[Note: I watched the 100 minute R-rated version, not the 150 minute theatrical version, but I can’t imagine an extra hour of explicit material would change my opinion much.] This movie reminded me of a guy who used to date one of my friends. He loved telling stories about the drugs that he had done, and he seemed to think that these stories proved that he was the biggest rebel in the world. At one point he got hit by a car while he was riding his bike, and when I asked him if he was doing okay, he immediately responded that he was great because they had prescribed him oxycontin for the pain. Then he talked about what that drug was like for ten minutes instead of talking about the thing I was actually interested in. His interest in hedonism was so all encompassing that it got in the way of him having actual human interactions or being interesting.
Caligula is a movie for that guy. And I mean that literally, in the sense that I know that he was a big fan of this movie, but I also mean that more generally, in that it totally makes sense that Caligula would appeal to people like him. The movie clearly had a decent budget – some of the sets are really elaborate, and they did shell out for top-notch actors who deliver their lines with an unexpected amount of conviction – but the movie always looks cheap, because the emphasis is clearly on displaying the tits. You an really tell that all of the plot stuff was just a hassle that they had to go through to get to the orgy scenes, which was what they really wanted to do.
Honestly, it’s a shame. There’s something compelling about Caligula’s story, and it would have been interesting to see a movie that tried to do for him what Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette tried to do for the world’s most infamous cake-recommender. If you tell a child that he’s a god wouldn’t you expect him to grow up to be a monster? If he’s raised in a world where everyone murders their enemies why would he value human life? If you sense that a child has no moral character at all but you know that he will eventually grow to become your leader what do you with him? The political machinations around Caligula must have been fascinating, because all of his advisers clearly knew he was insane but that very insanity must have surely put a damper on their enthusiasm for standing up to him.
But why show any of that when you can just show tits? That’s the part of the story that everyone likes, right?
Winner: The Cat