Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:

History of My Life
by Giacomo Chevalier de Seingalt Casanova
(Volumes I & II)

. "Casanova"

The legendary Venetian who defines the male lover is presented here (perhaps correctly) as someone whose main love is himself. His almost universal appeal to the women of 1753 is a tool of self satisfaction. Conquest is too strong a word to describe his intentions because women fall at his feet like an early winter snow, melting in adoration. "Here's the key to my window," one says with the high hopes of an afternoon tryst with the lover of her dreams. "Ah, so many windows," he replies wistfully, returning her key and quashing her fantasies as he smoothly withdraws.

But two forces lie in wait to spoil the fun of Casanova's (Heath Ledger) lusty existence. First, the local church, guided by Vatican Inquisition edicts, wants to hang him for debauchery. The second, a woman who makes his heart beat in a new and challenging way.

He catches sight of womans' rights debater Francesca Bruni for the first time in a university lecture hall while trying to escape the carabinieri following their discovery of his shoe in the room of a most willing nun in training. Saved from hanging the next morning by his protector, the Doge (Tim McInnerny), he is advised that, in order to further escape the penalties of the Inquisition for his unnacceptable behavior and reputation he would have to leave Venice forever or find a bride.

He and manservant Lupo (Omid Djalili) set out to find a perfect one and settle on Victoria (Natalie Dormer), a blond who has been stared at by young and adoring Giovanni Bruni (Charlie Cox) from an opposite window for ages. Now, Giovanni is the brother of Francesca who is, herself committed in a paternal betrothal from childhood to the very rich and very overweight Lard marketeer Paprizzio (Oliver Platt) who is due to arrive for her first sighting of him the next day. All thoughts of declining the marriage assignment are quashed by mom (Lena Olin) whose familial survival depends on the alliance.

Casanova approaches Victoria's dad for her hand in marriage. Overhearing the discussion, Victoria expresses her paroxism of joy at the mere sight of Casanova by gripping anything at hand so strongly she breaks it, thick wood railings be damned. But, when Giovanni observes what's going on, he challenges Casanova to a duel at dawn. But (again), it's sister Francesca who wields the sword, in protection of her sibling. When Casanova discovers the true identity of his feisty competitor, all bets are off. He is smitten by a feeling that has never before so quickened his pulse.

He follows her and finds her liasing with a man, thinking it a tryst with a competitor for her affections. But, investigating further, he learns that her meetings have been with an illiterate man fronting her feminist tracts as the renowned author. When he reads her material, Casanova uses her ideals to woo her, a subterfuge the lady is too smart to swallow. He has much to prove to the lady, and his usual wiles don't work so well on the lady of his heart. But, all is not lost either as the tale goes on its political and romantically twisted path with much good humor and a brush with death along the way.

Director Lasse Halstrom ("An Unfinished Life," "The Shipping News") turns in an accomplished farce in the best traditions of stylistic humor and on a big enough budget to turn Venice of the 18th century into a Morzartian vision of color and loveliness. Ledger leads through the lightness of his costumed bravado with an expert touch and a 180 degree turn from his dark tragedy of "Brokeback Mountain," now playing.

The fun is shared and amply provided by a classically and comedically attuned cast. Sienna Miller proves that she's more than the object of a real life celebrity pairing, a Hollywood-paparazzi drama that has brought her notoriety and doubts about her true talent. This role should clear all that up as she shows utmost clarity and screen filling beauty in a role she fully masters.

In fact, everyone here is at the top of their forms. You'd never anticipate Oliver Pratt's Paprizzio from his bleak white house lawyer in TV's "The West Wing," demonstrating that this kind of material is his true calling. Jeremy Irons as the Vatican's Chief Inquisitor and the man who will finally seal Casanova's fate, is comedically villainous posturing at its best, timing and all.

A good time was clearly had by all and "Casanova" will seduce comedy-hungry audiences who need only be receptive to its handsome, farcical charms.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

The Soundtrack Album


Fellini's Casanova on DVD (with Donald Sutherland)

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The script's light hearted, farcical qualities were pulled off by a well chosen cast which and made the movie enjoyable and entertaining.

                                                           ~~ Indira 

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