The original 1998 Criterion release of “SalÃ², or the 120 Days of Sodom,” Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious, oft-banned final film (he was murdered shortly after its completion), was withdrawn because of licensing issues, making the DVDs that did make it onto the market fetishized objects unto themselves, commanding hundreds of dollars on eBay and Amazon, more if still sealed. The film became overshadowed by its own rarity. But today Criterion finally rereleases the film in a two-disc set with three accompanying docs, interviews and essays from, among others, Neil Bartlett and Catherine Breillat.
So how does “SalÃ²” hold up in these days when the teens take in torture while munching popcorn at the multiplex and even Kermit the Frog is down with coprophagia? Well, Ain’t It Cool‘s Harry Knowles reassures that it’s still “Fucked beyond all belief.” Dennis Lim, writing at the LA Times this weekend, writes that “its extreme, claustrophobic force is undiluted”:
The 1970s was a hotbed of scandalous art cinema, but “SalÃ²” — unlike such X-rated shockers as “Last Tango in Paris” or “In the Realm of the Senses” — has not been tamed by the passage of years. If anything, there is a cruel, chilling timelessness to both its imagery and its logic. The shock hasn’t worn off in the slightest.
From Bruce Bennett at the New York Sun:
In the context of a sad contemporary cultural atmosphere that tolerates repugnant and childish torture-porn entertainments such as Eli Roth’s lowbrow “Hostel” and Gaspar NoÃ©’s highbrow “Irreversible,” Pasolini’s essential diagram of “the anarchism of power” remains a far more perverse yet infinitely more compassionate and personal work of art than anything created in its turbid, tragic, and, for better or worse, highly influential wake.
At FilmCritic.com, Keith Breese suggests “Watching Salo is very much akin to reading Sade’s novel: You get the point very quickly and after you’ve gotten the point it’s hard to justify continued attention.” At Slant, Eric Henderson notes that in her essay “Catherine Breillat–dependable old Catherine Breillat–surmises that the movie was not meant to be shocking.”
[Photo: “SalÃ², or the 120 Days of Sodom,” 1975 – Criterion]
+ Harry’s DVD Picks & Peeks – 4th week of August DVDs: HEROES, Errol Flynn, Nightmare Before Christmas, Salo, Cannibalism & more!! (AICN)
+ ‘SalÃ²’ on Criterion: 1975 film still a shocker (LA Times)
+ Pasolini’s Cruel Masterpiece (NY Sun)
+ Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom (FilmCritic.com)
+ SalÃ², or the 120 Days of Sodom (Slant)
+ SalÃ², or the 120 Days of Sodom (Criterion)