Sunday, June 25, 2006


CasanovaCasanova, which had been released in cinemas just a few short months ago, is one of those DVDs I nearly gave a miss. The critics were pretty unanimous - this was a real turkey. But Heath Ledger is always an interesting actor to watch, even when the material he's given to deal with is sub par, and there has to be a reason why the average score on imdb is a pretty good 6.5.

Having now seen the film, I have to wonder just why so many reviewers felt they had to stick the boot in when reviewing it. Sure, it's not a classic - but then it doesn't pretend to be. It's a bit like a cute blonde - pretty but vacuous and a bit of nonsensical fun. And we all like looking at things that are pretty and fun, don't we?

What we have here is a quirky Shakespeare-like comedy/farce set in Venice, which features so predominantly it should be considered a leading character in its own right. And it looks stunning! This is a beautifully shot movie that really shows the city off to its best advantage, and it's been beautifully transferred to DVD.

The standard farce elements are all here, with people impersonating other people and chance encounters and misunderstanding playing a large part in the plot. As with most good farces, everything works out alright in the end, although at several points one thinks things surely can't get worse for the hero of the film's title and his seemingly doomed-to-fail love interest. Think a 'Carry On' movie, but with a much stronger cast, a lot less innuendo... and a lot more class, and you've pretty much got the hang of it.

You'll recognise a lot of British character actors from TV shows like Black Adder or Victoria Wood turning in strong, fun performances, but it's the big names that really impress. Ledger is believable as Casanova, and looks like he's enjoying himself, and Sienna Miller turns in a strong performance with real on-screen chemisty between her and Ledger. But perhaps most enjoyable is the performance from Jeremy Irons - I find it hard to forget his unbelievably wooden performance in the appalling Dungeons and Dragons movie, but here he redeems himself somewhat, adding real classical acting chutzpah to the movie, whilst also being happy to play the buffoon when the script demands it. Great stuff!

And a special mention for the music soundtrack which, like Venice, seeps from every pore of this movie. Handel and Vivaldi pieces suit the Venice ambience very well but it's Alexandre Desplat's original music that stays with you throughout, seamlessly fitting in with the classics. It's not often I like a movie soundtrack enough to order the CD, but this one had me hunting the album out online.

If you don't like farce, albeit farce given a fresh interpretation by director Lasse Hallstrom, then this isn't for you. And, truth be told, it's a rental, rather than a 'must buy so I can see it again', but really this film is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made out.


Brian Sibley said...

With no less than FOUR blogs in two days, I assume there are no prizes for guessing just how much exam revision you got done!!

Anyway, thank you for steering me clear of Kenneth Williams' 'Audience With...' and for having reminded me that I need to get the 'Cleopatra' discs - how can one resist a cast that includes, apart from those you mentioned, Pamela Brown, Robert Stephens, Hume Cronyn, Kenneth Haigh, Michael Hordern and George Cole --- before ‘The Sweeney'!

You've also sold me - as a passionate lover of Venice - on 'Casanova' and my only comment on Heath Ledger being "always an interesting actor to watch, even when the material he's given to deal with is sub par" is that THAT may not apply to Terry Gilliam’s recent turkey, 'The Brothers Grimm'…

‘Grimm’ was truly GRIM, having (possibly) a plot that is incomprehensible, enacted by characters you couldn't care less about for getting on for two hours. Many scenes LOOK amazing - the old Gilliam magic at work - but crappy digital effects and the fact that no one in the cast seems any wiser about what's going on than the audience, make it one to avoid -- unless you can catch it on TV and watch ten minutes in order to note that Mr Ledger, once again, looks nothing like he's done in anything else...

You will realise by now that the only reason I am commenting at such LENGTH on your numerous and extensive blogs is because I am now trying to put off doing something else...

Anyway, hurrah for Irascible Ian, I say: the most astute and balanced reviewer in Blogsville!

Ian said...

Actually I didn't do too bad on the study front. It's watching the movies not writing about them that takes time and I'd watched all except Casanova during the week, watching Casanova last night.

That being said, today is looking like I may slip a bit on the "planned work" front - got invoices dating back to beginning of April to get printed and sent out :(

I found Grim hard work too, but thought Matt Damon and Heath Ledger did pretty good jobs in it. Maybe I'm just easily impressed by actors doing accents other than their own?

Oh well. Back to studying. Hoping to get started on Buttons too, but no guarantees that it will get finished as sorting those photo's always takes way more time than I think it will take. Wish there was a way to automate the process.

Have a good day!