Limping Through Venice, & Not in the Happy Way

Last night Nettl and I decided to watch Mozartballs on the digital flat screen of my new Dell. Wow! There were things in the film that we’d never heard or seen before. After that, we opened a bottle of champagne and settled back to watch Casanova, starring Heath Ledger.

We’re great fans of period films and we own a growing collection of VHS tapes and DVDs in this genre. Some are really outstanding (Affair of the Necklace, Amadeus, Barry Lyndon, Moll Flanders) and some are passable (Mesmer), and then there’s Casanova. It’s a real stinker.

I suppose if you like romps that feature actors in roles they’re probably sorry they took, this film wouldn’t be so bad, but as 18th-century historians Nettl and I like films about a person as colorful and compelling as Casanova to at least have some measure of truth to them. Casanova’s life doesn’t need to be fictionalized, it was the stuff romances and swashbucklers have been built upon for two and a half centuries. Giacomo Casanova was an accomplished man of letters, a lawyer, a brilliant musician, an actor, a diplomat, a soldier, a spy, an adventurer, a philosopher, a writer, and lastly, a lover. History tends to forget all but the last aspect of his reputation.

I didn’t expect the movie to be a true depiction of Casanova’s flamboyant life, but I also didn’t expect it to be a shallow, trite piece of mylar confetti. It’s obvious that all of the budget went to costuming and location. Oliver Platt (one of my favorite actors) was good as an obese lard merchant, but it was nothing spectacular and I certainly didn’t need to see him half-naked on the night of my anniversary when we wanted to get romantic… There is a brief bunny-hump at the beginning of the film, but there was nothing that even hinted at a love scene anywhere else in the film. I don’t particularly like sex scenes, but if you’re going to spotlight Casanova’s reputation as the world’s greatest lover, a little flirting and courting might be nice. Compare it if you will to Shakespeare in Love. Only not as entertaining. And I don’t like it, either. All-in-all, Ledger was very good; it’s too bad the screenplay didn’t take advantage of his talent.

Nevertheless, we had fun watching the film, but that might have simply been the champagne. For my money, I still like Richard Chamberlain’s portrayal best (depite it’s obvious stylized historical flaws), and although I haven’t seen Felinni’s Casanova starring Donald Southerland, I’d really like to. At least Southerland was made up to look like Casanova and not a Hollywood stud muffin in 18th-century clothes.


  1. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry I bought it before we had seen it. That’ll teach me.

  2. It was almost as bad as the one about the Marquis de Sade that came out a few years ago. I couldn’t even sit through that one! Made me want to go home and take a long, hot shower.

  3. I finally watched the new War of the Worlds this week and almost shut it off. That little girl was so damned annoying, spoiled little zombie-child bitch she was, that I was in MST3K fits throughout the movie. Except for her, it was not too bad.

  4. Ooh, don’t tell me you’re a family of MSTies? I thought I was the only one left! :)

    Steph, did you ever see Oliver Platt in “The Three Musketeers”? He stole the movie right out from under Kiefer Sutherland’s feet…

  5. I’m a card-carrying MST-3K fan club member. In fact, my son Joel and I went to their convention in Minneapolis in 1995 and the entire cast autographed my neon green lab coat.

    Yes, I saw Platt in that movie. My favorites, though, are Simon Birch and The Imposters.


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