Starring: Donald Sutherland, Tina Aumont
Director: Federico Fellini
Fellini’s cinematic portrait of the notorious lover of the legend is one of the most quietly melancholic of his later films. Donald Sutherland’s Casanova is a piteous figure, keen to be taken seriously as a thinker and inventor but with his fame in bed preceding him and obliged, therefore, to make a spectacle of himself for various kinky nobles as he weaves an erratic career around the courts and salons of Europe.
These are recreated non-naturalistically in the Cinecitta studios (the waves of the Venice lagoon depicted with shiny fabric). The stylization extends to the love-making, which involves lots of unlikely pantomimic contortions and shots of Sutherland doing press-ups over (presumably) an upended camera. Was Fellini making a point about the way audiences were endlessly expecting him to shock and titillate them, and how mechanical the whole process had become for him?
Rouged up like a drag queen, Sutherland manages to create a feeling of lingering innocence and baffled romantic yearning even as his character slowly declines into the role of charlatan and hanger-on of the filthy rich. It’s a performance that gives gentle but unwavering support to the movie’s many glittering setpieces – the scene in the Parisian salon with the precocious little girl refuting Saint Augustine to the admiration of the assembled great and good; Casanova’s enchanting encounter with a clockwork woman in crinolines. If this was Fellini gliding along on autopilot, it’s more than a match for most directors at the peak of their creativity. 8/10
The transfer is just a little softer than one would wish. Figures and backgrounds lack that little bit of definition one from the other and as a result some of the compositions don’t quite have the depth you get on the best Blu-rays. On the plus side, there’s no damage, only a smidgeon of grain, and the richly tapestried palette comes up vividly. The scene in the Parisian salon looks especially good, with the near-pyschedelic costumes and striking wigs popping beautifully. 7/10