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October 05, 2011


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Chris O.

Well said. All these memes and imaginary badges of "cool" and new canons and Chaplin vs. Keaton ideas and on and on and on... are giving the term "pretentious bloggers" a bum rap.


In all fairness to Haglund, his piece acknowledges that it's a riff off of Richard Brody New Yorker review that says Salo "is essential to have seen but impossible to watch." It seems like you're real beef is with Brody, although demerits Haglund, who inexplicably interpreted the comment as a commandment.

Thomas D.

Salo is almost always mentioned when someone is discussing the most "extreme" horror and exploitation films ever made (I initially saw it in this context), more so than as a "disgusting art movie". I think the Browbeat post is just using this because it's the hack, fall back premise. The Kois piece ("cultural vegetables"?) does a similar thing with Solaris, that it's a "must watch" because it too is among the most "extreme" movies ever made (extremely arty, boring, and philosophical, according to him), and this too is the obvious, lazy position. So, I don't think Kois is joking. He's just indirectly telling us he would rather be disgusted than bored.

"Not adult" is a simple way to put it. In both posts, it feels like someone is trying to argue their way out of having to do a particularly tedious homework assignment.


This is indeed well said, and I'm ashamed -- that's a bit strong, maybe chagrined -- to admit that my so for only viewing of SALO was approached in the manner you rightly deplore. The thing is, though, I'm not sure I would have watched it otherwise. I guess I probably would have, but a film like SALO does attain a certain reputation of this type that is very difficult to ignore until you've seen it for the first time.

warren oates

There are worse ways to stumble into serious viewing and cinephilia than watching SALO for the "wrong" reasons. I know a number of people who sought this title out on its extreme reputation alone and ended up later exploring more art films by Pasolini and others because of it.

I avoided SALO for many years because of its infamy. (My own "wrong" reason.) I finally sat down to watch it when I was in a particularly dark place in life and looking for reasons to think the worst of humanity. But the fact of the film itself -- Pasolini's freedom and facility in expressing his despair so profoundly -- inspired me and improved my outlook.

The first time I saw a Michael Haneke film -- THE SEVENTH CONTINENT on VHS -- I was attracted to it because of the Jonathan Rosenbaum quote on the cover, the mysterious sounding title and a clerk at Vidiots who warned me that I didn't want to see it because it would ruin my day.

A few other films I felt I had to see based on my prior notions of their purported extremity turned out to be some of the most authentically disturbing works of cinema I know: Haneke's BENNY'S VIDEO, Rogozhkin's THE CHEKIST, McNaughton's HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.

Tom Russell

"Again: Cinephilia is not a game of 'Guts,' for fuck's sake. Criticism even less so."

Aptly put.

I saw SALO under perhaps less-than-ideal circumstances; it wasn't in the "this is so extreme and disgusting, let's watch it" mode, as that's one that's never appealed to me (I've a weak stomach). I was nineteen or twenty. I knew nothing about the film or its reputation when my then-girlfriend brought it over to my place for movie night, other than that it was directed by Pasolini, who had made THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW that I had found at once moving and bracing. It is perhaps an understatement to say that I was not fully prepared for the experience.

Glenn, just curious-- what happened to your PS3 that it needs replacing?

Hollis Lime

Here's the thing: Pasolini could never have imagined a world where transgression is commodified and compartmentalized as a genre. If he knew that one day his film would basically be stripped of it's political context and turned into life cereal for the "film buff" Mikeys of the world, I bet he wouldn't have made it. It's harder to be a morally and politically committed artist in this culture, and we're worse off for it.

David Ehrenstein

The very simple answer is YES!!!!

"Pasolini could never have imagined a world where transgression is commodified and compartmentalized as a genre."

Oh yes he could.

You know nohting about Pasolini. Nothing.

Want to learn? I'll be you don't. But if you do get ahold of a copy of his collected essays "heretical Empiricism"

Hollis Lime

You know, I thought about that after I posted. You're probably right, he most likely COULD have imagined that world, but he didn't live long enough to see it. That's what I meant, ya know. Bad choice of words, I guess.

"I'll bet you don't"

Not exactly sure why you're being so antagonistic. I like Pasolini, and I'm still learning about him. "Mamma Roma" and "Accattone" have had a big impact on me. Not sure where in my post was there anything negative towards him. Thanks for the suggestion.

Adam R.

"You know nohting about Pasolini. Nothing."

Why do people behave like this, particularly after a post that tries to play down the necessity of being a hyper-wised-up walking film dictionary?

"Want to learn? I'll bet you don't."

Who speaks like that people?

All the Best People

I see that neither Hollis Lime or Adam R. have encountered David Ehrenstein posts before.

Regardless, the illustrious Mr. K. nails it on the head in his post.

As for me, I'll say that SALO is a masterpiece, that I recommend it to no one, and that I hope and pray I don't see it a second time. But that is a testament to its power.


Mr. Ehrenstein you may know a great deal more about this subject than all of us but that comment was self-serving bullshit. I wonder if you are as much of an ass as you seem to be.


I think David Ehrenstein and Ray Carney should do a buddy cop show together. One of them mocks suspects for not knowing anything about Pasolini, the other mocks suspects for not knowing anything about Cassavetes. They're so mismatched, why did the chief think they could work together? Yet somehow they get it done. "Ehrenstein & The Carn", next fall.

warren oates

I'd watch that show. Carney could also bitchslap any fans of David Lynch, Tarantino and the Coen Brothers and bring on special guest star of lone contemporary filmmaking integrity Harmony Korine.

But, seriously, folks, I kid Carney but I love him, in spite of and because of his fashion choices. And I don't think Ehrenstein was really that far out of line above. Am I the only one hearing the ANNIE HALL joke?


The shocking thing about SALO these days is how well made it's for a Pasolini film. Shocking? We're not talking about LE SANG DES BETES here. This is the type of film Kael would say would be more interesting watching Pasolini explain the film to the actors. But back in the day you could be glib and still wrestle with Pasolini as a serious artist. PERFORMANCE seemed sinful and shoddy in 1970 and now seems like classical filmmaking. The cultural stew pot is morphic--and it's frustrating to see poseurs write from out-dated Cliff notes. Keep up the good fight Glenn!


I've never seen SALO but would love to.

Question that's entirely beside the point of this discussion: Even though it's commercially available and purchasable/rentable, is it actually legal to be in possession of it? I'm almost sure that it is, but why? Who wants to rent this thing on Netflix then get thrown in jail?

Hollis Lime

"Am I the only one hearing the Annie Hall joke?"

I hope, because that would mean that I were pretentious and citing my credentials ("...I teach a class on Pasolini", etc., etc.) when I thought my post was fairly modest and succinct. I didn't even think of it as that much of a post about Pasolini, I was making a general point, I think. Which is why I was a little confused by the tone of Mr. Ehrenstein's reply.

But it is interesting that two people that ostensibly like the same thing can come into minor conflict in these sort of settings. It's hard to discern intention and tone on the internet sometimes, and I think Mr. Ehrensten had fine intentions, and was just defending a filmmaker he loves. Pasolini doesn't seem to get mentioned nearly as much as he should, and when he does in mainstream sort of publications, it's invariably about "Salo" and it's visceral content, completely ignoring his ideals and his other work, so I can see why David would rush to defense. No big deal, and all that.


You guys do realize that David E. feels overwhelmingly compelled to post whenever a key filmmaker (by his lights) is mentioned, and only (AFAIK) once per thread. It seems obvious that he reads 50% of what you wrote to provoke him, less obvious but just as true that he reads 0% of what you said in response to him. He does this on The House Next Door pretty much every day.

He's a really intelligent guy but in recent years all I see is a Waldo Lydecker ("self-absorption in my case is completely justified") who writes maybe 150 words per day, and exclusively in the form of drive-by comments and YouTube links.


The guy is a practical joke.

David Ehrenstein




David Ehrenstein

I hate Ray Carney like poison.

warren oates

That's why bill's pitch would be such a great cop show. The only thing you hate more than your partner is somebody who likes the wrong movies. You two cinematic enforcers are made for each other.


Right. To quote Troy McLure, you'd be the original Odd Couple.

David Ehrenstein



"Question that's entirely beside the point of this discussion: Even though it's commercially available and purchasable/rentable, is it actually legal to be in possession of it? I'm almost sure that it is, but why? Who wants to rent this thing on Netflix then get thrown in jail?"

The Silverlake branch of the Los Angeles public library has the Criterion DVD, so I think at least in California, you're on safe ground.


And I was somehow able to buy my copy of the Criterion edition at a little hole-in-the-wall, underground, off-the-grid type place called Barnes & Noble, though when you live in a radical hippie region like southern Virginia, those places are a dime a dozen.

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