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.
Fellini’s Casanova is celebrated for its production values and costume design, for which Danilo Donati won Academy and BAFTA awards, and is made memorable by Nino Rota’s unusual haunting score. This twilight work is one of the greatest films of the 1970s. —Mr Bongo
Federico Fellini was born in 1920 to a provincial middle-class family in Rimini, a small town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The lack of available options to young men in provincial towns is an important theme in some of his films, most notably I Vitelloni and Amarcord. In fact, Orson Welles once described Fellini as “a small-town boy who’s never really come to Rome. He’s still dreaming about it. And we should all be grateful for those dreams.” He initially arrived in Rome as a law student but his career as a satirical cartoonist and gag writer was already well established by then. His childhood fascination with the circus and the Grand Guignol also governed his cinephilia in these early years. His favourite films were American comedies by Chaplin, Keaton, Harry Langdon and the Marx Brothers. It was only after he came into contact with the circle of Ettore Scola, Cesare Zavattini, Aldo Fabrizi and Roberto Rossellini, that he would seriously consider the cinema as a medium of expression… read more
How this is considered minor Fellini is beyond me. To me its among his most impressive films. I don't know if there is another film where such exuberance paradoxically evokes feelings of such loneliness. What's remarkable was how Fellini allegedly hated Casanova but grew more sympathetic towards him as production continued and that change of perspective is apparent in the film. One of his best for me. Masterpiece.
Though it's often considered one of Fellini's lesser works, it still delivers a number of classic moments of beauty, offbeat humor, and surreal strangeness - striking, memorable images presented with his unique style and dream-like atmosphere. It may not be as consistent as some of Fellini's masterpieces, but still a classic that should not be overlooked. One of Nino Rota's very best scores.