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Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Year: 1975
Production Co: Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA)
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Writer: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Yes, it's an exploitation film, and like most of them it turns out to have several short but extremely disturbing scenes amongst long stretches where you're waiting for something horrific to happen. So, like most exploitation films it's actually quite boring.

But you couldn't review it without mentioning the merit the film is aiming for - that of being a comment on fascism. I was expecting a parallel of the political culture a la Animal Farm, but the only connection the film makes seems to be that of the dangers of absolute power of the state.

It concerns a quartet of extremely high placed government and church officials during the height of the Second World War in Italy with Mussolini in full sway.

For whatever reason (bored with the effortless satisfaction of their every desire and pleasure no matter how perverted? Psycholocally sick? Undoubtedly a combination of both...) they take control of a country manor and populate it with several dozen youths of both sexes kidnapped and press-ganged into their 'service' by a Mussolini youth-like gang of thugs for no other reason than to sexually, mentally and physically torture them. As the psychotic President says after pulling the trigger of an empty gun against one kid's head 'we'll kill you a thousand times here'.

They do so by way of a bizarre collection of rituals and rites... There are faux-marriages between the kids followed by watching them copulate on the chapel floor, dressing up as women and taking 'husbands' and a surreal storytime where they all sit around naked as aging hookers tell tales of their exploits until the jailers are sufficiently aroused to pull whatever male or female victim that takes their fancy aside.

There's an extended sequence of coprophilia (it's chocolate orange) that you'd better not watch if you have popcorn. If you can stomach that the climax depicts the four taking turns disciplining troublemakers by sawing off a tongue, slicing off a scalp and burning genitalia with a candle.

Video nasty trappings aside, there's a lot of inexplicable symbolism that might have meant something to the director or the intended audience of the day and the result is less than the sum of its parts and running time. Without a cult of mystique from widespread bans it'd be just another European art movie that would put you to sleep.

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