A group of brash hard young men from Marseille moves to Pigalle, Paris, and starts knocking over jewelry shops, gas stations, road houses and bistros - wearing wraparound sunglasses and brandishing Luger pistols and Sten guns, bistros in their efforts to conquer part of the violent and brutal criminal underworld until then «owned» by the established criminal organization. They spend time torturing, killing and intimidating the old generation of gangsters and their molls, until they either pay up or die. They hang out at strip joints where the girls do it slowly - to the tune of "I'm Evil". For kicks they watch their sexy molls fight it out in vicious apartment cat-fights where the loser pays the penalty of getting sliced up the back with a stiletto knife. The gang is led by Joë Silverstein ('GERARD BLAIN') nicknamed Caligula, who like the Roman emperor, is an amoral psychopath, image-conscious, sadist, and sickly in love with Brigitte ('JEANNE VALERIE'), his younger sister. At first, ... Written by
"Joe Caligula" was banned for several years in France, not for its sexual content (which is mild), but for its violence. It makes an interesting bridge between two revolutionary films of the Sixties, the ultra-stylized A Bout de soufflé (Benazeraf was sometimes called the "poor man's Godard") and ultra-violent Bonnie and Clyde (remember that the authors originally wanted Godard or Truffaut to direct). It obviously has a higher budget than Benazeraf's earlier crime flicks, and has a more mainstream look without sacrificing (for better or worse) his raw eccentricities.
A brash young gang of hoods is knocking over jewelry shops, gas stations and road houses, causing conflict with the established criminal organization. The gang is led by an amoral, image-conscious hipster who may have a thing for his gorgeous sister (à la Scarface) and vice versa. This all leads to reprisals that escalate in brutality.
All the director's trademarks are present -- thoughtful compositions against desolate backgrounds, actors self-consciously posed like Hollywood archetypes, beautiful but treacherous women draped around their macho psychotic men, Crazy-Horse saloon stripteases and a good cat-fight, wonderful jazz/blues/60s-pop tracks, and witty in-jokes for culture demons. Also, a lot of people getting in and out of cars, clumsy continuity, arch (often risible) dialog and zombie-like acting which only add to the formal distancing (not unlike Jean Rollin's modus operandi). What makes this one stand out from the pack is the meticulously planned use of creative violence (even though there was evidence of cutting in the print I saw.) Recommended mainly for specialists looking for something offbeat and personal.
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