Cannes 2023, Tinto Brass dissociates himself from the version of Caligula screened at the Festival

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Caligula will return to the Cannes Film Festival: the 1979 film directed by director Tinto Brass and written by Gore Vidal, branded as “obscene” at the time of its release, will be re-proposed in the current edition of the French film festival.

It will be screened in the approximately three-hour version, in which, however, the author says he did not take part. “This version is not mine,” says Brass, dissociating himself from this project.
“I distance myself from the film version Caligula which will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival”, Tinto Brass, 90, told Ansa in these hours.

“After numerous and fruitless negotiations that have followed over the years, first with the Penthouse and then with other unclear figures to edit the material I shot and which had been found in the Penthouse archives, a version was created to which I didn’t take part and I’m convinced it won’t reflect my artistic vision”, adds the filmmaker.

Caligula is scheduled in the Classic section of the festival in a version lasting two hours and fifty-three minutes. But Brass doesn’t agree, and underlines: “As you know, the editing gives the film my very personal style and if I can’t edit my film I don’t recognize it and I haven’t acknowledged its authorship. Of Caligula there are numerous versions edited by others, including that of Bob Guccione, but none correspond to my original design. The Cannes public will therefore be misled by the arbitrary use of my name. For now I won’t add anything else. My lawyers are dealing with the matter.”

Tinto Brass’ wife admits that Caligula “He has always given us several problems”

The director’s wife, Caterina Varzi, says that Caligula it is “a film that has always given us various problems, there have been many negotiations with the Penthouse where this material was found and edited not by him. The lawyer Michele Lo Foco argued that his name could not and should not be exploited, but there was nothing to be done “.
The filmmaker has decided to take the legal route for the undue use of his name, according to him. But that’s not all: her wife notes that lately she and her husband are at the center of rather strange facts.

“What has been happening lately is really strange, I am receiving strange and incomprehensible phone calls from France from people who tell me about this operation”, says Caterina Varzi. “Not only do I also receive emails of the same tenor. One thing that made me think that there is perhaps a will on the part of these strangers to do so in order to provoke a reaction from Tinto which would arouse controversy, which would create media interest in this new version of Caligula which passes in this edition of the Cannes Film Festival”.

Caligula, the “cursed” film by Tinto Brass

Caligula (or I, Caligula) is Brass’s “cursed” film. It was the writer Gore Vidal and Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, who wanted to have the life of the mad Roman emperor portrayed, played on the set by Malcolm McDowell.
Guccione agreed to finance the project on two conditions: the film should have been based on eroticism and Tito Brass should have been directed. The latter, veteran of the controversial Salon Kittyhe accepted the engagement. But the shoot was characterized by endless contrasts, especially between Vidal and Brass. The director was even thrown off the set halfway through filming, thus inaugurating a long process of legal disputes between director, screenwriter and producer.

A film denounced for offending public decency

When the already unfortunate film finally managed to get out at the cinema, censorship began: Caligula was denounced for outrage of public decency, then seized and confiscated. The copies of the film were destroyed. The reason for the censorship depended on the numerous nude scenes contained.

Vidal participated in the making of the film as screenwriter (already author of the script of Ben Hur), the editor Nino Baragli (who also worked with Pier Paolo Pasolini and Sergio Leone), the two-time Oscar winner Danilo Donati as regards the sets and costumes (Donati was the historic collaborator of Pasolini and Fellini). The cast included Malcolm McDowell and Oscar winners Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia) and a very young Helen Mirren.