Wednesday, September 16, 2015

FELLINI'S CASANOVA (1976)

FELLINI'S CASANOVA (1976)
Label: Mr. Bongo
Rating: 18 Certificate 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 154 Minutes
Audio: English LPCM 1.0, Italian with LPCM 1.0 with optional English subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Frederico Fellini
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne, Carmen Scarpitta, Daniel Emilfork

Synopsis: Federico Fellini’s darkest film cracks through the myth of Giacomo Casanova. As played by Donald Sutherland (M.A.S.H, Don’t Look Now), the notorious womanizer is presented as a pitiable and terrifying figure. 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. Fellini had dealt with the theme of the frustration of human desires in La Dolce Vita and 8 ½. In Casanova, the nobleman’s search for happiness achieves tragedy, a painful reflection of the human condition.

Before this viewing my only exposure to the films of Frederico Fellini was the "Toby Dammit" segment of the Spirits of the Dead anthology horror movie, I have the Criterion Blu-ray of 81/2 sitting on my shelf but have not yet watched it, so I am by no means familiar with the majority of his work, but this adaptation of the 18th century adventurer and world famous lover starring American actor Donald Sutherland seemed like as good a place as any to jump in. 


The movie opens at a festival of some sort in Venice, quite a sight, fireworks exploding in the night sky, elaborately costumed party goers, some sort of enormous bust or statue rising from the waters of the canal. we catch up with Giacomo Casanova (Sutherland) standing at the edge of the water reading from a letter by candle light, the letter comes from an admirer, supposedly a naughty nun, who wants to meet with the famed lover of women. The scene is slightly surreal, a staged ocean of black waves made u what appear to be garbage bags, having been shot completely on a sound stage the whole of the movie has a stagey feel about it, which I liked. The  naughty nun takes him back to a home owned by a wealthy French aristocrat enjoys voyeurism, and quietly peeps the couple in the throws of passion. Sutherland's Casanova is played for laughs it seems, his love making prowess is clownish, exaggerated love-making thrusts and goofy fornication-faces, this is being played for laughs. At the end of the session Casanova addresses he aristocratic voyeur through the peephole in a painting, begging for him to please use his influence to spread the word of Casanova's  knowledge as an inventory, schemer and master of alchemy and the black arts, but the words seem to fall on deaf ears, leaving the famed lover to row back to the mainland, en route he is apprehended and arrested for his debaucherous lifestyle, imprisoned in a squalid cell, from which he eventually escapes, to carry on his adventuresome and libidinous lifestyle. 


The movie further follows the exploits of Casanova throughout the 18th century as he regularly charms and beds many women throughout Europe in Paris, France and beyond, sometimes in search of love and at other times seeking recognition for his self-said genius by never truly finding either. Fellini seems to be aggressively pointing out the superficial and unflattering truth about the famed lover of women as a vain, shallow and empty morally corrupted vessel, at one point arousing the aged Madame d'Urf√© , who seeks some sort of remedy through his sexual prowess and alchemy, but he cannot do it without the aid of a young woman whom he must rely on to arouse him, otherwise he would not be able to rise to the occasion. 

We meet quite a cast of freaks and royal weirdos during his many sexual adventures, a humpbacked homosexual played by Daniel Emilfork (City of the Lost Children), a giantess and her dwarfs, the supposed love of his life Henrietta (Tina Aumont, Torso) and a bizarre orgy at a hostel. From there we have a bizarre encounter with his own mother whom he encounters by chance and a sexual entanglement with a mechanical marionette doll named Rosalba, this was such a strange and surreal watch from the beginning tot he end, and while it might have been a head-scratcher it was never dull in any way, scene after scene of elaborately staged and ornately decorated scenes of bawdy humor and empty sexual conquest, it paints a rather sad and empty portrait of the lover as a man who's vices have deterred him from ever being taken seriously, right up until the end of his life. 


Sutherand's performance is very strange, for beginner Fellini had him shave his head t recende his hairline in an odd way, furthermore he looks to wearing a prosthetic nose and a chin, but Sutherland's charm does come through, but he doesn't seem to have a good read on the character, again his Casanova comes off as clownish and empty, but you can tell he is deeply yearning for recognition of his knowledge and skills, for he seems to only be noted for his sexual prowess. 


The strange electronic-keyboard score from Nino Rota is appropriate and oftentimes quite silly during the bawdy sex scenes, additionally these scenes are made even stranger by the regular appearance of a mechanical birds which brought to mind Bubo from Clash of the Titans in a perverse sort of way. There's definitely an episodic feel to the movie as it jumps from one strange sexual encounter to the next which was slightly off putting but I loved the surreal and imaginative set designs, and Sutherland's odd but captivating perform ace as the famed lover craving recognition. 


Audio/Video: Fellini's Casanova arrives in 1080p HD in the form of a Region-FREE Blu-ray disc from Mr. Bongo with gorgeous colors and some modest depth and fine detail, this is a very nice image which I can only assume far surpasses an previous DVD release that may be out there. The disc includes both English and Italian Uncompressed PCM 2.0 Stereo audio with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds crisp and clean, with no issues whatsoever. Unfortunately there are absolutely no special features on the disc, which as a Fellini novice I would have appreciated.

This was not what I was expecting but I enjoyed it, the presentation from Mr. Bongo looks fantastic and this definitely has me excited to check out more from Fellini, and cinematic adventure that is long overdue, this is a Donald Sutherland performance you will not soon forget. This probably won't appeal to your standard horror-fan but if you enjoy some arty foreign cinema this might be a fun watch, just strap yourself in for the bawdy 154-minute ride. 3/5


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