And so the the Salo saga ends….for the moment. For close to thirty five years Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo has been occupying the minds of Australia’s film censorship authorities and a lot of others. If you would like to get the full blow by blow details and many more besides you can go here to a splendid website devoted to many mind-boggling concerns with film and other censorship
What’s interesting and has attracted little recent attention over those 35 years is to note just who was in charge at the time. I think I've got this right.
In March 1976 when the film was initially banned those who did so had been appointed by the Whitlam Government. In 1992 when an attempt was again made to import it the film was initially banned by appointees of the Hawke Government. A successful appeal was upheld by the Review Board chaired by another appointee of the Hawke Government, Evan Williams, still currently the Australian’s film critic.
In 1998 when the film was re-banned, the decisions were taken by appointees of both the Keating Government, most notably the Convenor of the Board Barbara Biggins, who had been put there by Attorney-General Michael Lavarch to replace Evan Williams, and by the Howard Government. Ms Biggins was quick to fire off a salvo to the press when the latest un-banning occurred.
In 2010 when the film was passed for DVD release, the decision, and the subsequent appeal which also ended in favour of releasing he film, was made by still serving appointees of the Howard Government. The Classification Board is chaired by long time John Howard friend, confidante and former ABC Chair Donald McDonald who himself apparently voted in favour of releasing the film.
For most of the last twenty years, the politician who has shown most interest, indeed a dogged interest, in the matter is one time National Party and now Liberal Party Senator Julian McGauran. To gain an understanding of the degree of debate McGauran has indulged in the website above refers to much of his efforts in the Parliament. McGauran's most recent responses have included the following: (Salo) “is a handbook for deviants and could trigger crazed minds”…. “Salo is not another pornographic movie with consenting adults but a movie that depicts children.”…” Our chief censors have just made the job of vice squads around the country harder.” …” The lifting of the ban is detached from community standards and leaves no line in the sand – sending our censorship laws into outer space.”
Right… we get the idea, although I’m not sure we even still have vice squads and, yes, I guess its hard to have a line in the sand in outer space….enough already but perhaps its worth reminding ourselves of an earlier remark by McGauran when the film was re-banned in 1998: "I'm actually over the moon that the artists have been pulled back into line ... You must remember I'm National Party - artistic merit doesn't mean much to me. The Sydney-style view ... doesn't amount to a row of beans."
So there… prepare to read reports of just how disgusting the film is all over again when the DVD reviewers get to work…and remember it was a mate of John Howard who did it, or at the very least, was one of those who did.