With Donald Sutherland, Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne.
Italy, 1976, 35mm, color, 166 min.
Print source: HFA
Marred by production delays caused by disputes between Fellini and producer Alberto Grimaldi, Fellini’s Casanova is the costliest of the director’s films, a shot-on-soundstage spectacle that recreates 18th century Europe on sets that feel at once lavish and chintzy. Spanning the entire adult life of the famed Italian libertine Giacomo Casanova, played by Donald Sutherland in a remarkably exhibitionist performance, the film picks apart the varnished legend to reveal an arrogant and stubborn ideologue underneath, a man whose ruthless appetite for sexual conquest left him bereft of meaningful acquaintance and often at loggerheads with various courts of authority. With startling comprehension and lack of discretion, Fellini commits his hero’s many carnal indulgences to screen, often returning to an intimate point-of-view shot that renders Casanova a writhing, thrusting animal. Such sequences are contrasted with the man’s intellectual exploits, which find him flaunting his fine Venetian sophistication against the differing perceptions of brilliance found in Rome, Paris, London, Switzerland, Dresden and Württemberg. Every step of the way, Fellini underlines the artifice of his vision of the distant past, approximating the Mediterranean with blowing sheets of black plastic and blanketing his dreamy landscapes in wafting fog.