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Casanova is a 2005 American romantic film directed by Lasse Hallström starring Heath Ledger and loosely based on the life of Giacomo Casanova. The film opens with a young woman tearfully leaving her son (Eugene Simon) to live with his grandmother. She promises to come back for her boy. Several years later, in 1753, in Venice, Casanova (Heath Ledger), is notorious for his success and promiscuity with women, his adventures being represented in puppet theatres around the city. The Doge, the ruler of the city, is sympathetic to Casanova, but cannot be too lenient to avoid trouble with the church. He warns Casanova that he must soon marry or he will be exiled from the city. Casanova is falling in love with Francesca (Sienna Miller), who writes illegal feminist books under the name of a man, Bernardo Guardi, and argues for women's rights as Dr. Giordano de Padua. Her mother (Lena Olin) pushes her to marry Paprizzio (Oliver Platt), a rich man from Genoa whom she has never seen. When Paprizzio arrives in Venice, Casanova lies to him and says that the hotel he booked is closed and he persuades him to stay at his house. Casanova also lies and says that his nom de plume is Bernardo Guardi.
Call him an 18th century Hitch, if you will - he's Casanova (Heath Ledger), and he has so many admirers he doesn't need to sleep with the same woman more than once, and seldom does. How does he do it? Is it his uncanny charm? His undeniable charisma? His stunning good looks? His fashionable wardrobe? Who knows? But what whatever he's doing, it definitely works.
Unfortunately, its 1753, and Casanova's promiscuous sexual endeavors are not popular among the Italian government. In fact, as the movie begins, our deviant finds himself arrested and sentenced to immediate death. Thanks to friends in high places, however, Casanova is spared the hangman's noose. But he is told that he will be expelled from the city if he does not find a wife soon.
Having no desire to leave Venice, Casanova finds a pale young virgin (Natalie Dormer) to marry. She is also the secret crush of Giovanni (Charlie Cox), however, who lives across the alleyway with his widowed mother (Lela Lin) and feminist sister Francesca (Sienna Miller). Giovanni musters up enough courage to challenge Casanova to a duel, but a masked Francesca does the dirty work for him to save him from shame.
Casanova suddenly acquires an interest for Francesca; she is the only woman he has met who has completely rejected him. Too bad Francesca has no interest in associating with Casanova; she has a wealthy arranged wfiancé (Oliver Platt) whom she has never met arriving in Venice shortly.
Heath Ledger is proving himself as versatile as any working actor. This year, he's successfully portrayed two entirely different roles; he's gone from serious-as-a-heart-attack closeted homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain to Casanova himself, a charming, playful socialite of a ladies man. If it doesn't take talent to convincingly portray those characters in back to back movies, then what does?
As Casanova, Ledger doesn't play the material over the top; he lets the comedy speak for itself and focuses his attention on defining the cunning, seductive traits of the famed character. He's perfect for the role. Ledger plays Casanova with such charming grace, it's hard to imagine anyone else in this role - at least in this version of Casanova.
Audiences familiar with Federico Fellini's lavish 1976 Casanova will be in for a delightful surprise. This Casanova is certainly complex, but mostly it's cheese - pure cheddar. It never asks that we take it seriously, only that we have a good time watching the comic chaos bubble and brew. Director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) surprisingly avoids anything that resembles a trite, tiresome, period-piece romance, and instead relishes in swashbuckling and humorous mischief. Casanova is a blast from start to finish.
And maybe, guys - just maybe - you can learn a thing or two about getting a girl and keeping one.
The DVD includes one deleted scene, three making-of featurettes, and commentary Hallström.
Guess what I'm smuggling in my corset.