“Federico Fellini’s most sumptuous and dark production, the daringly visual and imaginatively designed Casanova is renowned as one of the greatest films of the 1970s. Celebrated for its production values, costume design and Nino Rota’s haunting score, Casanova charts the nobleman’s search for happiness that leads his road to tragedy.
Breaking through the myth of Giacomo Casanova, Donald Sutherland (“M*A*S*H”, “Klute”, “The Hunger Games”) portrays the notorious womanizer in his waning days, engaging in various amorous and political adventures. Casanova craves respect as a scholar and yearns to pursue his interest in alchemy. A sex scandal lands him in prison, but an escape to Paris provides him a new lease of life. Yet every court in Europe and its attendant patrons and hostesses will only entertain him if he lives up to his reputation in the ritual displays of sex and courtship which form part of the daily life of 18th Century Europe”.
– via Mr. Bongo
Federico Fellini’s stunning 1976 fantasy based on the life of Giacomo Casanova arrives on Blu ray, demonstrating the great Italian director’s continual abandonment of realism in favour of a visually stunning dream world aided by the award winning Production Design of Migliore Scenograa, reminiscent of Derek Jarman’s beautiful work on Ken Russell’s earlier “The Devils”. As he had demonstrated with his superior segment “Toby Dammit” in the 1968 Edgar Allen Poe anthology “Histoires Extraordinaires” (“Spirits of the Dead”), Fellini knew how to create visually vibrant yet psychologically dark worlds and characters and “Casanova” is no different.
“Casanova” is a visual delight of a fantastic odyssey. The sets range from operatic to dark fantasy, including a brilliantly realized sea scene shot using black plastic to create a surreal image that is pure imagination. The characters are often grotesques, as was Fellini’s eye on the world. It is his version of the tragic decline of a man who wished to be viewed seriously but was only taken at the face value of his amorous reputation, increasingly being seen as a pitiful joke.
The Oscar winning costume design by Danilo Donati (who had worked also with Pasolini, and was a noted production designer in his own right, later working on fantasy films such as “Red Sonja” and “Flash Gordon”) is sumptuous, at times reminding us of Ken Russell’s productions and later those of Peter Greenaway, ranging from the absurd to the hyper real and adding to the film’s sense of a dark dream world through which Casanova finds himself relentlessly unable to escape to the society of respect he so desperately strived for.
Scenograa’s sets are something to marvel at, yet Fellini created a world in which he initially had no sympathy for the historical character of Casanova, only discovering it during the shoot, itself. As he had chosen wisely with Terence Stamp in “Toby Dammit” (albeit with the additional help of late pull outs by the preferred actors), so he does with Donald Sutherland, who delivers a first rate performance that captures the pathos and comic-tragedy of the would be intellect who only became recognised for his written work after his death.
“Federico Fellini’s Casanova” looks stunning on Blu-ray, capturing the vibrant world of ostentation and colour when Casanova is in the company of the elite he so wishes to impress, and the darkness of the gutter and shadowlands he so tragically descends into on many an occasion.
“Casanova” remains a visual extravaganza and is one of Fellini’s bravest and most audacious works. It is simply brilliant and highly recommended.
Trailer and stills gallery.
Release Date: 7th September 2015
Cat No: MRBBLU009
Running Time: 148 mins
Language: Italian with English subtitles/English Language
Format: Blu ray
Released by: Mr Bongo
This review originally appeared on SFFWorld: