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my friend here in film school just made a two minute-long film for one of his classes that includes a staged anal rape scene , done by two guys and shot on the shadow of the incident , with a banana being used as the instrument of penetration .
as sick as this all is , watching it is one of the most admittingly hysterical moments i've ever witnessed .
sure , it may be in bad taste , but what the hell is bad taste other than something that may be offensive to some but is riotously amusing to the rest ?
then there's " caligula . "
this film features incest , necrophilia , beastuality , anal rape , homosexual felatio of both sexes , elaborate and lengthy orgies , a greased-up fist forced up a man's rear , wine poured down a man who's had his urinary tracts tied off , a penis chopped off and fed to hungry dogs , etc , etc , etc . this could very well be a respectable film , and if could have been had the following not occurred : a ) the events were graphically shot in clear view ; b ) the tone was not that of trying to shock comically but to , well , show " historical accuracy ; " c ) the film was a 20 million dollar production with lavish sets , a rather impressive cast , and a whopping 2 1/2 hour running time .
produced and funded by none other than bob guccione , owner of penthouse magazine , " caligula " comes across as the most hysterical dramatic picture since " plan 9 from outer space " because underneath there's a sense that everything this film is doing is not only accurate and justified , but also brilliantly entertaining .
after all , it's not really the fact that this film features the aforementioned disgusting moments , but that it actually believes in them as dramatic weaponry .
no film should be discarded because its content , because film is never about what it's about , it's about how it's about ( as the old cliche goes ) .
those who bash this film for content are glancing over the biggest and most obvious problem with " caligula , " and that's that it's nothing but overdramaticized bullshit from start to finish , without a second of credibility in its mammoth running time .
" caligula " allegedly tells the true story of the evil roman emporer of the same name , a man who was so insanely decadent that his assasination came as a blessing . . . or
so i guess , even though almost every single roman emporer was assasinated as well and for much the same reasons .
the film opens on the wrong note , of course , with a quote from mark appearing before any image graces the screen , using the over-used passage " what shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world an dlose his own soul , " depite the fact that the opening scene of the film is of the emporer before he was an emporer , fucking around with his own sister in a field ( i suppose if one has to lose their soul , one has to have a soul in the first place ) .
the plot is so incomprehensibly done that all i or anyone else can make out of it is that caligula ( disastrously played by the great malcom mcdowell , a performance that does the opposite that his performance in " a clockwork orange " did ) is next in line for the throne but can't wait for the current emporer , tiberius ( peter o' toole - ditto , only for his performance in " lawrence of arabia " ) , his grandfather , to die . . . so he kills him and ascends to the throne .
then he abuses his position , marries a woman ( helen mirren , who retains her dignity as an actor by not exactly acting ) so he doesn't just have to sleep with his sister ( a dreadful teresa ann savoy , there to be pretty , naked , and willing to hop in the sack with mac or anyone he asks her to hop in with ) , abuses his position a little more , a little more , and a little more , and then , i believe , invades england , then is killed off .
the filler , instead of recounting his life , is supposed to be , as guccione claims , the ultimate portrait of decadent pagan rome , complete with orgies , vicious deaths , and lots of nudity .
but instead of being the historical accurate film it really really wants to be , it instead becomes guccione's twisted masturbatory image of what it could be like .
oh , isn't it great that they just loved having sex ?
and that they killed people so disgustingly ?
and wouldn't it be great if i could make a couple bucks by selling this shit off as accuracy even though it's so blatantly real bad porn that i've completely convinced myself that it's not .
i mean , why not just show a roman orgy when i can spend a good ten minutes examining every single facet that makes it up .
and it's not just that it's disgusting or vile or whatever adjective you want to use to describe this film - it's that in a film where the entire feel it's going for isn't felt , it's also the sloppiest expensive movie of all time .
the sets are lavish , but so blatantly innacurate that i wonder if no historian wanting to have his name on this film explains this .
but that doesn't matter since the cinematography is so dark that you wonder if a light meter was used at all , making this not only dark and ugly , but just plain dark .
the camera operation is also the worst i've ever seen in my entire life .
not only does this film hold the record for the most unnecessary zooms in one single shot ever , but often the camera will lose its subjects and pan around till they find them , then have them out of focus .
the editing is so sloppy that some scenes are absolutely impossible to follow .
there is no writer to speak of ( what the hell does it mean that it's " adapted from an original screenplay by gore vidal ? " ) , but nevertheless , the dialogue is shit , so laughably bad that i can't in good faith believe that anyone with an iq over 5 could say them with a straight face ( my favorite being the line when caligula inquires the doctor about the health of the dying tiberius : " he could go at any moment , but with care , he could last a year or so . " )
the music in this film is mostly prokofiev and khachaturian ( they use his gorgeous " adagio of spartacus and phrygia , " ad nauseum ) , used in an attempt to give the film some emotion , but instead feels as if it was shipped in from elsewhere .
the orgy scenes ( and one infamous lesbo scene between penthouse pets lori wagner and aneeka dilorenzo ) are the result of reshoots by guccione himself , which are so obviously removed from everything else in this film that it only adds to the embrassment ( every five seconds or so , the film cuts to random nudity , as if it was afraid its audience would forget this film is rated " x " ) .
john gielgud represents the only voice of sanity , walking around in his brief role as if he was constantly the mantra , " i'm going to kill my agent , i'm going to kill my agent . . . "
and so on and so on , for over 2 1/2 hours , making " caligula " about as exciting and enriching as a three hour college lecture class and twice as deliriously annoying .
guccione , in his pursuit of historical accuracy has instead made a film that is such a painstaking , arduous task to watch in its entirety that i doubt anyone can sit through an hour of it without irreversible psychological damage .
throughout the entire film , the presence of guccione is easily felt , as if he were standing there at the edge of the screen , pretentiously looking down upon us saying " look what i can get away with !
and if you don't like this , then you're a prig , and worse than that , you know nothing about history ! "
uh huh .
there's a clear difference between historical accuracy and doing something that's artistically good .
a film which showed roman decadence as something that was perhaps liberating for some but could not last - that would probably make for a good film .
but using historical accuracy as a licence to get away with any kind of disgusting-for-disgustingness'-sake acts is total , total bullshit , and all i can say is that guccione and the makers of this film have lost any kind of touch with either entertainment or eroticism , and have developed a pathetic and sadistic taste for both , judging from this film .
there's a film that came out in 1989 called " the cook , the thief , his wife , and her lover , " a magnifcent film by legendary cult director peter greenaway ( also starring helen mirren ) , which deals with graphic sex , heartstopping violence and gore , and even a little cannibalism for good measure .
that film not only never patronized its viewers , but also handled them in a way that was shocking , yes , but also , in a bizarre way , entertaining and totally involving .
there were real characters there in a real situation , and best of all passion and just the right amount of restraint as not to get off on the fact that it's going to be offensive to many .
that film achieved everything it wanted to do , and has since retained a status as one of those cult films that is not only popular but actualy good .
and it's everything " caligula " might have been but , alas , wasn't .