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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/30/99

1975 (1998) - PEA/United Artists (Criterion)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Criterion's Salo Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+, B+, C

Specs and Features

112 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (29 chapters), languages: Italian (DD mono), subtitles: English

I always have a hard time writing about this film. In fact, don't be surprised if this is short and sweet. Salò is about excess. It's about human depravity and it's about human nature.

Holed up in a small villa, four very nasty Italian politicians bring together a couple of evil madams, a handful of Nazi soldiers and eighteen teenagers for a weekend of twisted "fun". Not my idea of fun, but theirs. It's the last days of the Third Reich and Mussolini's fascist blackshirts are on their way down - why not go out with a little style, huh? The teens are raped, killed, emotionally and physically tortured and at one point forced to eat human feces. To paraphrase Goodfellas, "Nice f*@&in' movie." It is beautiful though. It's the perfect example of "car crash psychology" - you don't want to look, but you find yourself staring at it in spite of yourself.

The filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini was a master of beautiful epics. The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights both established him as a filmmaker with vision. It was with this film, a personal attack on the politics that destroyed his family during his childhood (his brother was killed by the Blackshirts during WWII) that gave him notoriety. It seems fitting that the man who breathed life into Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and St. Matthew's story of Christ (The Gospel According To St. Matthew) would also want to tell the most notorious tale by the Marquis de Sade.

Although not filled with extras or even a commentary track that tries to explain things, the Criterion edition of this film is fascinating just for the film itself. Preserved beautifully, the disc looks and sounds wonderful. I hope that Criterion eventually starts to go 16x9 - and boy would this film benefit by that. I still say it looks as good as most discs out there -- Pasolini knew how to move a camera, and this film is a testament to that. Among other things.

Todd Doogan


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