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Casanova (Masterpiece Theater)
Masterpiece Theater
Actor: David Tennant; David Foxxe; Tamzin Griffin; Peter O'Toole; Clare Higgins; Rose Byrne; Andrew Vincent; Dervla Kirwan; John Sandilands (II); Rosanna Lavelle; Tim Scott-Walker; Zac Fox; Mark Heap; Dominic Thomas-James; Joe Cooper (VI); Gabriella Greenblatt;
Director: Sheree Folkson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
UR     2006     2hr 52min

Hes cool & 18th century europe is his playground. Ladies & gentlemen (but especially ladies) meet the legendary casanova! Studio: Wgbh Wholesale Release Date: 10/17/2006 Starring: David Tennant Laura Fraser Run time: 1...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: David Tennant; David Foxxe; Tamzin Griffin; Peter O'Toole; Clare Higgins; Rose Byrne; Andrew Vincent; Dervla Kirwan; John Sandilands (II); Rosanna Lavelle; Tim Scott-Walker; Zac Fox; Mark Heap; Dominic Thomas-James; Joe Cooper (VI); Gabriella Greenblatt;
Director: Sheree Folkson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Drama, British Television
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 10/17/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 52min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 17
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Delaine W. from SARATOGA, CA
Reviewed on 1/17/2011...
Fabulous version of Casanova! I ordered it to keep it in my collection. David Tennant was superb--it was fun and sexy and exciting!
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Janice J. (dizzheart)
Reviewed on 2/27/2009...
You'd think this would be skanky and misogynistic, but it's not. It has its sexy adult bits, but at heart it's funny and rather sad. Tennant is great, and so is O'Toole, and the writing by Russell T Davies (who went on to reboot Doctor Who) is very sharp. Visually the use of brilliant color is just wonderful. I thought I'd watch this only once, just because I'm such a completist, but I wound up buying a copy for my library.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

A Fun and Sexy Romp
E.A. Week | Boston, MA USA | 10/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"At one point in the BBC production of Casanova, the Italian ladies' man jokes with his latest paramour that his surname translates as "lucky b*stard." The real-life Giacomo Casanova claimed to have slept with 122 women and four men. Such a colorful life has sparked any number of dramatizations, including this three-part miniseries from the BBC (shown in the US courtesy of Masterpiece Theater).

The series opens with the elderly Casanova (Peter O'Toole), now librarian to a nobleman, writing his memoirs. An inquisitive serving girl, Edith (Rose Byrne) takes an interest in the old man, and he begins telling her about his adventures. The narrative shifts back and forth between the present and the past; in brief vignettes, viewers see young Giacomo's childhood and adolescence, his education and sexual awakening. Finally, "Jack" reaches young adulthood; David Tennant takes over the lead, and the fun really begins.

The story is pretty much a dramatic fabrication, although some details are accurate (e.g., Casanova's daring prison escape), and much of it comes off like an eighteenth century "Catch Me if You Can." Casanova has no money or position or status, so he gets by with a combination of intelligence, wit, trickery, and of course, sex appeal. Before long, he's hobnobbing with the Venetian upper-crust and later traversing half of Europe, bedding one woman after another. But the real love of his life is a spirited young beauty named Henriettte, who naturally is engaged to Casanova's arch-rival, Grimani. Much of Casanova's schemes and exploits over the course of the film revolve around him trying to muster the resources to win Henriette away from his enemy.

The series is, for the most part, exceedingly well-done. Its cornerstone is a tight, focused script (by Russell T Davies), crackling with witty dialogue. The story spools out at a good pace, and most of the characters are reasonably well-developed. As one might expect, there's a lot of bawdy sexual humor, but none of it is overdone. Casanova's love for Henriette gives the story a solid dramatic anchor and lends sympathy to a character who otherwise would seem like a shallow womanizer. The older Casanova's narration provides both framework and perspective, and in a nice touch, his story is still unfolding in the present even as he recounts his past. The direction (by Sheree Folkson) is generally crisp and effective, though there are some distracting gimmicky effects, making good use of visuals and character reactions.

The tone really helps to sell this production--it's lighthearted, romantic, dramatic, and poignant in exactly the right spots, taking itself seriously enough without taking itself too seriously. It also helps that the characters all feel very rooted in the culture and values of their times, and the script doesn't shy away from brutal realities, including untimely death, barbaric executions, the rigid social structures imposed by money and status, and the limited options available to women.

Visually, Casanova is a sumptuous treat, with enough location work to keep it from feeling set-bound. The interiors are gorgeous, and the costumes are fairly eye-popping, with nice shifts in color schemes as the narrative switches from one location to the next. Despite the quality and the lavish attention to detail, however, the production still looks cheap by American standards--colorful and over-the-top, but fake. Oddly, this amateur-theatrical quality is part of the series' charm, and it even provides some self-deprecating humor (e.g., an animated galleon bobbing across an old-fashioned map indicates a sea voyage). The score is spotty: good in some places, wincingly synth-pop in others.

The production's other great strength is the performances of the cast. O'Toole hits all the right notes as the older Casanova, looking back on his life with a mixture of nostalgia, pride, pain, and regret. Remarkably, the seventy-something actor conveys a real sense of sex appeal, and his chemistry with the much younger Byrne is excellent. But the film belongs to Tennant, who gets the bigger chunk of screen time and brings exactly the right combination of cheeky confidence and lovelorn vulnerability to the younger Jack. The character's over-the-top behavior would be obnoxious in lesser hands, but Tennant's nicely controlled performance keeps the viewers' sympathy with Casanova at all times. Tennant also does excellent work "aging" the character over the course of twenty years, as time, exhaustion, and disappointment all take their toll. His comic timing is wonderful--a couple of scenes are screamingly funny (Casanova goes to confession, literally giving the priest a coronary), and Tennant's delivery of lines like, "I'm the Italian with the wh*re!" are spot-on perfect.

O'Toole and Tennant are supported by a large and mostly able extended cast. Particularly impressive is Shaun Parkes as Casanova's sidekick/ manservant Rocco: the two share some hilarious banter and have great chemistry together. Also strong is Nina Sosanya as Casanova's second major love interest, a singer named Bellino: she's a real presence, despite relatively limited screen time. Byrne does excellent work as the curious and compassionate Edith. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Rupert Penry-Jones as Casanova's rival Grimani: the character starts off as a pompous, rich boor, but layers are revealed as the story unfolds, building up to an emotionally powerful scene that Penry-Jones plays to aching perfection. Probably the weakest link in the cast is Laura Fraser as Henriette--she doesn't impart much depth to the love of Casanova's life, making it hard to swallow that he'd go to such lengths for her. Given the scores of women literally throwing themselves at him, Henriette really needed to be a compelling presence, and she's not all that different from his other paramours. It doesn't help that Fraser's repertoire consists of a single facial expression, which starts off charming but starts to grate very quickly. She's not terrible--she has a wonderfully funny scene where Henriette and Jack communicate by sign language across a crowded ballroom--but in such an outstanding cast, she gets lost.

Overall, Casanova is a fun, colorful romp, with much to recommend it. It's to the series' credit that the nearly three-hour running time goes by very quickly. I strongly recommend the DVD release over the edited version PBS is showing. Yes, the sex is fairly raunchy and leaves little to the imagination, but it also provides much of the story's humor, and one crucial exchange between Grimani and Casanova feels, well, neutered with so many dirty words cut out. The production has its campy moments, and some may find it too over-the-top, but underneath the trappings is a fairly classic love story with a lot of heart."
Rollicking Good Humor With A Serious Side
John D. Cofield | 11/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Casanova is one of the funniest offerings on Masterpiece Theater in years. A dramatization of the life of the celebrated rogue Giacomo Casanova, it is set in Europe during the eighteenth century at the height of the Enlightenment. Casanova was a nobody who used his good looks, charm, and intellect (all three of which were considerable) to make fortunes, lose fortunes, circulate in the highest social circles, sink to the lowest prison, and have a great time doing it. At the same time he seems to have had a genuine sense of compassion and a kind heart which endeared him to many.

I have no idea how accurately this film renders Casanova's actual life. I do know that the script is witty and the actors brilliant (I particularly enjoyed Casanova's many asides). I also loved the contrast between Casanova's riotous early years and his sad retirement as a librarian, telling his story to a young woman who is appalled by his excesses, attracted by his charm, and finally becomes his last friend and ally. I enjoyed the disconnect between Casanova's constant womanizing and his unfulfilled love for Bellino and especially Henriette, who becomes a sort of guardian angel, pulling him out of some of his worst predicaments without his having a clue. I also enjoyed the "modern" music scores and dancing, which enhance rather than distract from the story, especially the "ball" at the French court, which is hysterical!

If you are only familiar with this production as it was shown on Masterpiece Theater, be forewarned that this is the original uncut British offering, with plenty of sexual acrobatics (and some killingly funny scenes poking fun at England and the English! I can't imagine why the Masterpiece Theater people cut those parts out!)"
A Happy Accident
K. Hand | CA | 10/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I was channel-surfing recently and happened upon this hilarious movie on PBS. Because it is a little bawdy, I was shocked to see that it was a Masterpiece Theatre production. I was hooked immediately. It is charming and campy, but also intriguing and well-written and I had to see what Casanova would come up with next. In my opinion, this version leaves the big-screen version in the dust because this Casanova sees women more as a challenge for himself than conquests and his character is self-effacing and unsure whereas the big-screen character was handsome and smug. This movie is a treat."