Monday, 28 September 2020
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Saturday, 07 January 2006 20:04


The real Casanova is a legend. Revered not only for his numerous sexual escapades, he was also a lawyer, a writer, a politician, a violinist, founder of the modern lottery, and hunted by the Inquisition as a witch. He hobnobbed with Catherine the Great, Voltaire and the Pope. His memoirs detail encounters with 122 women who could not resist his charms. Now, with a biography like that, who needs fiction? Unfortunately, the new film entitled Casanova is purely fiction. Worse yet, it is bland fiction that actually takes the extraordinary truth and dulls it down!

The film places Casanova at home in Venice. It gets off to a promising start as our, um, “hero” enjoys various forms of worship at a convent. The nuns know him well and when the Inquisition comes a-knocking they make sure he has warning enough to make a quick escape across the rooftops. But he is arrested and his protector the Doge makes him vow to clean up his act. If he can find a respectable wife the Inquisition will not have grounds for arrest.

He sets his sights on the famous “Venetian Virgin” Victoria. It is hinted that Venetian virgins are hard to come by. It is here that the film starts a downward spiral that won’t end until it crash-lands, literally, in a hot air balloon ride. It is time to introduce the “Formula Romantic Comedy Mix-Up”. Casanova meets Victoria, who is loved by Giovanni, who is the brother of Francesca, who mascarades as a man, who duels with Casanova, who then falls in love with Francesca, who is engaged to Papprizzio, who is the Lard King of Genoa. Yes, that’s right, I said “Lard King of Genoa”.

Then there is the matter of Bishop Pucci - owner of the worst wig in town (somewhere between a buzz cut and Goldilocks). He is after Casanova on the grounds that he an immoral blight on society. He preaches; “Fornication on a massive scale leads to confusion”. Maybe. Or maybe the convoluted plot of this movie is what is leading to Casanova’s confusion!

It’s a shame that this movie ended up being so ridiculous as there is promise in the idea of resurrecting Casanova on film. For instance, he could even spawn a series of films based on his various romantic episodes. But instead Hollywood has turned him into a traditional “one woman guy” who just wants to settle down and find true love. BOOORING! He might as well be John Cusack.

Speaking actors… actors are people too. They make mistakes. Here we have a bunch of talented folks who are appearing in an untalented movie. Heath Ledger is a convincing seducer. But Sienna Miller does not make a convincing man. Think of Gwyneth Paltrow masquerading as a man in Shakespeare in Love. That wasn’t convincing, but Sienna is smaller and daintier than Gwyneth and simply looks silly donning a faux mustache. I normally like Lena Olin who plays Francesca’s mother, but she is actually terrible in this. Believe it or not, one of the more intriguing characters is the lard king Papprizzio, played by Oliver Platt. He is wasted in his scenes.

I guess that to be fair I should mention I had a laugh during parts of the movie. Some of it really is funny and the audience, for the most part, seemed to be enjoying themselves. The problem is that it is funny when it is subtle, and it is not subtle very often.

There are a couple of films I would like to recommend that put me in mind of the subject of Casanova. I have already mentioned the romantic romp Shakespeare in Love. Quills starring Geoffrey Rush is about another sexually charged historical figure, the Marquis de Sade. It is definitely not a comedy, but is an excellent film. Dangerous Beauty, a film about courtesans and politics in Venice is a must see. These three films combined capture the essence of what Casanova was reaching for, but never quite attained.

I give Casanova 4 stars out of 10.