Casanova (1987)

“I’ll send my groom to horsewhip you.”

In spite of a glittering international cast, sumptuous costumes, incredible sets, and a script written by George MacDonald Fraser, the film Casanova pays poor service to the life of Casanova. The story begins with Casanova (Richard Chamberlain) imposing himself on three women in a carriage, and then, after evading creditors, Casanova lands in prison where he reminisces about some of the highlights of his life. Casanova’s women, for the purposes of this film, include Hanna Schygulla, Faye Dunaway (delightfully naughty), Ornella Mutti, and Sylvia Kristel. Other big names in the cast include Sir John Gielgud, and Frank Finlay. (Ironically, Frank Finlay starred as Casanova in a marvelous 1971 BBC mini-series of Casanova’s life.)

The film fails on several levels–for a start, if you’ve read Casanova’s memoirs, you know that he was a wonderfully original story teller, but apart from that, the memoirs laid out the foundations of Casanova’s character. It is clear to the reader why Casanova led the life he did. In this film version, however, Casanova is almost a caricature of the legendary lover. The film is not funny enough to be tongue-in-cheek, and not bawdy enough to be a really naughty version of Casanova’s life. Also the film lacks wit and is rather tedious. It is as though the audience is supposed to accept the mythological status of Casanova as a given and sail on from there–at no point are we really privy to any single detail as to what makes Casanova a great lover, for example. The women just drop like flies at his feet. We don’t see Casanova, the lover, in action–we don’t see him setting up a plan to seduce a woman who wishes to hang onto her virtue. The BBC mini-series gave many examples of Casanova’s prowess in the art of seducing women–this film does not, and instead Casanova seems like a well-dressed Venetian ne’er-do-well. From director Simon Langton



Filed under Period Piece

4 responses to “Casanova (1987)

  1. giocomocasanova

    agreed the movie was not the best about Casanova ,but was amusing to me the best version of my life i seen was by the BBc when i was a child it was on public channel here and it was much more informative and if someone out there knows the name of the movie or how to obtain a copy i would be much obliged

  2. Hello: Funny thing that you should mention the BBC version (my favourite version too). You can buy the DVD of this version on Amazon UK. If you live in the US, you will need an all-region player to watch it.

  3. giocomocasanova

    Thanks, I went looking for it there too!

  4. I hope you find it every bit as good as you remembered.

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