Friday, January 06, 2006

Why you should see Casanova

Casanova is a fun bit of movie fluff which the critics, idiots as usual, panned mercilessly. The worst of them all was that moron Ebert, who began his review by writing how he was just aimlessly flipping through a volume of Casanova’s memoirs. He is SO pretentious!

I’ve flipped through Casanova’s memoirs as well. It’s my job to flip through things like that. Since it’s not my period, I’ve done little more then flip. But reading the whole thing has been one of those “after the dissertation” tasks, and I guess it’s now time. Anyway, the reason Casanova’s memoirs are important to me is, because like Pepys’ diary, his memoirs are an important eye-witness account of an important and lively theatrical period. And that’s why I liked this movie. Yes, it was tripe. Yes it was disnyfied. Yes the real Casanova was much more interesting then the one played here. And, yes, I am really tired of period movies that feel a politically correct need to make the heroine some sort of proto feminist just waiting for Gloria Steinem to come along and preach the truth.

This movie was fun and I laughed out loud (real guttural belly laughs, drove the couple sitting in front of me away). But the real kick for me is that they recognized Casanova’s link to theatre and gave it a nod in some interesting ways. Casanova keeps chancing upon puppet shows and commedia performances that are always about him cuckolding some unsuspecting husband. They also filmed a scene in the Teatro Olimpico, of a really good fake which, though it’s not actually in Venice, is still a magnificent sight and an important theatre (designed by Paladio after several Roman theaters it is one of the few surviving Renaissance theatres). I thought the Carnivale scenes were way too tame, but it is Disney, after all, and the shots of 18th century Venice—the Piazza, the Doge’s palace, hell everything, were spot on cool. They even gave glimpses into the Venetian publishing and textiles trade—Venice was the international center of both.

In other words, the people who made this film knew their stuff better then most period films. This wasn’t Master and Commander, but neither was it the slew of bad Arthur movies we’ve been getting all these years. As a theatrical scholar I didn’t care that they got some stuff wrong. I was please that they made an attempt and got some stuff right.

Oh, the CGI was some of the worst I’ve seen. I think they skimped on the budget. No biggie, though.

Best thing about this movie, though, is Oliver Platt. It’s the funniest performance this great comic actor has turned in in years! The Lard King of Genoa! I almost choked.


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