Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie Review Salo

Last night I went to the Philoctetes Center to see a movie by the late Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini called Salo. I had been warned that this movie was hard to take, and that I might not be able to sit through the whole thing. But you know it is, sometimes you have to see something for yourself. I did however make sure that I didn't eat dinner before the movie! This is how the movie is described by the distributor, Criterion Collection:

"Pier Paolo Pasolini's notorious final film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been called nauseating, shocking, depraved, pornographic . . . it's also a masterpiece. The controversial poet, novelist, and filmmaker's transposition of the Marquis de Sade's 18th-century opus of torture and degradation to 1944 Fascist Italy remains one of the most passionately debated films of all time, a thought-provoking inquiry into the political, social, and sexual dynamics that define the world we live in." -Criterion Collection.

Well, I think that pretty much sums up this movie. I don't think I have seen a more disturbing film, in depicting how human beings can gleefully torture and degrade others for their own sadistic pleasure or amusement. It wasn't so much the nudity or the sex scenes, it was the look in the predators eyes as they survey the teenage boys and girls that have been rounded up by three middle-aged procuresses and taken to a bucolic villa in the countryside. For the most part, it is the four governors in this small town, who are of course male, that perpetrate the horrific scenes of violence and sexual perversity, while the middle-aged women for the most part remain passive. The close-ups on the faces of certain of the girls and boys, and the tear stains on their faces says more than graphic violence could ever say. And there is certainly plenty of that. There was one whole section of the movie that I couldn't even watch because I was afraid that I was just going to embarrass myself by retching in the aisles.

The movie ends with no hope that these adolescents are going to be saved. No Allied troops march in, and round up the men, setting them free. The last scene in the movie is of two young soldiers dancing to music in a room, while those girls and boys who have committed offenses are tortured and killed.

Sounds like a fun evening huh? After the movie was over, I was devastated. I couldn't stop shaking. It was at this moment that I really missed my friends, and I regret that I didn't invite them to join me. At least we could have been appalled together! What I needed at that moment after the film was over, was a big hug, some human contact to show me that not all humans are as venal as the ones in the film. I've never felt so alone in my life as I did after seeing this movie. Instead, what I got, was some elderly man on seeing how upset I was, announcing that "it was only a movie!"

Oh my effing God, are you effing kidding me? Duh, I know that it's a movie. But isn't the point of art to provoke a response in the viewer? To move them, enrage them, make them think? Seriously, are all heterosexual men missing a sensitivity chip? Instead of the milk of human kindness, I ended up dumped at the bus stop, like a small child who's parents had forgotten to pick him up at school. Just left there to deal with the emotional bruising that I just suffered. I thought about stopping off to have a drink, but that the last thing I wanted was to drink by myself. Sitting at the bar, crying silently, while my tears turn my reisling salty.

I went home, which was a good thing, because I barely made it through the front door before the bile that I had been attempting to keep down, made its way back up again. I tried to erase images of the film from my mind by watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta, thinking that conspicuous consumption, fake boobs, and even faker friendships would cheer me up. But instead I just lay in my bed after it was over for hours, thinking about how grateful I am that tonight I am going to see my posse and spend time with them. And how happy I am that I live in 21st century New York.

Even if men can be detached, and insensitive jackasses.


Hope Tarr said...

I don't know how you sat through any of it, Elizabeth. The black-and-white poster image is upsetting enough.

Call me a Phillistine("Hope, you Phillistine!"--no, really, it's okay) but when it comes to "art," I'll take my masterpieces, film or otherwise, with a hopeful ending any day. Real life is chockful of hurt aplenty without aggrandising it on the Big Screen or anywhere else.

Call that my two cents'...

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Particularly this film which most definitely does not give you a happy ending. Nor do the poor teenage boys and girls have any real discerning characteristics as people. They are just, pardon my choice of words, cannon fodder for the perverts in the film. Which makes it even more disturbing, because the audience is unable to identify with anyone in the film other than their youth and the degradations they are suffering. The movie takes away their humanity from the beginning.