I purchased this DVD as a fan of Lasse Hallstrom's films, but I would have probably bought it anyway, for the real star of this film is Venice itself, even though many of the views on-screen - through the use of inventive matt paintings and persuasive CGI - are preposterously unhistorical and geographically impossible. But we also get to see the interior of the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, the veranda of the Doge's Palace - and Palladio's Teatro Olympico at Vicenza. But when we came to the balloon-ride above the city, my partner turned to me and said, "Now it's getting stupid!"
But this is a film not to take seriously at all: it is a romp, nothing more and nothing less, despite its attempts at expostulating a philosophy of love. It is a pantomime fairy-tale. It has a ludicrous plot with lots of holes, the main one of which is relying on the fact that Casanova's face is not well-known, but also relying, for example, on billboard advertisements for lard. (Don't ask!) People wanting a truer version of events are directed to Casanova's own not-so-reliable memoirs: his life was actually more exciting than that depicted in the film.
There are some good gags in the script: "Venice is perceived as a hotbed of ... well, a hot ... bed" says the Doge to Casanova. Meanwhile, when the Grand Inquisitor tells a nun that, "You will suffer hellfire and damnation for spending one night with Casanova", she replies, "Seems a fair deal to me." And when the Inquisitor accuses Casanova of sleeping with a novice, he replies that she was hardly that!
One annoying feature of the film are the accents, a mixture of public-school English, with Cockney and Irish thrown in. The director decided not to have any Italian inflections so as not to distract the viewer's attention. In principle, it works - especially considering that some of the leading parts are played by Americans, Australians, and Swedes - but it is a shame nevertheless. The music and costumes, however, are fantastic and just right.
Heath Ledger gives a fine performance. I especially liked that at the table during the Carnival Ball with one supposed fiancée and her mother at one side of the table and another supposed fiancée and her father at the other. And Jeremy Irons hams his role up well as Bishop Pucci of the Inquisition, a far cry from his role as Antonio in the film version of `The Merchant of Venice'.
The extras on the disc include a director's commentary, from which we learn that the whole film was shot in the Veneto (including the studio shots). One can imagine how difficult that must have been: `challenging' is not the word! For example, how to shoot for four days in St Mark's Square with a thousand extras? The production even at one point stopped traffic on the Grand Canal, removing modern boats and replacing them with period craft. Because of the noise of the city, there had to be a lot of ADR, but I cannot say I noticed.
Hallstrom's films are usually dramas with an element of comedy because that is real-life, but he says that `Casanova' was "the most stylised comedic thing I've done". He actually uses the word `romp' - and, as such, it works. Despite being liberal with the truth of Casanova's story, the Venetians apparently applauded it when the film was shown there.
If you're old enough to have seen the "Carry On" movies the first time around, or have watched them on DVD on "oldies night", (don't worry, we're not going to ask your age) you'll see the resemblance to this funny take on the world's greatest lover. Slapstick, double entendres and misunderstandings abound, as Heath Ledger tries to fill the trousers of the legendary lothario without getting a broken back in the process.
It takes place in 1753 in Venice, a time when no woman is safe from the charms of Casanova, not even those confined to the convent. Luckily for him he has friends in the right places and escapes being strung up for debauchery (a big word which in the movie means that he shakes a lot of bedsprings without the benefit of a marriage license)
After going one conquest too far, his friend the Doge insists that Casanova get married ASAP, or face exile from Venice. Exile is not a possibility, as we learn early in the movie that he has a very good reason for sticking around, so marriage it is, and the lady to whom he pledges his troth is not only a virgin, but extremely willing to be wed. In a classic case of bad timing, he then meets the one woman worthy of his affection, and she turns out to be a cross-dressing (but only when necessary to prove a point) feminist writer who hates every bone in his body. She unfortunately is betrothed to a corpulent but very wealthy lard merchant (Oliver Platt) whom she has never set eyes on before, the union having being arranged by her late father as an insurance policy for the family fortune.
If you're still with me after all that, things get even more complicated when Jeremy Irons shows up as Inquisitor Pucci, out for the bewigged head of Casanova as a gift for the hangman's noose.
The important thing is not to attempt to take this movie seriously as a period piece, or as a factual account of the life of Casanova. It is a historically set spoof of the life and especially the times of Casanova and should be taken with a pinch of salt - or was that lard?
on 27 April 2006
Giacomo Casanova (Heath Ledger) has a problem. The Roman Inquisition is after him, accusing him of perversion, debauchery and moral licentiousness. It is 1750s Venice, and the carousing Casanova has been working his way through the nunneries of Venice. The local Catholic inquisitor (Ken Stott) tells him that in order to save his depraved neck from the gallows, he must marry. So he sets his sights on the city's most eligible virgin (Natalie Dormer).
At the same time he meets the feisty proto-feminist Francesca (Sienna Miller) at a duel and falls in love with her. Because women are banned from publishing, Francesca is secretly writing female empowerment books under an assumed name and is betrothed to the famed porcine lard merchant Paprizzio (Oliver Platt). Her family led by her beautiful mother (Lena Olin) is poor and badly needs the money.
How can Casanova get the woman he loves, whilst staying away from certain death at the gallows? He begins a game of cat and mouse, hiding behind various identities to get what he really wants. But then a new inquisitor (Jeremy Irons) suddenly arrives from the Vatican, determined to clean up Venice, which he sees as the cesspit of fornication. He makes it perfectly clear that he's determined to arrest and hang Casanova, who is the ultimate threat to moral authority.
The film is fun and entertaining. It's also silly and hectic and remarkably sanitized - you won't find much naughty, bawdy sex-fuelled romping in this Casanova. Heath Ledger maybe nimble and rakish, but he's not that sexy, he's also rather bland and walks through this role. Casanova may be synonymous with sexual abandon, but in this version, he's duty-bound to please the ladies who swoon at his feet and is more concerned with finding true love than looking for his next sexual conquest.
There's no doubt Casanova is gorgeous to look at, in fact, the film is a little too gorgeous, with director Lasse Hållstrom over producing the film to within an inch of its life. The real location scenes of Venice are fabulous, but it all looks so clean and scrubbed, set-dressed and over-lit that it might as well be in a Hollywood studio. Costumes are elaborate and sumptuous, locations are grand and glorious, but it all strangely detracts from the realism of the story.
Over-production isn't the only problem. The script is downright embarrassing in places, and quirky one-liners that are meant to produce laughs fall flat with the weight of a lead balloon. The humour desperately needs the smart, twisty inventiveness that Tom Stoppard brought to Shakespeare in Love. This script is merely cheeky, never engaging us on any romantic or thematic level besides the general cuteness of it all.
Fortunately the fast-paced plot keeps the movie rolling along. Although Ledger isn't the actor I would pick to play Casanova - Colin Farrell or Jeremy Northam would have been a much better choice - he manages to be charming enough. Sienna Miller looks absolutely gorgeous and overflows with sparkly personality and fighting spirit, even though she never manages to create that much chemistry with Ledger. Olin is luminous as always as Francesca's mum, while Platt and Irons clearly have the most fun with their characters.
There's never a dull moment, even as the storyline gets more and more ridiculous, and there's always a jaunty tone that keeps us engaged. Most annoying is the endless irritating baroque music, that just keeps playing and playing, it distracts from the action and rises in the most inappropriate places.
In the end, Casanova plays more like a watered-down children's film, a type of PG thirteen sex farce, rather than the sophisticated, witty romp the filmmakers were clearly aiming for. It's a pity, because even though there's a real spark to all the silliness, with just a little bit more edginess, the film could have been another Tom Jones, a rather than a somewhat bargain basement, and second-rate Shakespeare In Love. Mike Leonard April 06.
on 3 March 2015
A funny, tender, poetic & beautiful film about love, passion, changes and fighting for one's dreams. Heath Ledger is absolutely brilliant, sexy, funny, exciting and wonderful. Jeremy Irons and Oliver Platt are superb. Director Lasse Hallström shows us, once again, his sensibility for describing tenderness, friendship and love. Beautiful music by Rameau, Vivaldi, Albinoni and other Baroque masters. Charming costumes. The whole movie was shot in Venice, which gives the film a lot of beauty and splendor. Super entertaining and cool. Indispensable for all Heath lovers.
P.S. The DVD has very exciting EXTRAS (behind the scenes, an extended scene and parts of interviews with Heath Ledger & Lasse Hallström).
I couldn't remember the newspaper reviews for this movie and on the basis that it made no great splash didn't have high expectations for it. But I found it a total delight - funny, fast-moving, slyly anachronistic (a la Shakespeare in Love which it somewhat resembles) and sumptuous to look at. If you come to it expecting a distillation of Casanova's endless memoirs covering the length and breadth of Europe then you'll be disappointed and better advised to get the recent BBC series. This is basically a Venetian romp which simply hinges on the gent's reputation, but as such most enjoyable (and unlike another reviewer here I loved the baroque music!)
Be aware that the US ‘Disney’ BLU RAY of “Casanova” is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.
You would think with Heath Ledger’s tragic loss that his version of “Casanova” would be available somewhere else other than the USA on BLU RAY – but no…
on 6 February 2014
The story of Casanova is wonderful and, of course, Venice is a magical city but the actor playing Casanova was not at all suited to the role.
CASANOVA is one of those films that you come away from neither truly loving or hating them. On the plus side, the film is sumptuously shot - the costumes, setting and scenery are all absolutely amazing. However, on the down side, the acting can seem a little wooden at times and the action can make the film seem more like a Carry On film rather than a romantic historical romp. Although there is nothing which greatly irritates, what comedy and romance there is is so slight neither truly has an impact. Personally, I did not feel that there was any chemistry between Ledger and Miller, and so trying to view this film as one about love and romance failed miserablely - rather than love it seemed all about lust and sex. Because of this, the storyline of Casanova having lost his heart to the one woman who seems immune to his advances felt very fragile - did he really love her, or was it just because he couldn't have her that he wanted her??
Those minor points aside, CASANOVA does remain to be OK for whiling some time away. The soundtrack defintiely adds to the whole experience, making it enjoyable if not outstanding.
I rented this film expecting from the reviews that it would be mildly diverting. In the event I found it laugh-out-loud funny: I have not laughed so much while watching a film for months if not years. And most of the time I was laughing with the film, not at it.
In more than one way this film was surprisingly similar to a film on the same subject which Bob Hope had made more than fifty years previously (Casanova's Big Night, 1954). In both cases the film is built around the same central joke, that Casanova's mere reputation as a great lover is enough to have every woman in Venice throw herself at him, including those who appear to be extremely respectable and virtuous, with precisely one exception - the woman he wants.
The quality of the acting, from the big names down to the complete unknowns, was superlative throughout - Heath Ledger in the title role and Jeremy Irons as Bishop Pucci, the inquisitor who is trying to hang Casanova, were particularly good.
The music, scenery and costumes were also fantastically beautiful. Venice is one of the most visually wonderful cities in the world, and the production team made full use of this, both in the scenes which were shot on location and in the backdrops. The latter included some beautiful buildings which we can appreciate today only in the paintings of Canaletto and his contemporaries, but which have since fallen down or been demolished. Some of the scenes which were shot on location in Venice had to have the dialogue re-recorded in a studio and added back in, as the background noise was too loud and modern - the production team did a brilliant job of this.
Set up research for the background scenes appears to have been very thorough indeed. During the opening sequence Casanova's mother (Helen McRory) leaves Venice while he is still a boy. A panoramic view of Venice is seen behind her barge: the most prominent building in this view, the Campanile of the church of S. Maria della Carita, actually fell down in 1744, twelve years before the main action of the film, but it would still have still been standing in Casanova's boyhood. I didn't spot it again in the backgrounds showing Venice in 1756, which suggests someone did some very careful work on what would and would not have been seen at particular times.
The musical soundtrack is wonderful, and all of the Baroque style of the period. Of course there is a lot of Vivaldi's music used, but there is also excellent music from many other 18th century composers including George Frederic Handel, Tomaso Albinoni, Corelli, and Teleman. The music track is almost worth buying the film for on it's own, though it is also available as a CD from Hollywood records, and if I don't decide to buy the film I will probably buy the music CD.
The plot is a romantic farce which does not try to take itself too seriously. At several stages of the story Casanova appears to be in grave danger of being executed, but the viewer can assume that he will somehow escape, because the film begins with a very elderly Casanova finishing his memoirs. We hear the voice of the aged rake referring to the ten thousand women with whom he had affairs, and then reminiscing about the one love affair, back in 1756, which he has left out - the love affair of Casanova and Francesca.
Each of the characters bring their own brand of humour to the film, but the film seldom goes for more than a few moments without something to make you laugh. After Casanova escape from a nun's bedroom one step ahead of the Inquisition, the head inquisitor Dalfonso, (played by Ken Stott) scowls at the nun and exclaims "An eternity of damnation for one night with Casanova!" As soon as he has left the room she pulls a wry smile and says "Seems fair!"
Jeremy Irons as the sinister Bishop Pucci who soon replaces Dalfonso, has the most brilliant dry understatement which he uses to underline the menace of his threatening statements, interspersed with throw-away lines. To make some of these work required some equally brilliant support from Pucci's assistant Andolini, played by Ben Moor, who has to alternate from one moment to the next between playing Adolf Eichmann to Pucci's Reinhard Heydrich, and acting as Jeremy Irons' straight man.
Heath Ledger plays Casanova as a sophisticated English public school rascal, wonderfully supported by Omid Djalili as Casanova's servant and companion Lupo. I would suggest that Lupo is Jeeves to Casanova's Bertie Wooster except that Casanova, unlike Bertie, is the brains of the outfit. But the scrapes they get up to are equally farcical.
Tim McInnery plays the Doge (ruler) of Venice so well that he finally banishes the ghost of Percy from Blackadder. I was unable to take McInnery seriously in some of his recent roles because I kept thinking of his role as Edmund Blackadder's second hapless sidekick. However, this time, despite wearing a historically accurate costume which is as silly as anything he had to wear for the former roles, McInnery manages to summon enough gravitas to be plausible as the Doge. The Doge is Casanova's friend, but warns him that he will have to marry a respectable woman or leave Venice.
The apparently respectable virgin who Casanova decides to marry is Victoria Donato, played by Natalie Dormer. Her father is initially horrified when the notorious rake Casanova asks for the hand of his virtuous virgin daughter, and is about to refuse. However, as soon as she hears that Casanova himself has asked to marry her, Victoria throws respectability to the four winds and demands that her father accept the proposal. Natalie Dormer is a little under-used in this story, and her character is played strictly for laughs. But if she can reproduce in a wider range of contexts the performance she gives in this film, changing in a moment from the aspect of an innocent virgin to that of a woman who is positively smouldering with overwhelming desire, she is guaranteed a successful career om Hollywood. The one slight problem with Natalie Dormer's performance is that she is in danger of upstaging the heroine - most men watching this will wonder why Casanova should make such an effort to pursue a woman who despises him, even if she is as beautiful as Sienna Miller, when he's about to marry an absolute firecracker like Victoria Donato.
But he does. Unfortunately, Casanova has no sooner agreed his engagement to Victoria when fate throws the proto-feminist Francesca Bruni, played by Sienna Miller, in his path - and the fact that she despises him seems to make her irresistible to him.
There are too many other excellent performances in the film to list them all, but they include those of Lena Olin as Francesca's beautiful widowed mother, Charlie Cox as her brother, and Oliver Platt as her fiancee, the wealthy lard merchant Paprizio.
There are some minor negatives. It's obviously not a very serious film. Apart from the costumes, sets, and music it bears very little resemblance to historical reality. Some viewers with a sophisticated sense of humour will find this too farcical. Others who were hoping for something a little more risque might be disappointed by the fact that this film is surprisingly innocent and has very little nudity - the 12 certificate is if anything on the strict side, this could almost be a PG.
However, overall I would have to rate this as one of the funniest films I have ever seen and very entertaining indeed.
As the movie opens we approach Casanova from behind as he is about to reveal a story that is not his to tell. Based loosely on the known history of Casanova this play takes place and is filmed in Venice. It is one of those farces of mistaken identity and opportunity.
Everyone did an excellent portray of the characters and the time. However I must say I was very much taken by Victoria (Natalie Dormer) the Genoa virgin. I wonder how she makes her nostrils flair like that. And that was a cute scene when she broke the wooden bridge that was made just for that scene.
Aside from the great music, much of it original, there are some beautiful panoramas and sunsets. And for those that like adventure you will not be disappointed.