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SalÚ, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom - SalÚ, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom(Blu Ray) [BFI - 0000]

Forty-plus years after its initial release SalÚ, or the 120 Days of Sodom remains one of the most notorious & controversial films of all time. Some see it as an excuse to shock and appal, while others look on it as a powerful and arty statement on both one of the blackest times in human history, and modern consumerism. From the BFI here we have a recent double Blu Ray reissue of the film- bringing together a restored print, a new commentary by the always worthy genre expert Kat Ellinger, a good selection extras, and a limited booklet bringing together reviews, BBFC correspondence exploring the film's troubled history, stills, and on-set photographs.

SalÚ, or the 120 Days of Sodom was an Italian/French production made in 1975, and was the final film from Italian auteur & ex-pimp Pier Paolo Pasolini. The film is a elegant & at times bleakly arty journey into depravity, shock & control- itís based in Italy during the second world war- and finds a party of upper class fascist rounding up a group of nine young men, and nine young women in a huge mansion- for physical, mental & sexual degradment.
 
As a fan of extreme/ shocking cinema, Iíve of course been aware of SalÚ for more than a few years now- but it's not until this reissue I've had the chance to see the film. And I must say itís as shocking as Iíd heard, but also grimy arty & at times tar blackly humorous in places, which I wasnít something I was expecting. I guess I was thinking it was  going to be a bland 1970ís euro art film with forced moments of depravity/ sleaze- instead, I found thought-provoking, often unbalancing & unsettling film, that is both powerful & troublingly engrossing in its presentation of human depravity, suffering, control and want.
 
The acting from both the arrogant aristocrats and their victims is convincing & believable though-out. The mansion setting is wonderfully captured in its dusty dilapidation  & internal decline. The tormentors carry out their perversions with such flippancy & unfeeling gander- and this increases the feeling of sorrow one feels for their victims. Many of the acts of depravity are carried out while a middle-age women plays lulling & elegant piano music in a large hall, which adds a feeling of grim surrealism to the proceedings. I wonít go onto list all depravation, humiliation & torture that goes on here, as itís pretty much every form of derangement you can think it of- be it sexually, via human waste making,  physically, or later by torture. Though the film does flow in its story, basing itís structure around Dante's Inferno, and  levels of depravity- so this is not just a series of nasty acts carried out on the young adults- there is a point, deranged flair, and grim cinematic artistry present through-out the films just under two-hour runtime.
 
 
Moving onto this new double-disc Blu Ray of the film- and on the first disc, we get both original Italian & English cuts of the film, these both I believe offer up SalÚ  in its totally uncut form, which apparently also includes a scene only on the BFI print of the film. Also on this first disc, we get a commentary track from film expert & author Kat Ellinger- and as weíve come to expect from Ms. Ellinger the track is tightly packed with facts, observations, other film comparisons, and more. She begins by discussing the film's impact & notoriety that has seemingly not lessened, even though more extreme & distributing fare has appeared in the insueing forty plus years since its release. She moves on to discuss how the film differs from the Marquis de Sade book of the same name itís based on, before going on to talking about similar controversial films of the period, and how it fits/ if it fits in with general exploitation film. After this, she goes onto talk about the film's troubled production, the film's screenwriter, and its general controversy at the time of release. Towards the latter part of the track, she discusses the film's censorship history in the UK, before briefly talking about the film's downplayed & realistic effects, including how they made the faeces used in the film & boxes of long fake Phallus that the male cast wore. So once again a great, great track- that you could easily listen to a few times over. Topping off the first disc we have the film's trailer.
 
The second disc is the features disc- and this is all stuff brought over from previous editions of the film- we get the following: The End of SalÚ- this runs forty minutes, and features interviews with two of the films cast, the screenwriter, and a few of the other crew- this 2008 featurette is rather fascinating, with worthy interviews & insights in what it was like to produce and work on Salo. Walking with Pasolini- twenty-minute featurette which sees a selection of academics & writers/ directors discussing Saloís impact, meaning & censorship issues. Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die- a 1981 documentary about the life and death of Pasolini. Open Your Eyes!- twenty-two minutes on set footage. Fade to Black- twenty-four-minute doc the ongoing relevance & power of the film. Enfants de SalÚ- an 18-minute selection of interviews with modern french directors such as Gasper Noť discussing how they got introduced to the film, and how it affected their work. Ostia- 1987  27 minute short film about  Pasolini by Derek Jarman. OSTIA (The Death of Pasolini)- Coilís 1986 track from the Horse Rotovator album with 2008 footage. So a good enough selection of extras- though a pity there was nothing new on this disc.
 
Really if youíre a fan of extreme-yet-thought-provoking cinema you have to see SalÚ, or the 120 Days of Sodom- as it still retains itís power to both shock yet oddly enthral, and thankful it never becomes too arty or ponderous. This new release is certainly worth picking up due to the new commentary track & print- and if you didnít already have a previous release of the film, the second disc of extras is certainly most worthy too.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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