Salò review

:. Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
:. Starring: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi
:. Running Time: 1:53
:. Year: 1975
:. Country: Italy/France

Watching the cursed work of Pier Paolo Pasolini (who was assassinated a few days after the film was first released) in 2002 raises questions: What has this mythical film preserved of its sulfurous aura, of its relentless necessity, nearly thirty years later?

Four senior officials of the fascist Republic of Salò organize the kidnapping of young people from the Italian countryside to satisfy their perverse pleasures. Sequestered in a Mussolinian villa, the young victims are reduced to objects on which the torturers release their worst impulses: rape, sadistic acts, torture and, finally put to a death that coincides with the decline and fall of the Republic of Salò.

So how outrageous is the film in 2002? In the end, not really! Though the film caused a scandal in 1975, today the object of uneasiness has shifted. The representation of the turpitudes of four civil servants (respectively a duke, banker, bishop and magistrate symbolizing the rot and the corruption of the State) do not shock any more or less. As for the libertarian speech that the torturers appropriate, directly transposed from Sade's work, it can disturb, as it's paradoxical. Here, the anarchists are those who are in power and because they enjoy it, they are above the laws, free to enjoy what seems good to them and to kill. This amalgam can be disturbing, but the violence of Salò does not hold in the discourse rather unfortunately employed by the characters, but it certainly does in the cruelty practiced on the bodies.

It was Pasolini's initial project was to denounce the violence practiced on the body, more than to evoke Fascism in Italy from 1943 to 1945. In that, his film is topical, always and more than ever! That's what fully justifies rediscovering Salò today. The body is brutalized to its destruction and division. The last segment of the film, called "the circle of blood", sees the torturers inflicting all kinds of mutilations to the young victims, finishing to deprive them of their physical integrity.

A deep pessimism imprints the film from beginning to end. There is no way out, whether it's for the victims or for the torturers, whose loss is inescapable. There resides the force of this oppressive film.

Pasolini wished to evacuate any pleasure for the audience, which functions perfectly well. Salò is a film that one undergoes from beginning to end, not because it's unbearable (its violence, we know, has toned down over time), but because of the will displayed to not "seduce" the audience.

The film shows time in addition, following the example of the brothel madames who orchestrate the pleasures of these the senior officials! Salò is a visually dated work, marked by a quasi absence of mise en scène, which contributes to the audience's unpleasant experience, an effect sought by the director himself.

While Salò nevertheless deserves to be rediscovered and appreciated, it's the most controversial and best known of Pasolini's films. With the morbid sexuality of Salo contrasts with the eroticism of the Trilogy of the Life.

  Sandrine Marques

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