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Where else could you expect to see Donald Sutherland, Chesty Morgan, Dudley Sutton, a hunchbacked nymphomaniac, a couple of dwarves, numerous Germans on giant stools playing organs and a bloke from Are You Being Served? playing the world's greatest lover's brother than a Fellini film? Even Ken Russell could only enviously dream of such a line up. Fellini's Casanova - or to give it its more appropriate literal translation, The Casanova of Federico Fellini owes more to the Confessions and Carry On films in its treatment of sex than eroticism or even its antihero's own self-aggrandizing memoirs, but pretty much delivers everything you'd expect from latter Fellini: grand, often deliberately artificially theatrical design, over the top performances and tatty decadence on a grand scale.

In Donald Sutherland's vainglorious and ineffectual Casanova, he also has his most pathetic central character, a man with aspirations but no great genius who is reduced to little more than a performing seal by those who see through his own pretensions in an age where instant gratification is all anyone thinks about but can never really achieve. He's not much of a lover, his education and intellect rarely aspire higher than the groin and no-one pays much attention to anything he has to say - not just the perfect 70s hero but also possibly the most vicious self-portrait of an artist since Joseph Conrad poured all his self-loathing into Verloc in The Secret Agent. It's hard not to see the director's own fear that he too will be remembered as a pathetic self-parody successful only in the most trivial of his endeavours, only able to find some small delusion of fulfilment in dreams and automatons.

Fremantle's 2-disc UK DVD is a pretty decent presentation, offering Italian, English and French soundtracks, which is handy because Sutherland's performance is better dubbed into Italian than in the English-language version where he uses his own voice rather unconvincingly, something the star is quite open about in the surprisingly good 45-minute interview with him on the second disc.

However, Umbrella's Australian 2-disc PAL DVD goes even further, with 73-minute documentary Il Casanova de Fellini?, a 29-minute interview with screenwriter Gianfranco Angelucci and the theatrical trailer in addition to the Sutherland interview (though do note that the additional features aren't on the single-disc Australian version).
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on 15 November 2005
It is a common misconception that Fellini became worthless after his grand-masterpiece 8 ½, with most critics dismissing all but Amarcord as lightweight, over-blown odes to pretension, not fit to hold a candle to the low-key delights of La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, etc. Though it's true to say that Fellini's interest in "straight" cinema post-8 ½ did wane slightly, with films like Juliet of the Spirits, Roma, Satyricon and The City of Women all substituting character depth and clear storytelling for grand gestures and theatrical stylisation, there were at least a few of his later films that have aged surprisingly well and can, in some respects, be viewed in hindsight as being as interesting and artistically relevant as those earlier, more acclaimed works.
Casanova is one such film, as far as I'm concerned. Certainly, the film can be seen as excessive in the most self-indulgent way possible, what with the stylised set-design, reliance on theatricality, over-the-top performances, and all manner of outrageously comedic, wildly frivolous, fornication. Fellini carefully mixes the highbrow (discussions of art, philosophy and the notions of freewill) with the lowbrow (clowns, carnivals, sex contests and the kind of innuendos usually reserved for Benny Hill), structuring his film in a highly episodic fashion so that it (at times) feels more like a collection of scenes as opposed to one long cohesive films (though, having said that, pretty much all of Fellini's later films were defined by their episodic structures). It certainly won't be a film that every one will appreciate. The middle-part of the film (in which Casanova falls in with the carnival set and the seductive giantess) drags a little, whilst younger audiences might find some of the more earnest scenes laughable (the ending is particularly touching).
Like all of Fellini's films from La Dolce Vita on, the cinematic design is absolutely impeccable, with the director creating his usual (or should that be unusual?) fantasia of abstract architecture, theatrical lighting and seas made of shimmering sheets of plastics, in which he drops characters chosen more for their physical look and presence, rather than their acting ability. This adds to the overall dreamlike (or nightmarish) atmosphere that the film seems to play on, with the only real anchor to the story found in the humanistic performance of Donald Sutherland as the titular anti-hero. Now, before anyone starts to question the casting of Sutherland - instead visualising a Heath Ledger type of blonde locks and rippling muscles - it is important to note Fellini's obsessions with the grotesque; in both the physical and the mental. His image of Casanova is of a lanky, gaunt, balding buffoon, who peers down his jagged roman nose at the intellectual cretins who are supposedly his equals. He's strangely reminiscent of Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, what with the whole look and attitude, but... instead of letting him becoming yet another Fellini-esque caricature, Sutherland allows shades of depth and humanity to permeate the arrogant and pompous exterior.
So, on the one hand, we have Casanova as a pompous, strutting, impotent grotesque, but on the other hand, we also have a man capable of intellectual discussion, poetic thought and moments of intense loneliness. After two hours of epic spectacle, painterly visuals and more slapstick sex than you can shake a 'Confessions Of...' at, we begin to see what Fellini intended with his depiction of Casanova, with the underlining concept of unrequited love and the notion of sex and death, sex as loneliness (etc) and the ultimate downfall of a man who'd built his entire reputation on lust and virility slowly brought down by the ravages of old age and the scorn of a younger generation. The most touching scene in the film for me - and the entire reason as to why I view Casanova as a minor-masterpiece - comes towards the final act of the film, when the aging Casanova breaks off from a rowdy dinner engagement and finds himself alone with a mechanical ballerina. Consumed by a deep desire for the marionette, which reminds him of a lost love from the past, Casanova watches the doll dance and twirl and states that something so beautiful should be spared the indignity of seduction... however, he later sleeps with the doll, ultimately beginning the downward spiral that will bring us to the end of the film.
The final scenes of Casanova are very vague, and I'm certainly not going to pretend that understood everything that Fellini was trying to say. Ultimately, the film worked for me because I understood what the director was trying to say in regards to unrequited love and I felt that Sutherland's performance (certainly one of the most neglected performances he gave in the 70's) managed to undercut the more over-bearing elements of Fellini's direction, and gave us a real character filled with pain, fear and emotional contradiction. The pace and structure of the film and the idea of a central character as a writer telling the story as it unfolds is reminiscent of La Dolce Vita, something that other viewers and critics have pointed out elsewhere, with the idea that the two films are merely different variations on the same story.
The film is flawed, without question, but at the same time I find it absolutely fascinating and beautifully put together. It's appeal will no doubt be limited by the theatricality of the design and the stark, caricatured performances, though I feel the film will, regardless, appeal to those viewers who appreciated the director's other key-works from the same era, particularly that nightmarish cornucopia of excess, Satyricon, the free-form reminisces of the picaresque Amarcord, and the grand-allegory of ...And the Ship Sails On. It's also worth a look for Sutherland's central performance as the libidinous wretch, and for anyone who appreciates difficult, highly-visual, European cinema.
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on 23 May 2010
Fellini's Casanova is a film that will bring the viewer into a mystical and surrealistic world of the famous lover from Venice. In addition to having a reputation as a lover that follows him throughout Europe, Casanova is also a poet, artist, mathematician, and philosopher. If that isn't enough to have an alluring aura, he is also a nobleman that dabbles in alchemy and the occult.

Although Casanova is an interesting character, he seems to attract just as many unusual people and experiences. In every instance, it just about always inevitably leads to some bedroom romp. His travels across Europe take him to the courts of many countries and unusual women somehow gravitate toward him like a magnate. From a woman pretending to be a nun in a mysterious palace on an island to a woman machine (robot) that is the amusement of the royal court, Casanova doesn't seem to have any problem getting himself into such unusual experiences. But in all the wondering Casanova does, one cannot but help think there is something empty in his life.

This film is musical, theatrical, and filled with amazing 18th century costumes. This is a movie that you will not forget anytime soon after watching it, as it is so atypical. As it is also filled with deeper meaning, if one looks for it anyway, Fellini's Casanova is one that can be watched again and again. I would recommend this movie the most for those who enjoy world cinema or art films, as it does not have any of the ingredients of a mainstream movie.
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on 23 October 2005
I first saw Fellini's Casanova some years ago and remember its strong sense of atmosphere and period. I also love anything with Donald Sutherland and this film is one of his best.
Fellini was also new to me, and I soon had to look up other films by the great Italian director.
The costumes, style, and look of the film are amazing. At one point Fellini uses black plastic sheets to simulate a stormy sea at night. This might sound tacky but the world he presents is truly absorbing.
Don't expect the bright and breezy Casanova of the recent BBC version, Fellini described him as living a void and almost pulled out of the project. Hence the film presents a dark, confused and tortured figure - but it's the detail and sumptuality of this version that truly delights.
Very unusual and not like any other film I can think of . . . hold on let me think . . . no, truly unusual.
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Within the film's bubbling imagery, the viewer is transported within a proto gothic ambience, forever peering through the black lace veil or through the key hole. The viewer becomes the voyeur. (As a depiction of the world later this was later channelled into the pop surrealist art work of David Hussar, Natalie Schau and Ray Caesar in their artistic creations). Visualised and executed in mid 1970, and later released in 1976 - it is a sumptuous visual treat and no wonder it won an Oscar for its costume style. It reels in at 155 minutes almost 2 hours 30 minutes, so be prepared for the long sit.

Exuding within the frame, Fellini deploys his love of the surreal dream environments. So we have two dwarves bathing with a Strongwoman, a woman with a crooked back sexually riding our "hero" to an orgasmic finale whilst our "hero" forever constantly falls in love with beautiful enticing women each desert him, because it is an emotionless relentless journey.

Sexuality oozes from every scene whilst Giacoma Casanova sees himself as a scientist (alchemy) instead of a lover . Forever led back to debauchery, but this is not porn but saucery. Sensuality takes a back seat to a mechanical certainty whilst he searches for the Dionysian explosion and that moment when he is viewed for his brain and not his phallus.

From the director there is a painters eye for filmic detail and it works as a masterpiece of light, shade, colour and composition. Fellini roves over a series of scenes where the grotesque vies with beauty in full contradiction as he overturns accepted values. So it is not a sex film as copulation is literally reduced to a series of press ups with an unwilling victim lying underneath - Meanwhile in between there are philosophic raptures on the beauty of women.

At first I found it difficult to concentrate, it is very slow, but after ten minutes when the ambiance filters through it eventually took root. Maybe you will get there quicker than me, but when you finally get what is being presented then it will stay with you.
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on 24 November 2015
This is a great film, but a terrible DVD! The only one worth watching is the Carlotta blu Ray. All the others were either way too dark and undetailed, or wildly effected digitally and over-brightened. With a visual film like this it really makes s big difference. 5 stars for the film, 1 star for the DVD.
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on 26 June 2016
Painfully slow and a very ugly film for Fellini. I wanted to blame the editor Ruggero Mastroianni for lingering for nearly 3 hours on a series of shots that should have been half that length but he has edited some very good films and this decision could not have been his. But even in fast forward this would be too slow and painful. I could see from the bad and boring title sequence at the start that this was not going to be brilliant but really this film is like a pastiche of Fellini. On another note Fellini's cartoonish take on sex goes too far and does Casanova's memoirs a great disservice. Dominique Delouche said somewhere that Fellini's technique was to seduce his actors and Donald Sutherland would not play the game. Also the whole thing has been shot inside the big studio in Cinecitta ao the exteriors look false and the light is claustrophobic.
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on 2 January 2012
My understanding of the essence of Fellini Casanova is that Casanova longed for recognition as an intellectual : as an inventor ~ an artist ~ a person of value to society -- deserving of respect from his fellow people .. ALWAYS to be thwarted and never taken seriously in whatever he tried~ apart from his prowess in the bedroom which he knew would (like his mechanical bird) soon enough disintegrate with age. This is "FELLINI" Casanova ~Giacoma had NO say' in it ~ IT IS A MASTERPIECE of CREATIVITY
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As the owner of almost all (the available ones) Fellini films - and lover of almost all of them, I would say that to enjoy his 'Casanova' you need to (in order of importance) a) Enjoy the later films of Fellini b) Be accepting of his uniquely strange psyche and film-making of this period c) Enjoy the theatric, especially of the grotesque sort d) Be a fan of Donald Sutherland and d) enjoy period costume.

If you are intrigued by the film's title and the certificate 18 rating and are expecting a soft-porn or erotic movie, DON'T click on 'add to basket' - you will be disappointed and I will get upset as your one dalliance into Fellini's World will be tainted...

The sex scenes are always clothed and sent up outrageously, with farcical over-humping, shall we say....Fellini is mocking his central character here. There are some bare bottoms but that's as far as the nudity goes...

Much has been said and written about the problems the director faced; daily disintegration of his relationship with Sutherland, striking technicians and outside distractions, all of which made the film more fragmentary. Fellini later cited this epic sprawl as both his worst film and as his most "complete, expressive and courageous".

Donald Sutherland, with his Roman nose, shaved forehead and the most elaborate of wigs, looks the very part, so much so, that his flouncing and preening are as much of a star as he is. I'm not expert in Italian (I don't understand it at all) but the delivery of his lines sound OK, but always with theatrical bravado - no subtleties here.

For most, there will ultimately be times during its 2.5 hour plus running length when it gets less interesting but Fellini certainly packs an awful lot in that time. In my view, he has made lesser films, but not many, frankly but Fellini is one of my top five all-time directors, along with Bergman, Kubrick, Wilder and Kurosawa.
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on 20 May 2009
I don't think this film was very well received by the critics on its release. It is, however, a masterpiece from one of cimema's great poet-artists. Hilarious, grotesque, philosophical, tragic and moving. Donald Sutherland's finest moment... he is quite extraordinary. -- GG
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