Fellini's Casanova Review
Before you read this review I must clear one thing up... I have never seen a Fellini film before this, am not an intellectual film student and would never be so presumptuous to write about Fellini, his work or how this movie operates on so many different levels. What you get from me is the opinion of an average “bloke” - the sort of average bloke whose choice in top ten films probably wouldn't match the sort of person Empire were targeting when they said Casanova was “A must for all Fellini Afficianados”. I'll lay my cards on the table right away, this movie wasn't for me.
Not having seen a Fellini film before I had no expectations other than knowing he was the director of some highly regarded movies such as La Doce Vita so I expected something special. I had read various reviews before watching the movie to try and educate myself and despite the movies age was impressed by the lavishness of the imagery laid out before me in the opening scenes. Donald Sutherland plays Casanova, although you'd almost struggle to recognise him, with his half shaven forehead and prosthetically enhanced features. If you're expecting anything like the recent hit BBC drama Casanova, then think again. It is revealed in one of the documentaries on disc 2 that Fellini despised Bourgeoisie society and used this story to portray everything he didn't like or couldn't understand in the Italian high-society of the time. Casanova, far from being a dynamic, virile young playboy is portrayed as a troubled, distant character who is nowhere as great as he believes himself to be. The character study element of the movie is indeed interesting and Sutherland was praised for his performance in the role getting quotes like this from Time Out in 1977 “Sutherlands performance is the most astonishing piece of screen acting since Brando's in Last Tango in Paris”. For someone who hasn't seen a Fellini film, I found the whole thing astonishing - surreal is certainly one word I would use to describe this film, especially the opening sex scene with it's bizarre dialogue, mechanical bird and acrobatic non-sexual sex. The story follows Casanova in his waning years travelling around Europe not as a great lover, but as an ordinary man swept along by extraordinary circumstances.
I much prefer my cinema in the more contemporary vein, this left me feeling on the outside looking in, wondering when my enlightenment would come, when I'd see the classic that so many others see. Unfortunately sometimes we just have to accept that peoples tastes vary and that this was just too bizarre for my more traditional palette. Much like Gus Van Sant's Last Days that I had to watch last week, Fellini's Casanova felt very self indulgent to me and like Last Days, if you are on the directors wavelength then I'm sure this does seem wonderful and certainly different to most other filmmakers offerings. However this is certainly not a movie for the masses and whilst I praise his visual imagery and creative adventurousness, it was too surreal and long winded for me to enjoy.