Saturday, February 18, 2006

CASANOVA - gorgeous but neither funny nor particularly romantic

CASANOVA is not a good movie. For a romantic comedy, too much of the comedy relies on physical slapstick and too little on verbal wit. There are no laugh-out-lines and some of the players are horribly mis-cast. Jeremy Irons, who plays the Catholic inquisitor, and so should have some of the best comic lines about the Catholic Church, simply cannot play comedy. The romance is there, but there is little chemistry between Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller, playing Casanova and Francesca Bruni respectively. For real romance, we must look to the marvellous and beautiful actress Lena Olin, who plays Francesca's mum - and of all people, Oliver Platt! Although Platt is cast as the fat lard-merchant that Francesca may be forced to marry, by the end of the movie, he is the closest thing we have to a romantic hero! And for real laughs, Omid Djalili steals the show. On a technical level, the faults are less obvious, but those with a sensitivity to these things will notice some ropey special effects when Casanova escapes over the roof-tops of Venice and later when he takes off in a hot air balloon. The foreground action has been "cut and pasted" onto a background and we can see the lines!

Having said all this, there are some good things in this movie which save it from being tossed into the trash-can of romantic-comedies, alongside Just Like Heaven and Bewitched. For a start, it looks gorgeous. Never has Venice looked so beautiful, so decadent, so scrumptious. Exterior shots have majesty, intererior shots are breathtaking, costumes are lavish. Still, visual flair is not enough and I found myself looking at my watch rather often during this flick. Worse still, I found myself comparing it to the infinitely better recent BBC adaptation - a common theme for today's reviews. The BBC had a fraction of the cash but produced a film of double the beauty, four times the comedy, and eight times the intelligence. So, if you want to see David Tennant and Peter O-Toole share the honours as Casanova, click here. And if you want to see a good romantic comedy, go rent THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN instead.

CASANOVA premiered at Venice 2005 and is already on release in the US, Austria and, as of yesterday, in the UK

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