Salo

This was a hell of a year in The Criterion Collection. Between films about phantom carriages, angry jurors, beasts and beauties, stranded astronauts, international revolutionaries, and great dictators, Adam Charles and Landon Palmer found their wallets empty and their cinephilic obsessions sated. Here are their eleven favorite releases and upgrades of the year…

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A few weeks ago I discussed the definition of raunch and touched on its evolution in film. The idea of raunch, generally considered anything vulgar or obscene, has gone from one of insult to one of achievement. Over the years directors have developed entire genres of innocent raunch comedy, while still retaining the ability to shock and offend. Meanwhile dramas and horror continue to “fancy” raunch for its ability to reach our darkest thoughts or turn our stomachs. Raunch isn’t something to shy away from, despite the dirty feeling you may get after viewing films like Pink Flamingos or Anatomy of Hell. If anything, it can be argued for that very reason you should watch crude films. Art should both stir discomfort and activate brain juices, and as much as some would like to dispute raunch as art, when done right it reflects current culture and the people watching.

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It started with a conversation I was having with my friend Robert about Salo. You’d be surprised how many ideas for articles arise from discussing this film. Not so many dinner plans, though. Makes sense for a film subtitled 120 Days of Sodom. Anyway, being avid film lovers, we agreed Salo was a film we were glad we had seen despite the inability to ever be able to “unwatch” it. We love film, and we love the notion we could sit through and appreciate a movie like Salo despite the graphic imagery therein. This spiraled the conversation into other films that our desensitized minds could handle, films we could observe from a film-lover or even a critical perspective even though they had imagery that could not be unseen. An hour later, we had disgusted ourselves to the point of seppuku, we went our merry separate ways, but a lingering idea was stuck in my head. Amidst all the onerous images I had conjured back into my mind from years and years of watching whatever whenever, a nugget of a question remained. It was basically this: As a film connoisseur, can you desensitize yourself for the sake of cinematic appreciation?

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Criterion Files

One of the unwritten wish-fulfillment articles I’ve had in mind for Culture Warrior that nobody will ever read is an overview of cinematic adaptations of the work of the Marquis de Sade, including anything ranging from an early cinematic adaptation of his work in the landmark Surrealist film L’Âge d’Or to his comparatively more mainstream embodiment by none other than Geoffrey Rush in Quills to osbsure examples from all over the globe like Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmejer’s part-live-action/part stop-motion animation film Lunacy. At the center of this hypothetical list, of course, would be arguably the most famous and easily one of the most divisive adaptations of de Sade’s work, and one of Cole Abaius’s all-time favorite films, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975).

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It’s a taboo topic, but we brave the films that brave the unclear world of this sexual pathology and emerge unscathed with the best portrayals of pedophiles in film.

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DVDs I Bought This Week!

Brian Gibson loves to buy DVDs. Come with him on his weekly journey into the depths of credit card debt as he tells you what to buy, rent and avoid.

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