Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) – First Impressions

4 Jan
Standard audience reaction to Salo, in a nutshell.

Standard audience reaction to Salo, in a nutshell.

[Copypasted from a forum post, because of course writing something longer than 140 characters for the express purpose of broadcasting it on social media gives me stage fright.]

After being tormented (so to speak) by morbid curiosity since I did some research on it last summer, I decided to finally bite the bullet and watch Salo. I expected to either love it or hate it (which seem to be the two sides on which people fall regarding this film) but as it turns out I… neither loved nor hated it.

Maybe my muted response came from the fact that, since I’d already read about most of the particulars of the film’s onscreen nastiness, it didn’t especially shock me; maybe because its reputation is so towering that the real thing couldn’t possibly live up; or maybe because the style of the film itself is so detached, not just from the characters but from reality, that it’s hard to get emotionally involved in merely the bizarre and disgusting images depicted on the screen (once you’ve been around the internet enough I gather not much can shock you anymore as far as images go).

(Another thing: I feel like a good deal of the script may have been lost in translation for me, both because the subs I used seemed to be very dry and literal and because I don’t know a whole lot about Italian politics, history and social structure, to which the film heavily alludes.)

Still, even if it wasn’t quite all I’d hoped it would be, I did find it to be an interesting piece of Dadaist, uh, “fun” a la Bunuel, Jodorowsky, etc.. It’s the eye-cutting scene in Un Chien Andelou extended to feature length, with a handful of political subtext thrown in and weird meditations about the nature of unrestrained sexual id.

I do find it strange though that the film seems to invite the audience to identify with the libertines as opposed to the victims. I mean I guess pressuring audience members to recognize themselves in the abusers rather than the abused is an important part of Pasolini’s social critique, but it has the weird effect of muting audience sympathy towards the victims of the profane acts in favor of visceral disgust at the acts themselves.

So, those are my first impressions.

Next up I wanna watch Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, because I saw some people describing it emphatically and because I recently remembered how much I liked Under the Skin (I guess I’ll end up working my way backwards through his filmography, getting to Sexy Beast last)


One Response to “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) – First Impressions”

  1. lokanampriya January 5, 2015 at 8:03 AM #

    Reblogged this on Lokanampriya's Blog.

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