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This version of 'Casanova' is worlds apart from the one which ran on UK TV some twenty plus years ago. Now, in 2005, Russell T Davies (in demand at the moment as the key writer of the new Doctor Who) has developed a Casanova for our times, with modern phrases and references (there are National Lottery slogans; Casanova sings 'the wheels on the carriage' to his young son), while still devoting attention to the serious aspects of the story.
David Tennant plays the young Casanova, swaggering his way from the Italian peasantry to the faux-aristocracy of France, and to England. He is by turns irritating, sprightly, and sexy, a convincing character study of the most legendary seducer in history. His on-off relationship with the beautiful and mysterious Henriette (Laura Fraser) is central to the story, as she betrays and entices him into dangerous situations. His sexual romps are done very much in 'Carry On' style.
Peter O'Toole is the old Casanova ('an old librarian in a damp castle'), reduced to little more than a servant with his memories. As usual, he is magnificent in a complex role. Funny and charming, but with a painful past. The old Casanova makes you laugh and tugs at your heartstrings too. A - I hope - Bafta-worthy performance.
Other names to watch for in the cast include Nina Sosanya as Bellino, the castrato singer who steals our hero's heart in episode 1; Nickolas Grace as the French Chancellor; Matt Lucas as a perfumed Duke of Villars; Rupert Penry-Jones as the odious Grimani; and Shaun Parkes as Rocco, the observer on the sidelines of the young Casanova's life.
Inventively filmed (repetitions, odd angles, slow motion, extreme close-ups) and with a lively (if silly at times) script, this is an entertaining three hours.
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