by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Heath Ledger as CASANOVA
Sienna Miller as FRANCESCA BRUNI
Jeremy Irons as PUCCI
Oliver Platt as PAPRIZZIO
Lena Olin as ANDREA
Omid Djalili as LUPO
Stephen Greif as DONATO
Ken Stott as DALFONSO
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
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I don’t know a lot about history. It was my bad subject in school. So I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that most of my historical knowledge comes from what I’ve seen in the movies and on television. But even I – a product of the American public school system – am able to recognize that much of this film is complete bollix.
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After watching “Casanova,” I was inspired to read a little bit about the real man. So I hopped online and went straight to Wikipedia.org (which is at least as accurate as World Book Encyclopedia... what did you expect me to do?... open a book?) and found out that he wasn’t nearly as exciting as they made him out to be in the film. Rather, his relationship with Francesca (Sienna Miller) wasn’t all that elaborate either. But that’s Hollywood for you.
The movie tells a whimsical tale of Giacomo Casanova, the legendary lover who stole many a woman’s virtue in Venice during the 1700s. Heath Ledger plays the title role right as he’s being sought by the Inquisition for debauchery. Using a politically charged feminist activist of the day, Casanova manages to flip-flop identities in order to keep himself safe and continue his conquests.
Recently, in watching the “Hoodwinked” DVD, I listened to the filmmaker commentary to discover that they were afraid of being called self-important. I have to admit, I have labeled a few commentary tracks self-important, most recently Lasse Hallström’s last film, “An Unfinished Life.” It turns out that Hallström is one of the most self-important directors to ever cut a commentary tack (not the most self-important, as that would have to go to P.T. Anderson).
Hallström’s commentary isn’t abhorrent to listen to, but instead sounds more like a sales pitch than an educational or entertainment tool. He comes across that way (or at least he’s edited together that way) in the behind-the-scenes featurettes as well. He doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad guy, but I just don’t think he gets the point of doing this exercise.
Overall, though, the features on the disc are decent. There’s several behind-the-scenes videos, including some interesting information about how the filmmakers were able to secure shooting in Venice – and what really made the Venice official freak out. The dud of the bunch is the extended sequence, which really isn’t a deleted scene at all, just a few seconds more of a scene we’ve already seen from the film.
“Casanova” isn’t terrible. It’s not great, either. It’s light-hearted, which never really works for the film. Heath Ledger is okay in the role, which turns out to be his best performance of 2005, but that’s not saying much. I thought he was terrible in “Brokeback Mountain” (completely undeserving of his Oscar nom), “The Brothers Grimm” and the dreadful “Lords of Dogtown.” Oliver Platt is the best thing in the film as the pork king of Europe.
The weakest link is Sienna Miller, actually. After watching her in a lead trying to carry a film, it’s clear that she was attempting the Gwyneth Paltrow path of fame (i.e., shacking up with a hot, buzz-worthy actor and riding that press to cobble together an acting career), but she probably will never take hold. Aside from banging Jude Law, she’s not much of an actor – just another pretty face.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.