First film i couldn't finish.
, 13 Dec 2011
This 'film', i did not finish. A defeat i never usually experience being of a passive nature and never really feeling the anger that most Worst/Banned films concoct inside people. Seriously, i consider Ed Wood films Avant-Garde.
But Caligula is something else. It's a skorry, sorry mix of artistic clash, Disaster-waiting-to-happen financial backing and now infamous post-production hell. What started out as possibly a revisionist swords and sandals epic inevitably turned into the most expensive porno ever made.
The reason behind is a sordid power struggle between Director Tinto Brass, Writer Gore Vidal and Financier Bob Guccione.
Let's start with the creative clashes first. Basically Vidal penned a serious portrayal of the corruption of power while Brass envisioned a Fellini-esque surreal satire.
Already you have a splintered tone, shape shifting from Shakespeare to Python that will inevitably come off as just idiosyncratic. And i'm not even typing about a Cronenberg or Lynch sort of oddness. I'm talking about the sort of ambiguity that gives art a bad name and keeps Michael Bay in million dollar slacks. Imagine if Ken Russel remade 120 Days Of Sodom and now except my humblest apologies for making you think that. But now you're getting the jist of the levels of wrong this film reaches.
Next was the final nail, the money men interfering. It was Brass' own fault for thinking that just because it's a porn mag, Penthouse wouldn't care about the content, just as long as they got their money's worth. This was the gullible mind set swayed such high merit acting talent into accepting such a project. As if they were going to make something truly groundbreaking.
But Penthouse head Bob Guccione was having none of that. His game plan was simple. Draw in the crowds with the big, big actors and the big, big production value and then just splice in hardcore sex to keep their interest. He keeps their asses by showing asses, basically an audacious attempt to make porn mainstream, and it worked! A box office smash when it came out, but at what cost? How about meaningless sex, filmed in post production by Guccione, cut in between Brass work, ridding the film of any power it might have had. And also the atrocious editing done by Penthouse that just adds to the ugliness of this film.
Now not to say that Brass didn't intend sex to be a big factor, cause he did, him being of soft-core origin. But his sex was filmed clinically so that roman orgy's would be seen as just plain disgusting instead of sensual. Some of it is kept in, but Guccione's hardcore sex blurs the message and is now just seen as porn.
I didn't bother with the other cuts there were of this tripe fest because i swore i would never watch this film again. But apparently there's a cut that is as true to Brass' vision as is possible. I recommend this film only in that cut, because the most frustrating element of Caligula for me is that there is a good film trying to get out from the suspiciously sticky shell it has been encased in. What i wouldn't give for the original prints so that i could cut together what might possibly be a b*stardized masterpiece. McDowell is fine as Caligula as is the professional supporting cast and there is a good narrative to be found. But it's so bombarded by the needless sex and shockingly inept editing that it can only be seen as a disaster.
Here's hoping a re-edit, or even a remake, god for bid, that will reveal to us what was good in Caligula. But for now, it is the worst film i have ever seen, it has to be. No other film has made me so obsessively angry as to make me write a 500 something word essay expressing my bitter distaste.
Controversial film avids beware, if you still have the burning desire to see this. Find the version that is described as 'closest to Brass' vision'. All other cuts are either extended sex scenes or are just cut so horribly they seem like an experiment in human endurance. You have been warned
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