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Giacomo Casanova, the great lover of the 18th century and maybe of all centuries does not stop to inspire creators. The first of them was of course himself, with the life he led and with the memoirs that he had wrote. Many other followed, starting with Mozart until the film makers of the 20th and 21th century. The latest is the 2014 Casanova Variations - an ambitious piece of art film co-written and directed by Michael Sturminger which looks at his last days. Was he tired of the endless search and conquests of women? Did he have any remorse concerning the broken hearts and broken lives that he left behind? Who was him after all? A genius turning love affairs into art, or one of the manifestations of evil?
You need not be concerned about Casanova Variations being too serious or too dry in dealing with these issues. It is actually conceived as a performance in a film, the staging of an imaginary opera called 'The Giacomo Variations' which is filmed and photographed live, describing the final days of the life of the great heart-breaker (John Malkovich), retired as a librarian in the Dux Castle in Bohemia to write his memoirs, and receiving the visit of a mysterious woman (Veronica Ferres) - maybe a forgotten lover, maybe a publisher trying to steal the manuscript which tells about his adventures. The story on stage triggers the rendition on screen of the story in the past, and the whole film alternates past and present, life and theater, music and acting, the real life heroes, the actors, singers, and the audience in the opera house. Actors and heroes become one big ensemble and the whole show an elegant dance of the imagination based on the music of Mozart (mostly). It's entertaining, but this is not everybody's kind of entertainment and part of the viewers of the film risk to be surprised and confused.
Any movie in which John Malkovich is on screen has the potential to become not only a movie with John Malkovich but also a movie about John Malkovich. Casanova Variations is no exception and the role of Casanova merges with the role of the actor who acts as Casanova on stage enabling the permanent games of transition between the two threads of action, between imagination and reality, between the heroes and the actors. In one memorable sequence the actor - singer seems to collapse on stage and a real physician in the audience jumps to help, just to discover that she herself became now part of the show. It's just one of the many jewels that combine art and life in this film. I also need to mention Veronica Ferres who gives Malkovich a superb replica in a role that seems to gather the power and dangers in the many women Casanova knew in his life.Those who love film, theater, opera, history and the combination of these will find many reasons of joy in this film, which may not solve the mystery of Casanova but makes good refined entertainment out of it.
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