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Pick of the Week
Sálo, or The 120 Days Of Sodom (Criterion) — Pier Paolo Passolini pulled no punches in his work, but the notorious Sálo stands apart; 36 years after its release, it remains a portrait of cruelty and suffering that is unrivaled in the cinema. Of course, unlike many filmmakers who depict torture in a voyeuristic way, Passolini’s choice was purely political; how better to expose the degradation of Italian life under fascism? A full review of Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition, loaded with extra features, will appear next week, but don’t wait for us. Get it now. (Tom Hall)
The Juche Idea (Lorber Films) — I’m not sure if it’s a) Jim Finn’s ingenuity as a filmmaker; b) Kim Jong Il’s outlandishly hokey propaganda tactics; or c) my own embarrassingly broad political ignorance, but trying to distinguish between fact and fiction in Finn’s latest mini-feature, The Juche Idea (62 minutes), is a confounding task. Are there really artist retreats in North Korea that house outsiders like the South Korean video maker that is profiled here, in which the North Korean ideology of “The Juche Idea”—based around the importance of political independence and economic self-reliance—is fostered? (No way.) Did Jong Il really devote so much time to writing film theory? (Yes way.) Are those the correct subtitled translations of those old movie clips or have they been reworked by Finn to best serve his purposes? (Maybe way?) While I think I understood what was what while watching The Juche Idea, I also can’t deny that my head was tilted to the side, locked in a state of pleasant bafflement throughout (note: this is a very good thing). Read my full review. Available on DVD.
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