Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Casanova, part II

Casanova, Part II

I’m back from Cali! I can write again!

One last thing about Casanova: when I said the people who wrote Casanova understood his link to theatre, I didn’t note the most important way this was true.

The theatre is everywhere in this movie, including some ways that would spoil it for my readers. But the most important way is this: the story itself is a Venetian comedy. As Casanova walks through the streets of Venice he passes by plays and puppet shows (hand puppets; they should be marionettes) about himself, an obvious reference to the fact that we are watching a film-play about Casanova. But the structure of the film, unlike more serious movies about the 18th century libertine, is the same as those street theatre farces Casanova encounters. It is a classically structured comedy with stock Italian characters, from Casanova and Francesca, the stories main lovers, to Giovani and Victoria, the film’s inamorati. Lupo, Casanova’s servant, is a classic commeddia style Brighello. So are the grotesque merchant Paprizio, who woos Francesca; her mother; and Victoria’s father. Even Jeremy Iron’s inquisitor is the classic comic pedant. They are all there. You could masque them and put them out on the streets of 18th century Venice and they would be instantly recognized. And that is, of course, the point. Like Shakespeare in Love, another film that relied heavily on a knowledge of theatrical history to get all the jokes (and which also had a cross-dressing heroine), Casanova is a well played riff on theatre history.


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