Starring Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt
Director: Lasse Hallström
Studio: Touchstone 53463
Video: 2.40:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, 1080p HD
Audio: English 5.1 Uncompressed PCM (48K-16 bit), English/French/Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Audio commentary with director, “Creating An Adventure,” “Dressing in Style” – Costumes, “Reflections of Venice” – artistic short of Venice canal views, Movie showcase (best scenes)
Length: 111 minutes
The amazing life of Casanova has been the subject of nearly a dozen films, including Fellini’s effort with Donald Sutherland and the 2005 TV special with Peter O’Toole playing the old Casanova and David Tennant the young. That little rascal spoke in 21st-century lingo and made little effort to fit the 18th-century setting. Hallström was the director of Chocolat and made every effort to have his Casanova create an accurate picture of period life and culture. His was the first motion picture in decades shot entirely on location in Venice and looks it. The making-of featurette details some of the many challenges the company faced – including having to bring everything every day by boat and what Venetians have become ennured to in their sinking city – what they call “high water” – seeping up out of the pavements so one needs to slosh around.
Heather is a perfect Casanova, the ladies are all fetching – especially in the gorgeous gowns of the period – and Jeremy Irons plays the feared Grand Inquisitor with great gusto. He and his entourage become quite the butt of humor. Platt more than fills out his role of the wealthy suitor buffoon who comes to marry the beautiful and intellectual young woman with whom Casanova has just hopelessly fallen in love. The farcical chaos is finally solved with Gilbert & Sullivan-style solutions to pairing up all the couples present, and Casanova is reunited with his actor parents who show up to save him and the young lady from being hanged by the Inquisition.
The settings are most impressive, especially with the great detail provided by the HD 1080p transfer. Instead of searching for a hall someplace as a stand-in for one of the glorious Venetian locations, or having one built as a set, the producers got cooperation from the authorities in Venice to shoot in the actual locations, including St. Mark’s Square. Some CGI is used, as with the hot air balloon sequence, but for the most part we are seeing the real thing – often in panoramic made-for-widescreen views. The short HD film “Reflections of Venice” is a fine demonstration of HD as well as a gondola-eye view of the canals and buildings. The rich uncompressed surround also contributes to putting the viewer closer to exotic and colorful 18th-century Venice.
– John Sunier