Fri January 6, 2006
One of the best farces, regardless of period,in years.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Lust is a mysterious wound in the side of humanity; or rather, at the very source of its life!" Georges Bernanos
Current bad boy Colin Farrell gets much coverage for his amorous escapades, but he'll never reach the notoriety of infamous playboy Casanova of 18th century fame. The new Lasse Hallstrom film, Casanova, stars Brokeback heartbreak Heath Ledger in a rendition that ultimately "rehabilitates" the historical libertine into a seeker after the hand of just one woman, an arch-feminist, Francesca (the notorious Sienna Miller of Jude Law infidelity fame).
Laced throughout are arguments about the place of women in the Enlightenment, embodied in the bold and beautiful Francesca, who writes about feminism with a male nom de plume. The otherwise selfish Casanova becomes a model of attentiveness and tenderness as he woes her out of a new sensation, true love. In the course of his pursuit, the film carefully pushes the notion that the world will be a better place when women are placed equally beside men. In a Shakespearean turn, Hallstrom has Francesca disguise herself as a man to win at court and to sword fight the Inquisition buffoons beside Casanova.
Few institutions of that era escape the film's own sword, especially the Catholic Church, whether it be its condescension to women or its brutal and irrational Inquisition. But don't let my zeal for the film's themes make you think this is a didactic, ponderous tome. It is, in fact, one of the best farces, regardless of period,in years. Aside comments are rich with irony, characters are delightful caricatures and stereotypes, and the music is a Baroque blend of such composers as Vivaldi, Albinoni, Corelli, and even Mozart, all seamlessly stitched together to confound the most able Baroque aficionados.
Careering through the gorgeous lanes of watery Venice, the film is filled with zest for beauty, lust, and truth, with a modicum of exposed flesh and indecent activity, to such a low level that the R rating is a serious disservice to early teeners who, like my grandson, Cody, dig the joy and freedom of the film's adults. Even the excessive disguises leading to numerous mistaken identities, so common in Restoration and 18th Century comedy but overdone here, cannot stifle the joy of seeing a light-hearted farce with love on its mind.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand any time. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com