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Caligula

***
2005

‘…when it comes to divine decadence, the remake of Caligula proves that all roads really do lead to Rome…’

Ordinarily, I’m not in favour of remaking the classics, but Tinto Brass’s racy 1979 film was a staple text during my formative years, so when I discovered that original star Helen Mirren was one of the driving forces behind this reverse-gender remake/reboot, I was keen to see the result for myself. A notorious tale of Roman hedonism, Caligula was and remains a point where mainstream commercial and erotic cinema converged, and the remake takes the same hard line, so be warned, the trailer below is very much NSFW but that’s reflective of the nature of the film itself.

The modern twist here, of course, is that in this version, Caligula is a woman, and Mirren is more than up to the task of capturing the sheer depravity of the Roman emperor. Brass’s original film, of course, also featured such luminaries as Peter O’Toole, Sir John Gielgud and Malcolm McDowell, but Francesco Vezzoli manages not to besmirch the good name of Caligula by assembling a top notch support cast around Mirren, including Gerry Butler, Courtney Love, Karen Black and more.

But what’s more, Vezzoli gets the decadent tone right; while the excess of ancient Rome is very much present, there’s also sumptuous costumes and Mirren’s always on point delivery to savour. Other stand-outs include Benicio Del Toro as Marco, and the underrated Milla Jovovich as Mirren’s sister Drusilla, in an awards-ready performance that erases memories of her Resident Evil movies. Some of the additions, including a sequence involving leprechauns befriending a dog with PTSD, seemed irrelevant, but then perhaps that’s the point; excess is all.

I came out of this week’s screening of the restored version of the 2005 version very much as I went in, my mind racing with questions of identity with such fervour that I was unable to ride my bicycle. It’s rare for any film to evoke such a strong reaction from this critic, but when it comes to divine decadence, this well-timed remake of Caligula proves that all roads really do lead to Rome.

Thanks to publicist Daisy Flora Pol and the Caligula Restoration Marketing team for early access to this title. Caligula (2005) is in UK cinemas from April 1st 2022.

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  1. How did I not know this film existed? Caligua as a woman? And Helen Mirren to boot?! My radar must have been totally wonky in 2005 to have missed this one!!!! Off to find it…..

    • I’ve been corrected that Courtney Love plays Caligula here, but since the film is a fictional April fools joke, it can be anything you want it to be…

  2. Oh get it right man! Mirren plays The Empress Tiberia and Courtney Love of all people plays Caligula. If the movie is as shonky as the trailer it’s not a very good picture quality.

    • The reboot was in 2005, but the film has been lavishly restored for modern eyes. You might want to note the date of the review.

              • I didn’t, thankfully.
                I don’t generally watch them anyway, as it’s between 5-6am when I’m online and that is too early to have movie stuff blaring at me.

                But in this case, Dix has talked about Caligula enough that I know not to venture even one step into that territory 😀

                • Is the correct answer. It’s a quite explicit parody of a famously explicit film; I nearly didn’t run the fake review for that reason. But it’s not a serious crime, like cheating in a movie quiz…that’s not something I could stand for. It would cross a line…

                    • Isn’t Alex the President of Canada? I think he said he was related to Queen Victoria.

                    • I think Alex was Bin Czar. Totally different department. Of course, Canada might have changed their rules and have an Emperor now. Tough to keep up with modern politics.

                      But when I am Supreme Ruler, that will be my platform….

                    • So do the Supreme Court rule on ordinary cases or just litigation involving Motown and Diana Ross?

                    • They rule on whatever I tell them to rule on.
                      Pepperoni pizzas definitely make me more lenient on which issues I tell them to be interested in.

                    • I had a rotten one tonight. Chicago Town. Ugh! Won’t bother with that again. Call that a stuffed crust? Pathetic. Do you think they would vote on getting me a better one?

                    • I’m actually having a soft shell taco with vegi-meat, taco seasoning, cheddar cheese, lettuce and blue cheese dressing.
                      and a diet root beer to help me keep my slender figure.

                      HOw do you stay so thin eating all those pizzas? Do you regularly visit the vomitorium?

                    • That’s right, that’s what they call them now. I think the romans were a bit more honest and upfront though.

                      No sauces. The table tastes just fine the way it is, thank you.

                    • The Emperor of MexiNada OWNS all the tables. He will eat however much he wants. But he would also like a bottle of pepto-bismal just in case….

                    • Good grief, the comedian’s a bear!

                      Fozzie: no I am not, I am wearing a necktie.

    • To be fair, I couldn’t ride in a straight line before I saw the film, so it was no surprise that I couldn’t afterwards.

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