Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fellini's Casanova

Based on the biography of Giacomo Casanova, Fellini’s Casanova is the story about the infamous womanizer as his life is unraveled by a journey that becomes surreal as his life of sexual pleasure becomes troubled. Directed by Federico Fellini and adapted into script by Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi, the film is a different take on the Casanova story as it plays to Fellini’s world of extravagance and surreal imagery. Playing the role of Casanova is Canadian actor Donald Sutherland as the cast also includes Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne, and Daniel Emilfork. Fellini’s Casanova is a strange yet stylish film from Federico Fellini.

After bedding the lover (Margareth Clementti) of a French ambassador, Giacomo Casanova is arrested by authorities for heresy and being connected with black magic. Sent to jail, Casanova reminisces about his time when he was having an affair with a rich seamstress and her ailing servant Anna Maria (Clarissa Mary Roll) whom he adored. After escaping prison and eventually leaving his beloved Venice, Casanova seeks refuge in the court of Madam d’Ufre (Cicely Browne) of Paris. He offers his expertise in alchemy to help her transfer her soul to a younger body so she can be reborn as a man. After moving to another court in a man named Du Bois (Daniel Emilfork), he falls in love with Du Bois’ lover Henrietta (Tina Aumont). The two pledge love to each other until he is overcome with emotion at a party as she performed a cello piece and later disappears the morning after.

Fleeing to London, Casanova endures humiliating ordeals by the hands of two scheming women. During his suicide attempt, he encounters a mysterious woman (Sandra Elaine Harris) and two dwarves where he takes temporary refuge in the Frost fair near the Thames. Traveling all over Europe, Casanova arrives at Rome at the home of Lord Talou (John Karlsen) where he attends a crazed party as he’s forced to compete with a younger man on who can give the woman the most orgasms. Fleeing to Germany where he falls for a scientist named Isabella (Olimipia Carlisi), he hopes to have something with her. Instead, he is tricked into participating in an orgy that leaves him overwhelmed as he would later meet his estranged mother (Mary Marquet) at an opera as the two have a brief conversation.

Taking refuge at another court at another castle in Germany, Casanova deals with the lack of respect of young patrons as he romances a mechanical doll named Rosalba (Leda Lojodice). Later dealing with old age as time passes by, Casanova tries to find his place in the world as he becomes a librarian for count as he endures more acts of insults. Notably as he ponders about his old life in the place he once called home.

The film is about the life of Giacomo Casanova at a point where his days as this great lover is waning where he would face strange encounters with women he would make love to. Notably as he is traveling all over Europe after being banished from his beloved home of Venice. It’s a very loose take on the Casanova story where Fellini goes for this sort of episodic approach to follow Casanova’s travels. The one mainstay in Fellini’s story is the fact that he portrays Casanova as this melancholic man who knows that his days as a lover is waning. Throughout this journey, Casanova tries to use his knowledge on everything to gain respect but his known reputation as being this great lover would often undermine everything. Notably as Casanova is easily tempted to give in to these things.

Fellini’s direction is pretty much what is expected of him in terms of extravagance and indulgence. Yet, it is done with a vast degree of style and artificiality where he doesn’t care that the audience knows that the water in an early scene in the film is fake. That’s part of his genius as he opens this film with this amazing scene of a party where people attempt to raise a large statue head from the depths of the sea. It’s a scene that would set up Casanova’s fate for the journey he would take in the film. Shot largely in Cinecitta studios in Rome, Fellini creates a world where it plays to Casanova’s love of excess and decadence in the places and parties that he encounters.

Since the set pieces are meant to be these worlds where they aren’t real but rather surreal, it allows Fellini to follow Casanova embark in these strange places. Many of them turn out to be exciting though at times, there’s moments in the film where it does feel a bit laborious because there’s so much going on and a lot of repetition occurs. Yet, it is what Fellini is intending so that Casanova is forced to endure these moments of humiliation. With a lot of grand shots and compositions to get the audience be caught up in the world of Casanova, Fellini aims for something where he gets the audience at the center of these parties and moments. Despite a few sluggish spots as well as Fellini’s approach to having the story be more drawn out. It is still a very fun and engaging film from the Italian master.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does a fantastic job with the film‘s colorful and rapturous cinematography that is filled with amazing nighttime shots of the opening party scene as well as the interiors for the parties that occur in the film. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does a nice job with the editing by maintaining a sense of style towards the film‘s pacing by utilizing jump-cuts and other rhythmic shots for some of the energy of the party scenes. Art director/costume designer Danilo Donati does an incredible job with the creation of the set pieces for the film that includes the large statue in the opening sequence. Donati’s work in the costumes, with additional contribution from Fellini, definitely play up to the spectacle of the film as well as the artificiality that surrounds Casanova’s life

Makeup artist Rino Carboni and hair stylist Gabriella Borzelli do excellent work in the creation of the wigs worn by the many characters of the film including the make-up to emphasize the world that Casanova embarks in. The sound work of Oscar De Arcangelis is terrific for the atmosphere that occurs in the various interior location that occurs including the parties and Frost fair scene that Casanova is intrigued by. The film’s whimsical score by Nino Rota is a delight to listen to from the playful and dramatic orchestral pieces to the more electronic yet melodic-driven themes played whenever Casanova is having sex as it’s one of Rota’s more underrated scores.

The casting by Paola Roli is pretty good for the large ensemble that is created although there’s not a lot of performances that really stand out. Aside from a few minor performances from Mary Marquet as Casanova’s mother along with Daniel Emilfork and John Karlsen as a couple of counts. There’s only a few of Casanova’s lovers that really get a chance to shine such as Sandra Elaine Harris as the mysterious Angelina, Olimipia Carlisi as the eerie scientist Isabella, Clarissa Mary Roll as the sickly Anna Maria, and Cicely Browne as the aging yet daring Madam d’Ufre. The best of the lovers go to Tina Aumont as the talented yet secretive Henrietta and Leda Lojodice as the robotic Rosalba.

The film’s major highlight is the performance of Donald Sutherland. Although he is dubbed by another actor which is an unfortunate drawback. Sutherland is able to create a performance that is very interesting in the way he expresses his despair and endure them. Another key element of Sutherland’s performance is his physicality in the way he presents himself as if he is this great lover of Casanova. Through these humiliating ordeals, he continually tries to present himself as this larger than life character only to find himself become more human and flawed. It’s a remarkable performance for the legendary actor.

Fellini’s Casanova is a sensational and stellar film from Federico Fellini featuring a superb performance from Donald Sutherland. While it’s a film that is very flawed in its presentation, a heavily-drawn out narrative, and some dubbing issues. It is still a film that has a lot of ambition and amazing scenery that is quite inspiring that only Fellini can do best. In the end, Federico Fellini’s take on Casanova is an extraordinary yet extravagant film from the late yet legendary filmmaker.

Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) - The White Sheik - I, Vitelloni - (L’amore in Citta-Un’agenzia matrimoniale) - La Strada - Il bidone - Nights of Cabiria - La Dolce Vita - (Boccaccio ‘70-Le tentazoni del Dottor Antonio) - 8 1/2 - Juliet of the Spirits - Histoires extraordinaires-Toby Dammit - (Fellini: A Director’s Notebook) - Fellini Satyricon - (I Clowns) - Roma - Amarcord - Orchestra Rehearsal - City of Women - And the Ship Sails On - Ginger and Fred - (Intervista) - (The Voice of the Moon)

© thevoid99 2012

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