Yoh, I'm Chriss.
I like movies that explore the human condition, but I also believe that since film is a visual medium that a movie should be told within a stylistic narrative; whether dreamily surrealist or grittily realistic, and that there should be a distinctive visual element present. Themes are the essence of my enjoyment of a movie, especially when they are handled well. As this is the case, many of my higher rated movies (especially those with 5 stars) are movies that explore themes I find I particularly relate to, so I suppose my ratings are a good reflection of my personality. I quite enjoy movies that delve into superficiality and sex. Two subjects of particular interest to me. Platonic interest only though, in this case. Although I find movies of a darker nature more intellectually enjoyable I do quite like comedies as well.
Although admittedly not my favourite genre of film, the comedies I enjoy tend to be cynical or sarcastic; intelligent, so definitely not the likes of American Pie or Tropic Thunder, etc. Comedies more akin to the likes of Withnail & I or In the Loop. I'm not at all bothered by the nationality of a movie, in fact I'm quite keen on world cinema. Right now, I'd have to say I'm particularly enjoying the ridiculously stylish Chinese movies like Hero and The House of Flying Daggers.
So thanks for reading this far, if anyone has! if anyone who is here solely for the movies wants to add me as a friend, feel free. Later.
Oh, and just as an additional note- I'm self-educated in the way of film analysis, so I feel it would be precocious of me to go into dauntingly long, overly complicated, mumbling reviews of the movies. So with the movies I have reviewed, really think of it more as a blurb than a full on critique. Thanks!
(Really need to get around to rewriting my favourite movie reviews, they're of a ridiculously low standard, but don't judge me on them! I wrote some of them on my iPhone, after all!)
Salo, a film by infamous Italian auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini, presents some of the most horrifying images ever displayed on a cinema screen - and it is no stretch to describe the film as one of the most macabre in cinematic history.
'Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom' is based on the morally repugnant novel 'The 120 Days of Sodom' by the notorious 18th-century French philosopher and writer Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade. It is perhaps no surprise then that a film adapted from one of the most scandalous novels in French history was banned for decades in many countries, including the UK. Salo even remained banned in Australia until 2010. Since the film's release in 1975 it has attracted the scorn of not only censors and the general public, but also of the critics. In 1977, Vincent Canby of The New York Times attacked the very raison d'être of the film; he refused to accept the justifications for the movie's lurid scenes, harshly scolding Pasolini in an ad hominem attack: "For all of Mr. Pasolini's desire to make "Salo" an abstract statement, one cannot look at images of people being scalped, whipped, gouged, slashed, covered with excrement and sometimes eating it and react abstractedly unless one shares the director's obsessions." Even when Salo received a rerelease in Britain, in 2000, BBC Film critic Michael Thomson described the film and its director in an equally unflattering light: "Clearly Pasolini (who could either be exceptionally inspired or - as here - absolutely dire) had hit the creative buffers, and so - in his tale of four power-mad, sexually-warped members of the ruling elite - seems to relish serving up endless examples of the most gruesome conduct, which include the forced consumption of food spiked with nails, nipples being branded, and - most ghastly of all - the consumption of excrement. Needless to say, the young men and women horrifically abused by the four condescending establishment tyrants are treated like so much available meat. Grim and pointless in equal measure."
And it is true. Salo is a grim film, impossibly difficult to watch. Even writing about the film is enough to fill me with that same sense of disgust and dread that it provoked when I first viewed it- and let me say, for a movie to have had that great of an effect on a millennial, with our 'violent video games', and our enjoyment of, er, Serbian exports, is testament to its truly harrowing nature. I've seen films that reach every extreme, films much more explicitly graphic than this, but it is Salo that still lurks in my subconscious, that still haunts my mind with the grieving, hopeless cries of the victims trapped in it. Of the thousands of films I've seen, it is only Salo that has proved so difficult to ever watch again. So yes, the critics are correct, Salo is indeed filled with horrors that will no doubt scar the mind of anyone willing to watch it, but is this, as the reviewers suggest, merely pointless, or worse still, the work of a fetishist? Is this laborious opus, which some suggest cost its director his life (although this is unlikely), really the equivalent to modern-day films like 'Hostel' and 'The Human Centipede'? Is the legacy of Salo simply the advent of torture porn? Not in my opinion. I choose to believe that Pasolini wasn't a mere provocateur, but an observer of the human condition. An artist with a point to communicate, even if that requires corroding away our filter, our ability to detach from the fantasy, by his use of gruesome and vile imagery.
Salo is a modern adaptation of de Sade's chronicle of tortures which is transposed from 18th- century France to the backdrop of Mussolini's fascist Italy, in 1944- more specifically the Republic of Salo. The film takes only the premise of the book; merely using de Sade's grimly perverse imagination as a foundation for what Pasolini really wants to explore: Fascism, Capitalism, sexuality, and human nature. The grim story begins in a small town, with what appears to be the army rounding up a group of young teenagers. The children are taken to a sealed off castle, inhabited by four of the corrupt elite: The Duke, The Magistrate, The Bishop, and The President. Soon it becomes clear that these four are sadistic libertines, who intend to use the children as sexual objects, on which they can unleash any and every desire they possess. In order to inspire their libidos, the four also invited some seasoned and experienced prostitutes, each with her own horrible speciality.
The film is split into four distinct sections: The 'Ante-inferno', the 'Circle of Manias', the 'Circle of Shit', and the 'Circle of Blood'; these stages seem to be loosely inspired by the narrative set in the 13th-century epic poem 'Dante's inferno'. In the Ante-Inferno, the children are put through a rigorous selection process based solely on how sexually attractive the four men find each of them, and the rules to which they will be made comply are made clear. In the 'Circle of Manias' the violence begins to escalate, leading to the 'Circle of Shit'- which contains the film's most stomach-turning scenes, and then finally, 'The Circle of Blood'- the blackest point of the film.
It is clear, without much analysis, that Salo is showing the horrors of Fascism: the unbridled ruling class using their power to commit unspeakable atrocities, discarding every moral law that gives us any sense of being human. Even the harshest critics of the film seem to accept this. The problem tends to be that such horrific imagery isn't necessary to communicate such a simplistic message; that 'fascism is bad' is indeed a redundant message, which needs no explanation because the world has already witnessed its horrors. And that may be so. We have all seen the documentaries and read the textbooks, but documentaries and textbooks show the events in a cold and educational context. Pasolini lived under Mussolini's fascist regime; he experienced Fascism first hand. This isn't to say Pasolini experienced anything like the events depicted in Salo, but surely someone with his milieu is entitled to portray that sense of despair and powerlessness as he felt it. Surely this emotional transference is only possible through the arts? As Salo does so terribly well - the film reeks of despair throughout. Perhaps that is what makes Salo so hard to watch. The constant, impending doom. The viewer never expects the cavalry to arrive, or a white knight to ride in and save the day. As is with Fascism, 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here'.
It is established as soon as the libertines have their way that the children are no more than objects. Possessions. In the 'Ante-inferno', the children are reduced to how attractive they are and treated like animals. They are no longer allowed individuality or personality. They are being broken. It can be argued that Pasolini uses this to portray the dehumanising effect of Capitalism. As a staunch communist, Pasolini believed Capitalism strips us of our essence. That sexuality has become a commodity. That we are objectified. Some believe that the film's portrayal of sexuality as painful, debauched and degrading signifies how Pasolini sees Capitalism's effect on the person; that the commercialisation of sex has, in effect, killed it. This is made particularly clear when the libertines examine the children for any physical flaws, willing to dispose of those they find unappealing. This almost anti-erotic, clinical portrayal of sex, I believe, defies those critics' view that the film is somehow a cathartic, sexual release for Pasolini. The film is void of any sort of attempt to arouse. The camera doesn't linger on the children, the actors aren't directed to seduce. They are never anything more than objects. Throughout the whole film, there is perhaps only one instance of consensual sex, and that takes place between one of the captors and an abettor. Any other instance of consensual sex is punished by death. Then, in the final act, the 'Circle of Blood', the film reaches its bleak, but expected, conclusion. The children are tortured to death. They have passed their sell-by dates. They no longer hold any value, they're worthless. The libertines revel in destroying them. Any ember of hope that may have flickered in the mind of the viewer is now extinguished. Again, the torture scenes are shown in a dissociated way. Shown through the binoculars of one of the torturers, as he watches his comrade cut the tongue out of one of the young boys' mouth (a scene that became iconic, and is cited as effectively ending the young actor's [Franco Merli] career). The final scene of the film shows two guards perform a slow waltz, carelessly joking; the scene perfectly captures the essence of the film: detachment.
De Sade had strong political views, but of which are being shown in his novel is a highly contentious subject amongst scholars: notably feminist scholars. Some Feminists, like Simone de Beauvoir, argue in his favour, whilst others are vehemently opposed. Anyway, I argue this, because this is what Pasolini and de Sade's work truly have in common. More than the torture. More than the paedophillia. More than the infamy. They parallel in misinterpretation. There are loads of different interpretations of Salo and 120 Days..., many of them driven by ignorance, or stilted by repulsion, or just mistaken. But even the analyses that aren't hysterical, the few analysts that retain a logical and coherent line of argument, they can still differ to extremes in what they believe the primary message is. All art is forever contentious, as it should be. And this is my preemptive defence of Salo. The fact that it can be so hotly debated by scholars, whom can maintain logical arguments but still disagree vehemently isn't a weakness of the film, but a strength. All art has an observation of the human condition to make, and Salo is no different. And maybe this is why the film is now respected as a valuable film, with avid supporters such as German director Michael Haneke and even film critic Roger Ebert.