Casanova
Films & TV

Casanova 1976 (aka Fellini's Casanova)
This was all filmed on the Cinecitta soundstages in Rome and so whilst the first half-hour in Venice is very Venetian, it's also very papier-mâché. The opening scene features a bizarre imaginary ceremony on the Grand Canal beside the Rialto Bridge, and with the campanile of San Marco looming over, where the doge cuts a ribbon, a man flies down from the campanile on a wire into the canal, and a metal sculpted head is raised up. Donald Sutherland plays the man himself, dubbed into Italian and then subtitled back at us. The film is based on Casanova's autobiographical writings but liberties are taken, and it paints an unsympathetic picture of the man as not so much a lover of women and a sex machine. Being late Fellini it's all very lush and decadent and camp, but pretty enjoyable and attention-holding on the whole. The sex is not very sexy, truth be told, with shots of our hero's heaving upper body and sweaty face dominating and not much nudity. So it's down to the strange stories, grotesque characters and odd decor and costumes to keep us entertained. And they do.

Casanova TV
2005

Future Dr Who David Tennant plays a young Casanova in this stylish TV version, and does it more authentically than Heath Ledger did in the other 2005 Casanova below. As does Peter O'Toole too, as the clapped-out old Casanova here. But none of this version was shot in Venice. And the CG Venice is notably fictional - see right. Nina Sosanya, Nickolas Grace and Tom Burke are in it too.

Casanova 2005
Not as bad as the reviews might have lead us to believe, this is nonetheless a pretty light romp through a pretty standard tale of love won and discussed. You know how it goes - the strong and accomplished heroine who hides her light behind a male persona encounters Casanova, thinks him a shallow and deceitful user of women who knows nought of real love... There's lots of pretending to be who you're not and masks and baroque music and standard-strength feminism. What you don't get is much sex, despite the US 'R' rating - not even heaving bosoms let alone nipples or bums. There's Jeremy Irons having a high old time camping it up as the vicious inquisitor from Rome, though, and a good selection of reliable Brit thesps. It all has the feel of those swashbuckling Dick Lester Musketeer films of the 70s. This one was filmed totally in Venice, but with copious computer generation of, for example, gondola-filled distances and the city by night from a hot-air balloon. Amongst the interior locations you might notice the Scuola di San Rocco and the Doge's Palace. The exteriors include a market set up on the Fondamenta della Misericordia, in front of the Nuove Scuola Grande, a favourite spot of mine, and many film makers. Towards the end there's also a hasty getaway from a gallows in St Mark's Square in a horse-drawn carriage - has that ever been possible? It all looks very handsome, as do the leads, and has quite a clever liberty-taking twist at the end to confound all us smug types who might be thinking that our knowledge of Casanova's later life might rob the end of the film of any element of surprise.
Extras on the US DVD include a few documentaries. The one about Venice, which lasts two and a half minutes, heavily features the tasteful effect of a montage of stock photos of Venice sliding over the tasteful background of an antique map
of ... Holland! There's a slightly more interesting location report, and one quite interesting unused extra scene. I've not watched the frock doc.

Casanova 2015
An Amazon-produced TV series pilot, this begins with our hero escaping, pre-credits, from the Leads and fleeing to Paris. Not much Venetian content, then  - barely five minutes - but deserving of mention as it contributes to the evolving contemporary mythmaking surrounding a Venetian 'hero', and it's directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, of Amelie, Alien: Resurrection, The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen fame. The Venetian scenes consist of the prison escape, with it's statutory panorama of Venice from the roof, a stroll past the Doge's Palace, a manky campo, and a gondola ride - not bad for five minutes and looking like real locations. Then it's off to Paris, which is presumably why Jeunet got the gig, for a feast of similarly lush locations and CGI, with wigs, silk, gilt scrollwork and bare breasts a-go-go. Casanova's thoughts in jail are in Italian, with subtitles, but then everyone speaks English, Casanova with an Italian/Spanish accent and most of the French characters with very English accents. Casanova is played by Diego Luna, best known as one of the boys in Y Tu Mamá También and Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and a new series, called Cassian Andor, due in 2021. He is supported here mostly by Brits, usually little known but including Miranda Richardson and Paul Rhys. The writing, acting and visual lushness make it worth a watch. And we get the Casanova with the brains and ambition, not just the one with the busy willy, attempting to make something of himself through court intrigue and manipulation. I'd watch more - episodes were written but no more were made.

Casanova & Co 1977

A 70s softcore take on the story of Casanova in general, and Bob Hope's 1956 film Casanova's Big Night in particular (featuring as it does an identical double), this time starring Tony Curtis. A quick scan through is enough to reveal a film full of crap jokes, bad acting, cheesy music, intrusive dubbing, cropped out bosoms (for the more famous actresses anyway) and faked panting. More like an inferior Carry On Casanova than anything a person would want to actually sit through. What Curtis, Marisa Berenson, Victor Spinetti and Britt Ekland's agents were thinking of is a mystery. The star gets to rub chests with naked actresses, but presumably he got to do this pretty often in real life too. Some Venetian location exteriors, including the church of San Trovaso, but please don't make me watch any more. In America it was known as Some Like it Cool, presumably to really piss Billy Wilder off.
 

 


Two from Fellini's Casanova




from Casanova TV 2005


Two from Casanova 2005

 


Two from Infanzia, vocazione ...




from Le Retour de Casanova




Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano (The Childhood, Vocation and First Experiences of Giacomo Casanova, Venetian) 1969
The key word here is authentic. Based on his memoirs, this film takes us from Casanova's childhood up to his renouncing his religious training for the life of a libertine. It gives good and authentic Venice from the start, also giving good gondola, with authentic period felze detailing, and trouble is also taken with lamp carriers and superstitions. There's a realistic squalor, too, to the streets, the religious politics and to the dubious doctors and their lethal operations. Which is not to say it doesn't do opulence and grandeur later on. It's qualities make it hard to understand why it was never released in English - the subtitles for the copy I found are amateur but acceptable, and were only created in December 2012. The older Casanova of the second half of the film is played by Leonard Whiting who was Zeffirelli's Romeo. There's also a dubbed Wilfred Bramble, aka Albert Steptoe, as Senator Malpiero; with Lionel Stander, an old face most well-known as Hart to Hart's Max, as a priest. The interior used for the church of San Samuele isn't the actual church (see screen grab below left) but if it's just a set it's a handsome piece of work. As is this film, and its obscurity is very not deserved.


The subtitling may lack elegance and clarity in places, but it makes up for this with my favourite witch's spell in a long time, to cure Giacomo of his nose bleeds...
   cat and sorceress
   colour of hard bread,
dried in a shed
   sweat of matchmaker and fat of grasshopper
   teeth of a frog and hairs of a hog
   will soon make the chow that the blood will disallow
and it works!
 

 

 

 

 


Le Retour de Casanova 1992
This French film is an excuse for a grey-haired Alain Delon to play the older Casanova - not an unusual fate for heartthrob actors later in their careers. It's mostly set in a French chateau (near Montpellier) as Casanova gets involved in some characteristic amorous jiggery-pokery, whilst waiting to find out if he can return to Venice yet, following his earlier banishment. There's only a brief few minutes of a dour gondola reacquaintance with Venice filmed in actual Venice. The copy I found online has some amateurish subtitles, presumably because the film never got a release in the UK or US.  




Venice // Florence // London // Berlin

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