Take a pair of love triangles interwoven like a satanic hexagram, fill one out with a very filled-out, camp, Genoan merchant and an anachronistic female idealist, toss a rampantly horny but very chaste virgin, and a shy and cowardly boy-next-door into the mix, and stir it all up with Western Civilization’s most notorious self-loving philanderer. These are the ingredients of Casanova, not the sharpest farce in the drawer, but not too blunt either.
Set in eighteenth century Venice, Casanova floats upon the considerable combined theatrical talents of its cast. Heath Ledger is quick and strong in the title role and is well supported by a cast that includes both the indefatigable Jeremy Irons as the bumbling Bishop and the immense presence of Oliver Platt playing the naïve Paprizzio.
Accompanied by a fast and playful chamber music score, Casanova draws heavily on genuine wit and cheap, though funny, one-liners. Although there are hints of slapstick, the film, admirably, strays little from its genre and reminds us of Shakespearian farce, though the language and wit are not as clever.
Casanova is riddled with absurdity. Characters play impostors of each other. There is fornication, heresy, and more greasy fat than you throw on a barge. It serves as an analysis of the bizarre theatrics that men and women employ when wooing each other, a theme borne out through the use of masks, puppets, a playing troupe and the actor who saves the day. Women and men alike seek love, and everyone seeks beauty.
Casanova contains much confusion. The audience is privilege to the truth, making for humorous moments of anticipation. I guess outside of cinema we are all often confused, never quite sure who or what we want. Often times we seek the fantasy, the fiction of Casanova. We want to attain the mythic, but satisfaction may have been staring us in the face all along.
Casanova is a satisfying film, and you just might like it.
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Hoyts, Readings, Penthouse