"The 1970s was a hotbed of scandalous art cinema, but Salò - unlike such X-rated shockers as Last Tango in Paris or In the Realm of the Senses - has not been tamed by the passage of years," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "If anything, there is a cruel, chilling timelessness to both its imagery and its logic. The shock hasn't worn off in the slightest. While Pasolini mingled the sacred and the profane in much of his earlier work, Salò exists in an utterly godless realm."
"Today, Criterion has at long last rescued Salò from collector lust and paper-bag infamy via an authorized deluxe two-disc edition, boasting an immaculate transfer (the prior, short-lived legitimate release lost considerable picture quality in its film-to-digital journey) and a handful of accompanying short subjects that document the film's conception, production, release, and legacy," writes Bruce Bennett, who tells the story of the film's making in the New York Sun. "What no one involved could imagine was that Pasolini would not live to see his profoundly isolating, suffocatingly formalist, stomach-churning masterpiece alternately excoriated and lionized upon its release and for four decades afterward."
"Taking its inspiration in roughly equal measure from De Sade's novel, which is referenced in the film's subtitle, and Dante's Inferno, Salò repositions De Sade's atrocity by setting it in 1944 Italy, during the waning years of fascist rule under Hitler and Mussolini," writes Eric Henderson in Slant. "While its head is in WWII, its heart (or what passes for it) is most obviously concerned with mid-70s consumerism. Humanity, in Salò, has ceased to represent anything other than transaction. Mind, body and soul (but mostly body) are all up for sale. And theft."
"By taking on what he perceives as the new, post-modern fascism - the notion of personal happiness achievable via consumption and the amassing of goods and material possessions - Pasolini lets no one off the hook," writes Bill Gibron in DVD Talk. "He is especially hard on those who play the victim. Throughout Salò, we see adolescents greedily partaking in the vices, enjoying aberrant sex, rape, random acts of violence, and mindless hedonistic indulgence. One of the reasons viewers will find this film offensive is not in its images. While intense, the concept of complicity is far more disgusting."
See also: The BFI's special feature and Light Sleeper's roundtable discussion.
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