MoMA Returns To “Sodom” With Legendary Queer Filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini

New York’s Museum of Modern Art is celebrating the pioneering work of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini with an extensive retrospective, with many films being shown in newly restored versions.

While Pasolini was openly gay, his films addressed transgression more than overt queer themes, with the exception of Teorema, Arabian Nights and the powerful but disturbing Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom from 1975.

Screening December 27 and January 2, Saló focuses on four wealthy Italians who take advantage of the chaos after Mussolini’s fall to kidnap a group of teenagers and subject them to violent psychosexual torture. More than 30 years after its release, the film is still banned in some countries. (While intense, the trailer above doesn’t do it justice)

In the on-set interview below,  Pasolini explains he made the film to show how easy it is for society to “reduce the human body to a salable commodity.” The late director also shares his dismal view of politics:

My need to make this film also came from the fact I particularly hate the leaders of the day. Each one of us hates with particular vehemence the powers to which he is forced to submit. So, I hate the powers of today. It is a power that manipulates people just as it did at the time of Himmler or Hitler.

I don’t think the young people of today will understand this film. I have no illusions about my ability to influence young people. It is impossible to create a cultural relationship with them, because they are living with totally new values, with which the old values cannot be compared.

I don’t believe we shall ever again have any form of society in which men will be free. One should not hope for it. One should not hope for anything. Hope is invented by politicians to keep the electorate happy.

Other films being screened include The Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights, and Medea.

Pier Paolo Pasolini at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through January 5.

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  • jkb

    A film that was ahead of its time. I also must commend the actors who so fearlessly portrayed and “endured” the madness.

  • MartinDK

    It is the most awful film i ever saw. I was in a state of shock all the way through. It leaves you changed. There is something very sinister about corruption of innocence, and the abuse of power, coupling it to sex makes for a total shock effect and controversy, it is however not a sexy film…

  • Ogre Magi

    Salo was the dumbest most boring porno I have ever seen!

  • balehead

    A brilliant film! Ahead of it’s time…..

  • JayHobeSound

    The blend of ‘camp’ and violence and violent sex made it seem a bit more cruel than if it was just gratuitous violence. Like previous comment noted: the camp element seemed to emphasize the innocence being corrupted. It has disturbing parts but like a car wreck along the highway, we are compelled to watch.

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