A new category! This time I’m not ripping off Rotten Tomatoes’ Five Favorite Films, but rather Criterion’s Three Reasons YouTube videos. From now on, whenever I’m too lazy to write a structured review I’ll just list five good reasons to check out the film. This way you won’t have to read through 1,000 words, but can easily scroll down five pictures with a minimal summary of what I loved most about the film. The first film to get this sort of treatment will be (you’ve guessed it): Fellini’s Casanova.
1. Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini is probably my favorite director of all time. Il Casanova is an art film he directed in the second half of his career. While up until La Dolce Vita (a transitional film) his films could be categorized as “neorealist”, the second half (officially starting with 8 ½ and including all of his “color” films) is made up of great, extravagant art house pictures. One of the things I love about Fellini is the theatricality of his films, they’re like one big circus and every character is crazier than the other. Some might call the later half of his career “self-indulgent” and “excessive”, but true fans of the maestro will love those movies precisely because they are so over-the-top and ostentatious.
2. Nino Rota’s score
Nino Rota is easily one of my favorite film score composers and this is one of his best scores. It is innovative, while characteristic of the time; funny, yet dramatic; bizarre, yet familiar. In short it’s the perfect music to accompany Fellini’s images. It completely embodies and captures everything that makes a Fellini film. It is the essence of the title character Casanova. It is just so much fun. I haven’t stopped listening to it ever since I’ve seen the film. It’s very catchy. From L’Uccello magico (literally: “the magic bird”) to “L’intermezzo” della mantide religiosa (“the interlude of the praying mantis”), which is a fantastic piece of opera music, this is a playful, nutty and weird score. In short: A musical masterpiece, a triumph for Rota and a spectacular use of the harpsichord.
3. Mise en scène
“What do you mean with mise en scène in this case, with Fellini’s Casanova?”. Well, I sure am glad you asked such a specific question. Basically with this film I mean everything that makes this film a pleasure to watch with your eyeballs: The giant, but extremely detailed sets; the lavish, yet natural and “lived-in”-looking costumes; the excessive, though totally fitting make-up and the spectacular, impeccable art direction. Even if this film could have looked like a giant theater piece, Giuseppe Rotunno’s photography conveys an undeniable cinematic feel. It’s just an incredibly well-crafted spectacle and the fact that it’s completely shot in Cinecittà never becomes apparent or distracting, which is yet another achievement and demonstration of the film’s quality.
4. Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland plays the title role of Giacomo Casanova and while he was dubbed, his staggering performance still came through loud and clear. While it would have been easy to over-act in a role that lends itself to be “showy”, Sutherland manages to not only give the character depth and nuance, but also make Casanova sympathetic and human. Yes, he’s a sex-crazed maniac, fucking everything that moves, but he’s a functioning lunatic and a very smart and educated one as well. In the best scenes the actor completely disappears under the heavy make-up and flamboyant costumes and you completely forget you’re watching a Canadian actor. The sexual ambiguity and all the character’s perversion are portrayed fearlessly and without judgment, proving the actor’s unconditional commitment to his role.
5. The weird humor
From the mechanic bird Sutherland’s character activates every time he’s about to get it on with the ladies, to Nino Rota’s aforementioned lightheartedly charming score, to Federico Fellini’s script this is a film that clearly doesn’t take itself very seriously. That is not to say that it can’t be weighty and important in showing its protagonists madness and obsessions. The filmmaker’s attitude and heart however, were clearly in the right place when they made this film, displaying a great deal of love and sympathy in the depiction of the iconic figure of the worldly playboy. Fellini’s films are always very ironic in their worldview. The humor often comes from the character’s little idiosyncrasies, their faces, the absurd situations they find themselves in (or that they invite) and life, as cheesy as it may sound. The sex scenes are the film’s funniest part (especially the first): They’re weird, for lack of a better word, and completely un-erotic. Only Fellini could have directed them and I mean that in the best possible way.
These are the five reasons of why I love Il Casanova di Federico Fellini, because three reasons aren’t nearly enough to describe my love for it. If you have seen the film: I’d be interested to hear what you liked most about it. If you haven’t seen the film: Watch the film!