Salo asked a question, even if that question, by the end, was a screamed "Why are you still watching?" Salo made me hate it. I struggle feel a reaction that strong, or any reaction at all, to the emotional or moral underpinnings of The Night Porter. I'm not actually sure there are any, beyond controversy for controversies sake. An "art film", therefore, in the sense that it epitomizes the worst of modern/postmodern masturbatory art. "Look at me. I'm so edgy." There's a lot to viscerally react to, yeah, with its exploitation of the Holocaust and it's unrepentant monster of a title character. Ostensibly, the film is about the inescapability of the past, yet no one, not even its Stockholm Syndromed female lead, seems to be trying to escape the past, only longing for it while successfully avoiding its consequences. SS Official Max doesn't have a guilt complex; he's just guilty. Cavani seems to not be able to differentiate, or at least hopes her audience won't. It's telling that the two paragraphs on The Night Porter's Wikipedia page titled "Theme" end with "". As Ebert put it in his original review when the film made it to the US:
"The Night Porter" is as nasty as it is lubricious, a despicable attempt to titillate us by exploiting memories of persecution and suffering. It is (I know how obscene this sounds) Nazi chic. It's been taken seriously in some circles, mostly by critics agile enough to stand on their heads while describing 180-degree turns, in order to interpret trash as "really" meaningful.
Talking like this makes me feel decades older than I am.
As I have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's I look forward to being decades older than I am, that I might forget about The Night Porter.