Salo (1977): a tiresome, impotent film, completely lacking in artistic grace. What you see is what you get here, and no amount of inane dialogue, crude characterization, and slipshod craft can cover this up. This is the perfect example of drivel masquerading as art, the adolescent fantasies of a boring man, thinly veiled by pretentious trappings. Some are shocked by the content, but to be honest, I find the sexual violence in Hitchcock’s films infinitely more disturbing: there we find intimation usurping our conscience - masochism, rape, desecration, sexual phobiae all welded seamlessly under the surface of an umbriferous sheen of nightmares. Perhaps Salo so appeals to the art house because it deliberately removes the (traditionally supposed) necessary conditions of art: dissolution of dichotomies, the affirmation of fantasy at the expense of reality, and the assertion that direct statement is impossible. It seems to challenge these requirements, demanding that art live on its own terms, without the established conditions. Intelligible, yes, but when the final product fails to produce any lasting power, it only works against this claim. Without these conditions, art becomes ineffective and empty. At that point, why call it art at all?
On Seven Brides: Yes, women are abducted, and the men sing gleefully as they do it, but how can you simply ignore the film’s final half hour, which is plainly an indictment of the abduction and masculine brutality, in general? It is Milly who is in control, who tames and reigns the men, civilizing them and subduing their crude impulses, and it is clearly with her that the film sides. How also can you ignore the time period of the action? This film is not only anachronistic today, but was very much so back when it opened - deliberately so. It is an antique vision of the old west, a loving musical homage to a time long past - its creaky mores included. The worst you could say here is that the film is heteronormative, in that a crass dichotomy exists between the sexes. Yet, this says almost nothing, since nearly all films are heteronormative - and no, not just in the 50s, but up until our time. In fact, the common pictures today are far less subtle in their distinctions than they were in the 30s-60s. Back then, women spoke their minds, fought against convention, and confronted men with force. Go to the multiplex today, and nine times out of ten, the leading lady will be an inane blow-up sex doll in the service of a man’s pornographic reverie.
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