Posts Tagged ‘nudity’

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I indulge some guilty pleasures, stuff from Showtime and HBO, as many do.  It’s usually more engrossing than the network TV universe, with naked people and bad behaviors.  I’ve gone in for the L-Word, The Tudors, Weeds and recently gave a shot to Californication, starring David Duchovny and Natascha McElhone.

This hyper-real often silly show spouts dialogue that is so over the top and accelerated that no one really talks that way.  Stuffed with sarcasm, allusions, metaphors and anger, the show combines the ridiculous with a deeply flawed and dramatic main character arc.   People like watching others self-destruct, and David Duchovny makes a sport of it.

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I had to keep watching because Hank Moody’s family struck a relevant chord with my own experiences.  Not the steady stream of sex and alcohol, unfortunately, but the female members of his on-screen family unit.  Moody’s situation is one of an exceptional and often estranged middle-aged father trying to keep his family together as their teenaged daughter matures and drifts away.  His relationship with his wife Karen is epically strained, and no woman in her right mind would ever return to Moody.

That’s one of the weaknesses of the show.  Karen is pulled around like a puppet, constantly.  She lacks the agency needed for this to be taken seriously.  They try to put Karen in the driver’s seat, but it’s always a response to Moody’s crass infidelities.  Duchovny’s voodoo hold over womankind is taken to laughable extremes.  He’s a philanderer, an arrogant loudmouth and a drunk.  His excesses push farther than viewers might expect.

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I think Californication is a bell-wether of our nihilistic, self-absorbed age.  As in Wolf of Wall Street it’s our culture, and it’s real enough.  We are the new Romans drowning mindlessly in our excess and depravity.  There isn’t much to redeem these characters.  Human, yes.  Heroes?  Not on your life.

 

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Not for prudish Americans.  This film is rated X for extreme situations, sexuality and brutality.  I’ve heard that some of the sex is actually real, and controversy has surrounded the film ever since Penthouse agreed to co-produce it.  With a script written by Gore Vidal, this is pure mind blowing depravity from start to finish.  Never again would such a film come together, one that reveals the decadence and the psychosis of a society so clearly, while pulling no punches, alleviating no concerns.

Caligula completely ignores the mores and taboos of its audience.  It exists in another realm, another time and place without regard for the conventions of the multiplex set.  Except for its English language tongue, the milieu is eerily authentic in its sadomasochism, torture, mass insanity and raw exercise of power.

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Malcolm McDowell’s finest role in my opinion, and perhaps Peter O’Toole’s as well.  This is top notch over the edge of the precipice stuff, and I really do shiver when thinking of this film.  In an age of banal comic book boy scouts and robot battles written by the mentally retarded, a film like Caligula might as well have been produced on an alien home-world.

The British miniseries I, Claudius tells part of the Caligula story, in a less grotesque fashion, and each telling has its value and place.  But to really tremble in awe of the empire, its power to dehumanize and to disembowel its opponents, Caligula is the cautionary tale for the ages.

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The recent post on Phillip Zimbardo’s psychology of evil is relevant here.  For that is where Vidal plumbed the depths.  Beyond character flaws, beyond triteness and childhood pop-psychology, the ultimate power of the Roman Emperor and the society constructed around him, is what warps and degrades everyone involved.  This lust for power and the terror of being on the wrong end of it form the situation that destroys the humanity of all concerned.  It is Millgram’s experiment and Zimbardo’s prison writ large, a mega-experiment that ruled the earth for centuries.  Versions of this absolute tyrant power linger on today, and to lesser degrees in so many other milieus.

I would place Caligula near the top of the list of the most important films of the 20th century.  It’ll turn your guts inside out, but you won’t forget the experience, not for a long time, if ever.

5/5

Also ranks on the Top Political Movies List.

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Josh Olson, whom I argued with for years over the internet before I ever found out what he looked like, brings us some 70’s sleaze.  …Then the bastard wins an Oscar, as if his ego wasn’t gargantuan enough already.

Anyway —

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdT6FBixQf4&feature=player_embedded