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A tragic love story
on 3 August 2005
A servant girl, herself fallen on hard times, befriends the aged Casanova, now a reclusive librarian in a rich man's household, eking out his days in obscurity, left only with his memories and could-have-beens.
Peter O'Toole plays the aged lothario, David Tennant the rake in his youth. As the action flashes backwards and forwards through time, we discover a different image of Casanova - not a man who systematically seduced and used women, but an educated, talented, not to mention inspired individual who loved women and was loved by them. He is a man fated to love, to be loved, to be fêted and hated, but never quite to find his true love.
His mother is portrayed as an actress who abandoned him in pursuit of her own promiscuous hedonism. The boy is emotionally silenced, but he has a multitude of talents and limitless determination ... not to mention a bit of luck. We follow Casanova as he charms his way into Venetian society ... only to be cast into prison, escape, and pursue a trail of adventures across the courts of Europe.
It's a helter-skelter costume drama which eschews rigid adherence to historical accuracy, injecting elements of a more modern world into its style and portrayal until it becomes a self-parody. Humorous, touching, captivating, with wonderful performances from a very talented ensemble of actors, "Casanova" gives us a fresh, tender portrayal of the character and his times. There is lustiness but no nudity, desire without exploitation, and a cavalcade of astonishing images and impressions of a society on the verge of revolution and cataclysmic change.
And there is a sting in the tail (or tale), as Casanova's own son becomes a monstrous caricature of the father, corrupting his philosophy ... or being corrupted by it. You are left wondering about the real man - did he really love women, was he really a great communicator, or did he cynically manipulate both them and their male dominated societies?
It's a wonderfully entertaining show. Audacious, controversial, Tennant the cheeky chappy, O'Toole more reflective and disillusioned, tempted to rewrite his history, or to exorcise it from record by consigning it to the flames. Ultimately, this is a tragic love story rather than hedonistic romp, tragic yet intensely human. Well worth watching.