This outcome depressed the filmmaker, whose notion of a "cinema of poetry" contradicted the prevailing cinema of product. So he repudiated his commercial successes in essays and also made one of the most pessimistic films of all time. SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975; September 26 at 7 pm) sets the Sadean text in Northern Italy in 1944, near the end of the Fascist regime. A crapulous bishop, a politician, and an aristocrat, representing the chief ruling classes, imprison the area's most beautiful young men and women in their villa and subject them to their lust and power, depriving them of their freedom, their humanity, and ultimately their lives.
True to Sade in its literalness and discursiveness, Salò is hypnotic, repulsive, and tedious as it depicts every known debauchery — and that includes a scene that gives new meaning to "shit-eating grin." It too ends in a hideous sacrifice. Pasolini himself was found run over by his own car. Whether he was done in by neo-fascist thugs or by one of the oppressed street hustlers with whom he was obsessed, his life, death, and works vindicate those sacrificed to power and history.
, Pier Paolo Pasolini, MEDEA, Harvard Film Archive, More