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Salò: The 120 Days Of Sodom (1975)
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi
Novel: The Marquis De Sade.

The Marquis De Sade’s novel updated to 1945, Italy at the end of the war.  Four debauched fascists  including a magistrate, a duke and a bishop sign a pact to indulge all of their perversities to their fullest.  Beginning by all four of them incestuously marrying each a daughter of another.  They have a gang of soldiers out on the hunt to kidnap girls and boys to install them in a remote chateau where the four men will abuse and torture them to satiate their every whim and desire.

Once installed at the chateau the adolescents are inspected in every detail by the men, told of the rules which they must obey without fail, and of the punishment they will receive if the stray from their demanded path. Now begins their journey of perversion, the four whores whom helped procure the girls, beginning with their tales of their exposures to the perversions and desires of men since their youngest years.   Explained in their greatest and most vile detail to inflame the imaginations and desires of the libertines.

These stories work well on the men, and it is not long before they begin abusing and brutalizing their chosen victims.  One by one the objects of desire start to break down, bending and breaking the rules closing themselves off from one another, and telling tales of each other in a futile attempt to escape punishment.

This continues until the inevitable end, with bombs from aircraft sounding closer and closer, the men take a suitably distanced viewpoint, and watch as each of his friends has a turn at dispatching their victims in an extremely painful, brutal and bloody manner to the other world, to the accompaniment of a haunting, creepy chant.

A very loose adaptation of the incomparable, infamous and monumentally brutal novel by The Marquis De Sade.  The spirit of De Sade’s ultimate libertine novel has been encompassed in the movie, but filming the novel in its entirety is completely impossible.  But with all the philosophies of the novel, the narration of most of the perversions by the whore’s, and the display of a great deal of the catalog of perversions, being the only adaptation made, it is a reasonable representation of the novel.  But readers be warned, the novel is well I suppose, 120 times more brutal  than any film adaptation could ever be.

De Sade wrote the novel during his internment in the Bastille, before the 1789 French revolt.  Most of this internment was at the pleasure of his mother-in-law, as the perversions for which he was originally imprisoned were only minor ones.  But as he was an embarrassment to his family, his mother-in-law pulled some strings to try a make sure he would never get out of prison.  So after so many years when he should not have been in prison, De Sade may have been rebelling against the society that was keeping him prisoner, giving flame to his unconfined imagination at the same time.  He, early on promoted himself from the aristocracy to the republican movement, and I suppose if they thought he was an embarrassment for sodomizing a “whore” against her will, and the accidental poisoning of another with Spanish fly, maybe he was going to make sure that he would be an “embarrassment” worthy of his internment.

De Sade wrote the novel to try and catalog every perversion in the world.  Explaining each one in the minutest detail, thinking of the reasons behind them and trying to understand them.  This was 100 years before Sigmund Freud came along and begun the psychoanalyst movement so many of us know today.  But did De Sade begin that psycho sexual analyst journey 100 years earlier?  And be warned when I say the novel includes every perversion in the world mean EVERY perversion!

Pasolini was found dead on the 2nd of November 1975, shortly after the release of the film.  The police investigation said he was killed by a rough trade male whore, for which Pasolini had a penchant.  Many believe his death at this time to be a fitting continuation of the final scenes of Salò.  And as Pasolini had tried and succeeded in making a film he wanted  to be “indigestible”, if he had not been killed, would he have realistically ever been able to make another film after this, and believe in what he was doing?

So well you ask is it any good, well that will be debated forever.  IT IS NOT intended to be entertaining, IT IS certainly not fun.  The film is made to disturb from start to finish and it does.  If you have read the novel, the film will not pose any great problem for you.  If you have not been exposed to De Sade or are dipping your toes in the water for the first time, be very sure.  The novel was written during the French Revolution, so I suppose a good time for the film to be set was during the end of WWII.  The brutality is obviously know in wars, and sexual self indulgences  well know to be a part of most of the wars, considered for along time to be the “spoils of wars” a treat for the invading and conquering nation.

The reason this review is being written now is because this film has finally been released in the UK after 25 years of being banned.  I guess our new censor thinks that we should be in line with the rest of Europe instead of hanging around in Victorian England, which we have been for a long time.  Up Until recently it was not legal for this film to be sold or shown in cinemas anywhere in the country.  Whereas in France I believe the certificate for the film was a 15, and in Sweden a 12.

But only now are adults from 18 to 88 allowed to watch the film without worrying about breaking the law, and having their given right of freedom to choose to read and watch, the books and films that they choose.  And it is about bloody time this right was given back to consenting adults, instead of what can be viewed by us being decided by a bourgeoisie dictator whom in no way could ever have the experience of each person in the country in his mind.  How can one man know what another has read or watched or not?  How can he know that 10 people will walk out of the cinema during the film, and that 70 will stay and be able to deal with the film in its context and within their own mind?  When every persons experience of cinema and literature denotes what “they” are capable of reading or watching, or not, how could this ever be know by one man?  So it is appropriate I think that a film about fascists should be released and bringing the beginning of an end to the censors dictatorship that we in the UK have been subjected to for far too long.
END NOTES: What not to do and say: –

  1.   DO NOT take chocolate into the theater with you.
  2.   DO sit in an end seat just in-case you have to make a quick exit.
  3.   DO SAY  “Isn’t she a lovely little snot face”.
  4.   DO NOT Read the novel if you cannot handle the movie.
  5.   DO Remember that in the 1970’s a private cinema in London was raided for showing the film.
  6.   DO Remember that up until 1998 Britain was still living in Victorian England.
  7.   DO Go to the lavatory before hand.
  8.   DO not think this is a sex movie, and take a date with you to impress, Ooh Travis Bickle!
  9.   DO remember that the word sadism was taken from De Sade’s name for a reason, Oh and remember
    De Sade did not invent sadism as one UK “journalist” claimed.

Review By Giovanni Pistachio.  Giovanni can be contacted at: – 

email:-  giovannip@pistachio-films.com
© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.

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5 thoughts on “Salò: The 120 Days Of Sodom (1975)

  1. For me, Pasolini has brought together and articulated many national feelings about the Nazi madness that sadly engulfed the Italian land during that damned period of history.

    Many films prior to Pasolini and since have portrayed violence, depravity, hatred, and evil in many vivid and evocative ways and using a great variety of devices and techniques. Pasolini’s film is bold and blunt, but not unique. It is however a monumental mea culpa on behalf of a people no better nor worse than most others on the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

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