Repeatedly, Pier Paolo Pasolini's last film, Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), has been read as prophesying later political realities. This essay instead analyzes Salò's insistent backwardness: its interest in dated rituals, fascist politics, "regressive" sexual practices, and outmoded pedagogical forms. By these backward means, the essay argues, Salò schools its spectators in what Ernesto De Martino calls the salience of the "bad past that returns." Such a return structures the film, which thus refuses the progressive imperative to disavow or forget the fascist past. Rather, for Pasolini reenacting this past becomes an alternative to fascism's remaining "real."

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