seemed silly to me rather than being devious or exciting. I've heard that he made better films than Salo as well. It would be interesting showing this to someone who had absolutely no idea what it was and seeing their reaction, problem with me is I have watched it once before and have since then read and heard so much about it that its impact was less in terms of shock value.

That took a long time to write, probably like a gajillion spelling and grammar mistakes in there. Anyway I've decided I want to make films like Pasolini does :)


tutorphil said...

Hi Tom - lots of insightful stuff here; when I think about the film in the abstract, I see the almost tableau-vivant style set-ups; very painterly if memory serves; I also thought it interesting that the only 'sympathetic' depiction of sex throughout the entire movie was the consensual gay stuff (clearly not simulated), but perhaps that comes as no surprise, knowing the director's own persuasion; he was murdered by a rent boy, apparently; some of the criticism of the film comes from the suspicion that he was having his cake and eating it - eg. that he was 'making art' while, in fact giving himself some rather sordid thrills... discuss! :-)

Tom Beg said...

dunno, sounds like a cheap shot at him rather than the film if you ask me.