By Admin | December 15, 2005

Lasse Hallstrom’s “Casanova” is a delightfully silly romp which reinvents the legendary Italian lover’s adventures into the realm of broad farce. In this go-round, the celebrated libertine (Heath Ledger) is making too much carnal mischief in 18th century Venice – to the point of seducing novices in a convent. The Doge of Venice barely tolerates and protects him from the local laws.

Through contrivances which cannot (and will not) be easily explained here, Casanova is smitten with the fair Francesca (Sienna Miller), a progressive thinker who secretly publishes proto-feminist pamphlets under a male pseudonym. Using several aliases and escaping a variety of hunters, including a tireless church inquisitor and a voracious virgin eager for Casanova’s attention, Casanova and Francesca find themselves falling in love – and falling together into the executioner’s nooses for their loose ways.

Much of “Casanova” is blatantly anachronistic, ranging from Francesca’s spirited political determination to the elaborate slapstick chases that punctuate the screenplay to the obvious references from other movies (including, believe it or not, a certain oral sex gag from “Police Academy”). The film’s opulent production values and intricate costume designs are a marvel to behold and the intelligent use of Venetian locations helps to counterbalance the movie’s playful personality – it has a Merchant-Ivory look but a boulevard comedy’s soul.

Ledger and Miller are not particularly adept at this brand of farce, but both look great on camera and their movie star cred helps compensate for their inadequacy as actors. The genuine fuel comes from the supporting ensemble, most notably Jeremy Irons as the lock-jawed/constipated inquisitor, Oliver Platt as a corpulent lard merchant from Genoa, and Lena Olin as a chubby-chasing widow. Yes, Lena Olin can do comedy – obviously, “Casanova” is full of unexpected surprises!

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