Having seduced audiences with his brilliant Roma and beguiling Amarcord, Fellini plays ringmaster once again in the delirious 1976 romp il Casanova, adapted from the memoirs of the infamous 18th-century lothario.
Donald Sutherland gives a wildly enthusiastic – and totally Fellini-esque – performance as the Venetian scholar reminiscing over his many erotic encounters throughout Europe after escaping the clutches of the Inquisition over a charge of black magic.
An ageing necromancer, several courtesans, a seven-foot amazon, diseased harlots, a hunchback and even a clockwork doll are among the many, many women the decadent dandy plays the fandango with – but true love is always out of his reach.
The screenplay is pure poetry, much of it Casanova’s own, dwelling on man’s pursuit and understanding of women – one of Fellini’s favourite themes.
Being the visual auteur that he is, Fellini’s populates Casanova’s world with voluptuous, misshapen women (although Chesty Morgan is missing from this print); sexual degenerates and a cavalcade of sideshow freaks. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the Italian maestro, who really goes to town with the film’s $10million budget (huge at the time), with opulent sets, fabulously photography, Oscar-winning costumes, and Nino Rota’s haunting score.
But this is also Sutherland’s film – and he is freakishly spot on playing Casanova as a pathetic figure whose sexual conquests overshadowed his intellect. And he is nothing like the mythical figure we have come to know. In fact, I was shocked on its original release, but now, I am starting to warm to Sutherland’s characteristic performance – though, I think approaching middle-age myself has something to do with that?
This European DVD release from Mr Bongo may not be the fully restored director’s cut, but it’s still a great way to appreciate Fellini’s stylised, visually-daring, erotic (with clothes on) romp – apart from seeing it on the big screen of course.
Released May 17