Film

Casanova (2005)

Cynthia Fuchs

Gaudy and giddy, this Casanova is full of energy but also strangely limp.


Casanova

Director: #246;m
Display Artist: Lasse Hallström
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Touchstone
Cast: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Oliver Platt, Omid Djalili, Lena Olin, Jeremy Irons
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-12-23 (Limited release)

Gaudy and giddy, this Casanova is full of energy but also strangely limp. Here the legendary lothario is caught up in a swirl of Venetian activities, from pig wrangling and dueling to hot air ballooning and (comedic Inquisition-style) torturing, but he's actually quite the nice fellow, only gadding about until he meets the right woman, that is, an 18th-century feminist who will set him straight, as it were, regarding the desires of "women."

That's not to say this wealthy and titled Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (Heath Ledger) doesn't remain a great lover, at least as he tells it. During the first moments of Lasse Hallström's film, Casanova boasts of his many lovers, the charm with which he seduces all, and his efforts to keep track of them in the "pages of my life." "Oh god, I'm tired," he sighs, and already, you know what he means. It's not that his work is hard, exactly ("I don't conquer, they submit," he says), but he has been at it for most of his young life, and, well, the other men are jealous and occasionally ride him out of town, after which he's told he must be contrite, which he just can't manage. If only all those women weren't so demanding, then maybe he'd have a chance to keep a few promises or catch up on some sleep or who knows, written a few more books.

The one "story" in his life pages that Casanova means to tell here has to do with Francesca (working-at-spunky but ultimately bland Sienna Miller). Casanova first spots this beauty when he's escaping from some of the many men in Vienna who despise him (or his reputation, anyway). He's galloping through an academy where she's lecturing to a male audience. She's disguised as a man, of course, for women cannot attend school, let alone lecture, as they only distract men from their by-definition serious business.

Her topic: the state of heterosexual relations in the modern world, that is, the 18th century. Or something like that. She quotes an expert on women's rights (a famous author who is, come to find out, actually her writing an alias), and predictably incites her listeners' ire. They start yammering on about the importance of keeping women at the hearths where they belong, asserting that they will never stand for a woman among their illustrious number. Just then, she whips off her disguise with the clever rejoinder: "Too late, gentlemen!" Ah, heresy. Casanova happens by at this moment and quite appreciates her feisty performance, and surmises that, while he won't conquer her, she will be unable to resist him.

Sadly, at this moment Casanova doesn't have time to chat, only ogle, for he is, after all, trying to elude the clutches of the Inquisition, here embodied by the paler than death Pucci (Jeremy Irons). Though Casanova can't understand the man's apparent personal dislike for him ("All I do is worship beauty," He protests), he must stay a step ahead at all times, which leads to hijinks of the most tedious sort, including mistaken identities and marriage plots.

These last have to do with deals cut by parents in pursuit of titles and riches. To evade arrest, Casanova (under his other, titled name) has an agreement with Donato (Stephen Greif) to marry his virginal daughter Victoria (Natalie Dormer), while Francesca is promised to the pork lard baron Papprizzio (Oliver Platt, horribly abused as the butt of a series of fat-boy jokes) by her impoverished mother Andrea Bruni (the fantastic Lena Olin). Though Francesca despises everything she knows about Casanova, she is quite taken by him when he pretends to be Papprizzio. As he endeavors to keep her separate from the real Papprizzio, Casanova is also trying to keep himself out of sight from Pucci, while charming both Victoria and Andrea in order to give himself enough room to seduce Francesca. It's a juggling act and then some, but for all the flouncing and running about, it's very slow going.

The multiple climaxes occur at one of those everyone's-invited masked balls (big surprise), for which Casanova comes equipped with a mask on a stick that features both black and white faces. The simplicity of this device suggests a kind of elegance quite missing from Casanova generally. It's cluttered with overstated characters and clichéd plots and obvious deceptions to be figured out.

All the falling into place is even more disheartening than the sprawl of spasticity preceding. When Francesca learns of Casanova's true identity, she's suitably furious ("You stand for everything I write against," she fumes, though I don't think she quite stamps her pretty foot), though her mother is not so upset when she learn that the man for whom she has fallen, the lard baron who's supposed to be marrying her daughter. Enough.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image