Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fellini's Casanova

Il Casanova di Federico Fellini; drama, Italy, 1976; D: Federico Fellini, S: Donald Sutherland, Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne, Carmen Scarpitta, Clara Arganti

Venice, 18th century. After returning from another erotic adventure with a fake nun on an island, Casanova is arrested on his boat and sent to prison for heresy due to his involvement with alchemy. He escapes and travels through Europe, meeting numerous women - a giantess in a circus, prostitutes, even a mechanical doll shaped as a woman - until he ages and dies alone in the Czech city of Duchcov.

Federico Fellini's 16th film, "Casanova" was made in the second phase of his career, when the director abandoned logical storytelling a long time ago and went far into the spheres of abstract, so much that the majority of the viewers could not follow him anymore, yet even though it is obvious it is definitely not one of his best achievements - since some other directors would have made a much richer contribution to the life of the famous womanizer - it nonetheless won an Oscar and a BAFTA for best costumes (truly fantastic while helping to carry the surreal mood) whereas Fellini himself was nominated for an Oscar for the last time in his career, in the category of best adapted screenplay. For such a subject, it is strange that Fellini took so little care of the erotic touch (one could only think what Medem or Luna would have done with such a story) since all the sex scenes are situated somewhere between shyness and "carnivalizing" - for instance, how can it be that Donald Sutherland showed his naked butt in a throw-away scene in "National Lampoon's Animal House", yet always wears underwear as Casanova, even when sleeping with women? - which even makes that aspect of the movie surreal-unreal. However, despite its overlong running time and omissions, "Casanova" still has some scenes that are so bizarre they should be seen (the protagonist sleeping with a hunchback girl while another woman "wiggles" her breasts besides him) whereas it even adds a small feminist touch here and there (Casanova charms some women by telling them they are better than men, which was revolutionary back in those days when male sexism was so common; a giant woman in circus who is stronger than any man...).


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