This is the first entry in a new series I’m tentatively calling Criterion Watching, inspired by the name of my monthly Criterion Watch posts. I’ve decided to lead off the series with the Collection’s second-most-controversial title (after Armageddon, of course) not only because I wanted to begin with something that would be attention-grabbing, but also because I’ve been kind of putting off watching this and I figured this would be as good an excuse as any. Anyway, hope you enjoy. I’ll try to post one of these every few weeks or so, and if you have a recommendation for a better name, feel free to chime in in the Comments section.
Nearly every discussion of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom begins with its content. On the one hand, this is only natural. After all, when a movie is as notorious as Salo is, you don’t bury the lead. Yet on the other hand, doing so creates something of a mistaken impression among those who read reviews of the film. When the first thing someone hears about a movie is how “extreme” and “controversial” it is, too often one jumps to the conclusion that it’s some sort of geek show, something to be avoided by all but the most thrill-seeking of moviegoers. I know that the impression of Salo that I’d harbored for years was that it was some kind of high-toned exploitation classic. But now that I’ve seen the film, I realize how far off base my impression was. Make no mistake- Salo’s characters engage in some of the most terrible acts of brutality and degradation I’ve ever seen onscreen. But exploitation this isn’t.
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