Everyone has heard of the classic erotic story of Casanova and his many women. The modern film "Casanova" tries to re-invent that classic story into a romantic comedy.
Set in Venice during the 18th century, "Casanova" is mostly a story of lust, but also one man's ability to fall in love for the first time. Casanova (Heath Ledger) is a cocky seducer who finds it impossibly easy to get women to sleep with him, but now it seems he has reached the end of his game. The Inquisition is trying to chase him down and arrest him for being a bad influence to the women of Venice. Good thing he is in the good graces of the Doge (Tim McInnerny), the ruler of Venice. The Doge orders him to find a wife so as to erase Casanova's prior sins and save him from certain death. Casanova finds himself engaged to the first virgin he lays his eyes on (Natalie Dormer). Soon after meeting the fiery and elusive Francesca (Sienna Miller), he knows he has made a mistake. Her rebellious nature and witty intelligence make him lust for her like he has for no other woman...too bad she is already engaged to the lard king of Genoa, Paprizzio (Oliver Pratt). Not only is she in the middle of an arranged engagement to a man she has never met, but she is secretly the feminist writer Guardi...so she wants absolutely nothing to do with an arrogant womanizer like Casanova. Soon we are watching Casanova impersonating affluent men, trying to avoid hoards of swooning women, and dodging the chief inquisitor Pucci (Jeremy Irons), who has been sent by the Pope to arrest both the debaucher Casanova and the heretic writer Guardi...all the while starting to fall in love for the very first time.
Heath Ledger, coming straight from a completely opposite role in "Brokeback Mountain," provides an honest attempt at being a suave ladies man. The great part about his character is that he really gets to run free with it and have some fun. Bringing on the role of Casanova comes very easily for him, perhaps because he played a similar type of role in "A Knight's Tale," and we really become interested in this Casanova character. We've all heard of the Casanova or Don Juan, but Ledger does a good job of bringing that personality to life so that we can learn understand what the real-life Casanova must have been like, but also that it is possible for a Casanova to actually fall in love.
The story of Casanova has been told for ages, but director Lasse Hallstrom does a good job of bringing this big-screen version of the tale a fresh, modern perspective. With some beautiful scenery, and great camera angles, we really are brought back to the 18th century, but with a modern twist.
"Casanova" is entertaining...it isn't a good movie, but it isn't all that bad. I had a decent time watching this with my wife, but that was about it. For being a period piece, it was fun to feel as if it had been modernized a bit, which allowed me to get into it more. One thing "Casanova" does well is that it doesn't try and act like it is a serious 18th Century piece, but it pokes fun at the idea and has a good time with it. The costumes, hair, and makeup are amazing, and because they actually shot in Venice, the scenes are gorgeous.
Another good release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The pluses- I found that most of the time the backdrops were beautiful, the transfer was quite solid, and the skin tones were consistent throughout the film. The negatives- there were a couple really bad green-screen jobs and a very annoying crosshatch pattern that showed up over the entire picture a couple times. There is a little grain throughout, but not enough to distract you and make you turn away. I really felt as if the video was rushed a little...it seemed as if there were some areas that got skipped over and not taken care of like they should have been.
Another movie that doesn't have a lot of surround mixed in. We really don't get a good chance to hear everything going on in Venice. The dialogue and soundtrack are very well mixed and even throughout. Unfortunately I didn't feel as if I was there, and to me that is one of the most important aspects of a good movie. I always think that if I can honestly feel as if I am "in" the movie, then I know they have done a good job. Overall, the sound was fine, but definitely not great.
Commentary with Director Lasse Hallstrom: Quite honestly, one of the worst commentary tracks that I have ever sat through. It took everything in me to keep on watching this. Hallstrom really had no idea how to do commentary, he would talk once and a while about location shooting, digital effects and how they shot some shots. He also talked about bringing the 18th Century to life, the characters and the preparation they went through. It might sound like he talked about a lot but it was so boring and so random that I could barely stand listening to him. It really isn't worth your time to try and tolerate it.
Blu-Scape: Reflections of Venice: A Blu-Ray feature that was not too cool. It was kind of neat to see what Venice looks like today, but it was just a camera on a boat going through a couple places in Venice. That was it...oh there was background music. Another one not worth paying much attention to.
Creating an Adventure: This was just a making-of-feature that outlined the shooting locations in Venice and how some of them were random choices they stumbled upon. They talked about some difficulties they had with the tides and the time and planning it took to move to different locations because of the city being surrounded by water, the restrictions that they had with shooing in Venice, and how they were able to re-create the 18th Century. There was also mention of the green screen techniques they used and their casting choices. This was by far the best feature of the lot, but still lacked in being able to hold my attention. I could have skipped it and still would have been able to tell someone else how they shot the movie.
Dressing in Style: Jenny Beavan (Costume Designer) talks about several of the main characters as she describes their outfit selections, color choices, and period matching. Some interesting information here, but not a lot.
Overall, the special features were extremely lacking, nothing that was out of the ordinary, and nothing to make me ever turn back to the special features.
Overall, I had fun with "Casanova." I definitely didn't mind taking two hours out of my life to watch a new interpretation of Casanova with the wife. There are times that I was a little bored, but it has the ability to pick itself up and keep the story moving. The video quality is solid, but could be better, and the audio is decent. I would have enjoyed a little more time spent in both the video and the audio department to make "Casanova" really capture the time period. All together, I enjoyed "Casanova" for a one-time viewing. Take this and Rent it.