A poet falls in love with an art student who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle -- and his love of heroin. Hooked as much on one another as they are on the drug, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, self-destruction, and despair.
Casanova is in love with Francesca, who thinks he is a friend of himself even though he is engaged to Victoria, who is the love of Giovanni, Francesca's brother. Francesca is betrothed to Paprizzio who thinks Casanova is the feminist writer Guardi, who is really Francessca's nomme de plume. Amidst all these secret identities and misunderstandings, the Catholic Church sends Pucci to bring Casanova and Guardi to trial for heresy. Written by
"Casanova" is a delightful comic farce that uses a period setting for an amusing cross between "The Princess Bride," "Much Ado About Nothing" and the spirit of "The Marriage of Figaro" (not at all "Don Giovanni" that is based on the same legend).
Director Lasse Hallström gets the romantic romp tone right here, compared to what he did not achieve in "Chocolat." He establishes from the opening that this is just fun opera buffo, with frequent sight gags and commedia dell'arte troupes and Punch and Judy-type puppet shows broadly commenting on the action, though it took four writers to stitch together the broad double entendres and winks at Shakespeare, from, appropriately, "Merchant of Venice", to "The Merry Wives of Windsor" to "Taming of the Shrew."
Heath Ledger has grown up since he first demonstrated he had the light touch for romantic comedy in the teen version of "Shrew," "10 Things I Hate About You," and he's much more confident now. One of the cute conceits of the film is that the women are the aggressors, especially the virgins and novices. As the title character, he modestly claims that his success is solely due to his ability to submit. While he's not particularly leonine in the frequent shots of him lounging on a divan, he is dashing as he runs around Venice taking on several different mistaken identities. If his clinch with Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain" wouldn't already qualify him for an MTV Best Kiss this year, the big one with Sienna Miller could earn a nomination.
Miller is a bit young for her role as a Portia-like "transvestite" philosopher defending the rights of women, but her youth makes her brash earnestness seem more charmingly naïve. As her lively mother, Lena Olin provides the older woman ballast, without the usual sex-starved widow stereotypes.
Oliver Platt should be signed immediately to do a major production of "Falstaff," as he deftly and physically plays that character type, here a lard mogul representative of mercantile Genoa, even more deliciously and sympathetically than he has in "Ice Harvest" and "Huff."
Jeremy Irons has fun playing the Inquisitor, representing religious Rome, whose purple robes fit right in at a carnivale masquerade ball.
The look of the film helps enormously, with the best use of Venice as a sensuously unique setting since "Dangerous Beauty," not just for the usual gondolas and canals, but the steps, plazas, architecture, roofs, narrow streets, alleys and the light. The wigs and costumes are wonderfully colorful.
The marvelous stitching together of Baroque music keeps the mood merry, with overtures and dances from eight Jean-Philippe Rameau operas, six Italian composers, including of course Vivaldi, as well as snatches of Handel and Telemann added at appropriate water and fireworks moments.
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