120 Days of Sodom (1975)

... is a new frontier for cinema studies...

Warning: For Adult Readers only, or for those who have reached the edge of cinematic quintessence.

[pic from]

A shot from Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

As Roman Abramovich, Russian billionaire, ate his $47,221 (2, 251, 969.49php) lunch at Nello's up at Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, New York with six to ten people, I was standing at the port of Caticlan with the beaming sun (or Le Soleil in French) waiting for our automobile service to park. We were fifteen science clubbers half-awake on our arrival from the island of Boracay. I came to think that my itinerary is lost, and that i shouldn't be there at that time, and that I should be watching more films to meet some deadlines.

Three days later, I braced myself to watch three films in succession: Ozu's Tokyo Story(1953), Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), and Pasolini's Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975). Of course, the first two are regulars on my list, however, the third one is my nth attempt to watch it.

There exist films that obliterate old traditions of filmic themes. Usually, these films have a remarkable and, surprisingly, high aesthetics that they cannot be denied as an art form. This mechanistic limitation is highly controversial, and it has spurred dozens of debate about the reception of such films, and also the stylistics they involve. Such is Pier Paolo Pasolini's sad and violent Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom. Salo is controversial and it has always been. Salo has established grounds beyond the reach of my thumb, if there exists a 'thumb' that sets measurable standards on the 'viewabilty' of a film. But I am not a person to use such a thumb to elicit the importance and the unimportance of films, more so, to categorize films whether they are inherently filmic or not. Such complication is not applicable to the total elucidation of Salo.

Also, to view Salo in comparison with La Regle de Jeu (Renoir, 1939) or to Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) is insufficient. No proper relationship except, i think, a mise-en-scene comparison, can be established between 'canonical works' and Salo. Though, one can argue that Salo is itself a canon, but this may track a different set of arguments, maybe directed to the question of 'what makes a film a canon?'. If Salo is to be discussed, it requires three fundamental groundings: Ethics, at the zenith, Aesthetics, as a grounding, and Reception Theory, the link between them. Ethics, itself, is problematic as a field because of its split or multi-split perspective: Teleological and Ontological Ethics. Aesthetics, or the inquiry to art and beauty, have had developments for the past years, specifically film aesthetics with the publication of David Bordwell and Noel Caroll's book, Post Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. Reception theory is going there.

To approach Salo, one can construct a formal analysis with an assumption that Pier Paolo Pasolini is a poet of cinema. Pasolini was a poet and always has been. Another alternative study is an auteur study of the film, to analyze Salo in relation to the body of Pasolini's work. An elucidation of the ethical grounds crossed with narratology and thematic analysis can also be established. A reception study, focusing on the cognitive effect of each piercing image is also recommendable.

These suggestions are only limited to my proposed groundings namely ethics, aesthetics, and reception theory. Other groundings can be proposed to describe, evaluate and analyze Salo. This is to say that after 30 years of neglect, with the coming of a wider distribution of Salo in DVD, film studies can benefit equally as Salo could possibly have if a series of studies can be established. That's all for now. Ciao!

Salo. Like hell.

I am excited to watch Amarcord by Fellini, and Maurice Pialat's Loulou. . . More Bresson this November I hope.