Last night, the seats of Harbourfront Centre’s studio theatre were packed with a mix of middle-aged art aficionados and well-coiffed hip, young homos all dying to see Francesco Vezzoli give a lecture and screen his notorious Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s Caligula. Vezzoli is an Italian artist known for his work in video and embroidery (yes, embroidery) who set the art world ablaze a couple of years ago with his re-imagining of the infamous, semi-pornographic swords and sandals schlock-fest that actually was written by Gore Vidal. Vezzoli’s trailer for an imaginary remake features Vidal as himself, as well as a ridiculously A-list cast, including original Caligula star Helen Mirren, Milla Jovovich, Justine Bateman, Karen Black, Gerard Butler, Benicio Del Torro and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas fame. The title role is played by both Vezzoli himself and Courtney Love and the costumes are designed by Donatella Versace.
But Vezzoli began the evening by showing some of his earlier work, including An Embroidered Trilogy: three short films which he does not actually direct, but in which he embroiders and which feature deconstructions of the movie star diva archetypes that so obviously fascinate him (one includes an hilarious rendition of Beatles hit “HELP!” as a dramatic monologue). He also screened The Kiss (Let’s play DYNASTY!) and Amália Traïda. The former features Vezzoli re-enacting scenes from the 80s nightsoap with original star Helmut Berger and the latter has Lauren Bacall narrating a mock Italian soap called “Amália in Italia.”
Most recently Vezzoli’s work has landed on the cover of Vanity Fair because of a piece he created for this year’s Venice biennial called Democrazy, which features Sharon Stone and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy as opposing Presidential candidates in the upcoming United States election, named Patricia and Patrick Hill, respectively.
The lecture was to promote Vezzoli’s first Canadian retrospective, which opens Friday at 8 p.m. at the Power Plant as a part of TIFF (admission is free if you have a festival pass or ticket stub). The exhibit, entitled Francesco Vezzoli: A True Hollywood Story! focuses mostly on his 2006 work Marlene: A True Hollywood Story!, a documentary chronicling a mythologized version of Vezzoli’s failed attempts to improbably remake a 1984 Marlene Dietrich documentary entitled, simply, Marlene. Obviously, Vezzoli’s work is very strange, but it’s also very funny and, if you can get yourself into the right frame of mind, utterly fascinating. When asked after the screenings whether he was anxious to get out of trailers and mockumentaries and start directing features, Vezzoli responded in the negative, saying he would feel suffocated by the restrictions of the medium. Instead, his upcoming projects include working with the Moscow Ballet for their city’s upcoming biennial, a Broadway-style opening night performance at the Guggenheim for a play that will only run one night at maybe even an opera at the Met.
See Vezzoli’s Democrazy and Trailer for a remake of Gore Vidal’s Caligula after the jump.
Here’s Caligula, which is, as it should be, totally NSFW.
And now, Democrazy. In installation, the two candidates’ messages are shown simultaneously on opposite walls.