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Casanova (4/10)

by Tony Medley

What can I say about this silly movie except that it is an almost total waste of talent and money? The color and settings are beautiful and sumptuous. The light-hearted story is non existent, trying for cheap laughs instead of a coherent plot. This is brain candy, a trifle. Since it is entirely without substance, the 110 minute running time is far too long.

Jeremy Irons is the most appealing actor as a stern but whimsical administrator of the Inquisition named Pucci. But director Lasse Hallström and screen writers Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi have taken the low road and a cheap shot at the Catholic Church by presenting the Inquisitor as a Catholic cleric. In fact, however, Casanova (Heath Ledger) was not investigated by an Inquisition of the Catholic Church, which this movie alleges, but by Inquisitors of the State of Venice.

He was arrested, escaped in 1756 and fled Venice from which he was banned until allowed to return 18 years later in 1774. But that has nothing to do with this movie. Those are facts and this movie does not bother itself with facts.

The truly sad part of this movie is that about the only truth in it is that there was a man who lived in the 18th Century named Giacomo Casanova. Born in 1825, he was a charlatan who lived by his wits, defrauding many men and bedding many women, including, apparently, his illegitimate daughter. He was a dismally unsuccessful writer, but at the end of his life did pen an autobiography of questionable verity that covered the first 49 years of his life through1874. He had enough adventures to inspire many movies. Why, then, is this movie totally fiction?

As near as I can determine this attempts to tell the story of a short period of Casanova’s life up to his escape from Venice in 1756. The final dénouement is ludicrous.

My guest for the evening said that it made her come out of it smiling and what more can you ask of a movie? If the movie were simply a frivolity, what writer Graham Greene would term an “entertainment,” fine. On that level, if it were entitled “Giovanni” or “Giuseppe” or something like that without any historical connection, it could be said to be agreeably diverting, highlighted by its lush settings and cinematography.

For myself, if it is named after an historical person, as this is, I want to come out of it having learned something about that person. Entitling it “Casanova” probably means that they will suck in people who want to learn something about the historical man who had that name. It is irresponsible for filmmakers to make a film like this and lead people to think they are watching something with some verisimilitude.

If it were not for the calories, I would sooner get sugar to my brain by eating a Hershey bar than spending 110 minutes watching this.

December 24, 2005