Movie Review: Casanova, by Lasse Hallström

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Filmed principally in Venice, Lasse Hallström’s latest film Casanova, a farce and romantic comedy, debuted at the Venice International Film Festival last September. The Swedish exile director has added a feminist twist to the tale through the addition of the character Francesca Bruni played by the radiant Sienna Miller who writes under a pseudonym because women at the time were not considered to have a brain.

Giacoma Casanova played by Heath Ledger falls for Bruni who takes her time wondering if such a partnership suits HER, adding to Casanova’s enrapture. Meanwhile Lena Olin- miscast as a schemer and matchmaker - plays Bruni’s mother. The question is why Lasse Hallström gave such a fluffy role to his wife? Maybe Olin wanted to explore new territories other than being the scheming espionage mother of Jennifer Gardner in Alias. She does an adequate job in Casanova though practically anyone could have done it there is so little meat on the bone.

Kudos to Oliver Platt who fares far better in a more complex role as the intended future husband of Francesca. The plot complications include a mean Bishop Pucci played by Jeremy Irons. Last year another film debuted in Venice starring Irons as a snotty aristocrat whose pound of flesh is requested by the insulted Merchant of Venice Al Pacino. Putting Irons is a fairly similar role is secure as Irons plays these kinds of roles well.

Fellini’s Casanova and other productions in Italy about the man who advocated free love and was eventually imprisoned were also screened at Venice last summer to usher in the newest creation. It was a cinematic pleasure to backtrack to the 1970’s to Fellini’s sets filmed indoors with inventive scenes and where black plastic was used to simulate the waterways of the Venetian Lagoon. None of the historical intricacies of the story are in Hallströms adaptation, which is a bit sad considering the work that has been achieved about this character. But the film is fun.

The complexity of the character Giacoma Casanova, was magnificently played by Donald Sutherland, an 18th century man who studied alchemy and wrote about his extensive experiences with women, though his opinion of women was certainly not as modern as the Casanova of this new story. At the press conference in Venice Ledger living up to the legend of the historical figure he plays and even caught the attention of the former Miss Universe, entertainment personality Cecilia Bolocco of Chile, wife of the ex-president of Argentina, Carlos Menem.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Venice Italy
More Information:
Casanova, by Lasse Hallström
USA - 2005